Wednesday, 23 June 2010

2009-10 player ratings: midfield

I know the season has gone. I know the focus is now all on the World Cup. But I felt, like a marriage counsellor, that I needed to provide some closure on the season just gone so I wrote an extra-long blog post rating all the midfield...

Tomas Rosicky 6.5 (N/A)

It's probably fair to say that Rosicky is given more leeway then several others by most fans. Sure, nobody likes to see a player out to a long-term injury so it was really good when he finally made his return.

But the reality is, that I'm unsure how much product we actually saw from Rosicky. I remember the 'Roy of the Rovers' goal he scored against Hamburg in the Champions League just after he had joined the club. There was also his brace at Anfield. Since coming back, he hasn't done anything wrong - he didn't repeatedly give the ball away, he didn't repeatedly sky shots.

But were there not the sympathy for Rosicky after his injury, it seems to me that opinion of him would be a lot lower. His performances have been insipid. There has been nothing special about him. He does not strike fear into the opposition like he once did. Ultimately, considering his age, I would advocate cashing in on him while he still has resale value. If there are any takers.

Abou Diaby 6 (5)

I am now convinced that Abou Diaby is not good enough for Arsenal. His stature means he plays excellently against small teams. But he truly is the embodiment of a flat-track bully.

He simply does not have the temperament for the big occasion. Against Spurs he went missing and clearly did not want the ball. He clearly has bundles of talent, but he isn't right mentally.

In short, Diaby is another one who flatters to deceive. I'm not out to attack the entire midfield, but he should be no more than a squad player.

Alex Song 7.5 (7)

If Song keeps improving like he has over the past couple of years, he will become a truly superb player. As things stand, he is still a very good one. It is testament to Arsene Wenger that he wasn't hounded into buying a replacement for Flamini but rather allowed Song to develop into the class act he is.

How good a player he is, was emphasised by how much he was missed against Barcelona. His positional versatility is an added bonus.

My only qualm about Song, is that occasionally he gets run out of position. But this is only a slight fault and Song is one of those players I'm delighted there is only one of, because it strengthens our team a great deal.

Emmanuel Eboué 7 (6)

Last year I wrote: The support he received at the tail end of the season shows what a fine line it is between cult hero and figure of hate. But that support was mainly because of some good performances where he chipped in with a few goals and passed the ball nicely.

I think that line has now been removed: there is far less of the play-acting and far more of endearing himself to the fans by giving his shirt away and signing autographs. Put simply, Eboué is now a real hero amongst the fans.

And to boot, he is also a good player. A good back-up right back and he offers real presence going forward. But most importantly: one can tell he cares. Arsenal is ran on a limited budget, so we need players like Eboué. The fact he cares makes his presence in the squad, a pleasure rather than a pain.

Denilson 7 (N/A)

I seem to be the one-man fan club of Denilson. Man of the match in the first leg against Barcelona. Scorer of terrific goals at really important times, and the one player in the side who is actually prepared to shoot from distance.

Dennis is not a showy player. But he is surprisingly adept at being a defensive screen. It's true that both he and Song lack creativity, so arguably the two shouldn't play together. But when they do, it is not an indictment on Denilson, but rather it shows up the lack of squad depth.

I have high hopes for Denilson and would be truly saddened to see him leave. He is a an all-round 'good egg'.

Theo Walcott 5 - that's generous(N/A)

As it happens, I never bought into the 'tactical genius' talk of Fabio Capello before the World Cup. But my opinion of him did go up a great deal when he didn't take Walcott to the World Cup.

And it also says a lot about Walcott, that he couldn't get in ahead of SWP and Aaron Lennon. Those two are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But the reality is, as well as taking Wright-Phillips ahead of Theo, I'd have taken Kevin or Zara Phillips. At least she would have provided some Francesco (Totti) to alleviate the players' boredom.

I say this, because I genuinely believe that Walcott is not a very good player. I retain a slight hope that Walcott could play up front and run onto through balls and wreak havoc on central defensive pairings.

But as a winger, he just does not cut it: I cannot recall a good 90 minute performance by Walcott in his entire time at the club. Being able to run past tired defenders does not make him a good footballer: there is a reason Dwain Chambers did not make it in American Football - because he was a sprinter. Walcott is the same and therefore, he isn't good enough to be a top-class winger.

The boy has no footballing intelligence. Four and a half years training at Arsenal and he is still yet to develop one trick. His shooting is second-rate and his crossing is pitiful. Sure, he's been injured: but as I've said, Tomas Rosickuy contributes something. Wally Walcott does nothing.

The two reasons I wouldn't sell him is because I'd like to try him up front and I don't think we would get much money for him. But we seriously need to see more. Poor.

Aaron Ramsey 7 (N/A)

It truly was a dreadful shame when Ryan Shawcross brutally broke short Ramsey's season. Because the boy had everything: he seemed an amalgamation of Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas containing the best attributes of both. Astonishing vision, brilliant passing, and a fine shot as was witnessed against Portsmouth.

The question is, will he come back the same player? I truly hope so. Wenger's youth project may not have been a success. But with players like Ramsey at the club, the future should be very bright. And his future health is really important to any future Arsenal success. Get well soon Aaron...

Andrey Arshavin 7

It has become popular of late to criticise Arshavin and claim he is lazy. I do not agree with either of these things: I enjoy watching him off-the-ball at games and he tends to make interesting runs which his team-mates do not see. In short, I think he is a little too good for his team-mates and could do with someone like Dennis Bergkamp playing in the same team.

But he still scores great goals and appears to be someone who enjoys playing in big games as opposed to Abou Diaby. He hasn't been as good as he was in spring 2009, but he was truly exceptional then.

Arshavin is one of the few players at Arsenal - indeed in the world - who can change a game in an instant with a moment of brilliance.

There is an argument that Arsenal should cash in on the 29-year-old Arshavin while he still has resale value. But this is an argument I flatly reject: he's an experience player with several top-class years ahead of him. The squad needs enough help without getting rid of the good parts. I'd just like to see a few less muscle injuries and a little more performance from the diminutive Russian with a quality song.

Samir Nasri 7 (8.5)

It would be easy to write that Nasri has suffered from 'second season syndrome' but I don't think that's right. It was more that having missed pre-season through Abou Diaby's incompetence, and then being out injured until the end of October, it took Nasri until the second half of the season just to be fully fit.

And he also had an exceptional season in 2009: the goals he scored, his passing, his assists - the amount he contributed pointed to another excellent signing. And that judgment remains intact: Fabregas aside, Nasri's performance against Porto was the finest midfield performance by an Arsenal player this year.

How he was not picked for the World Cup when Diaby was I do not know. But Nasri has a bright future and if he can stay fit, he's another player who has a lot to offer in Arsenal's future.

But not as much as:

Cesc Fabregas 9 (7.5)

Undoubtedly the best player at Arsenal and undoubtedly the best performer this season.

Fabregas truly is an exceptional talent. His performance against Blackburn in October was one of the best I've seen in Arsenal red. The goals and assists were also hugely important

Indeed, there was something Shakespearean about how he brought Arsenal back from the brink one more time against Barcelona, just before finally having his season ended by a broken leg. His importance to the club was underlined by how performances dropped off afterwards.

I admire the club's unequivocal stance with regard to Barcelona's ovetures because Fabregas is the most important player at Arsenal. I'm not giving anything away by saying he is my player of the season and by God, I hope he stays.

Conclusion: I think a couple of new players are needed. A right winger and possibly also somebody else to play in the middle of the park. But most important is the retention of Fabregas - without him, Arsenal will not be the same club.

Keep the faith,


Davi said...

I think you are harsh on diaby. Remember he was learning different roles at times this season, and i actually thought he was starting to adapt to the DM position, so we could have a pretty solid backup for song next season. I don't think it was really the magnitude of the occasion that decided how well he played, he's just not quite consistent still but if he improves as much next season as he did last, he will be fantastic. I really think he will end up a very important player for us.
I think you were also a bit generous in saying that arshavin needs better players around him... So why can cesc still manage to look good in nearly every match? and is van persie not good enough (although he didnt play in enough matches I suppose)
I think you're cutting him too much slack because there is still so much hype around how great he is. Imo hes a decent player how has a "great player" mentality. Which means he has enough confidence to to great things at times, but there is also a down side. Nonetheless I do think he deserves a high rating because his performances up front on his own when rvp and bendtner were out saved our season. He wasnt great but he sacrificed himself for the side and got a few goals as well, all while carrying an injury. Admirable.
The rest of the ratings and comments are superb imho. Thoroughly agree.

Adam said...

Hi Davi,

Perhaps its just a personal thing, but for me the stand-out image of Diaby's season was him hiding from the ball at White Hart lane. I accept he was very good in January but to be a key player for Arsenal you need to be able to perform in the big games and I don't think Diaby has ever done that thus far.

With regard to Arshavin I think the comparison you make with Cesc is a fair one. But that said, Shava has consistently been played out on the wing which is not his best position.

Thanks for the support :)