Sunday, May 20, 2012

Arsenal Season Review Part III: Grading the Forwards

So, apparently there was a game on yesterday. As we all try and destroy the image of John Terry holding up a European Cup forever from our brains, here's something to keep us distracted. The third and penultimate part of the season review, where I grade our forward line.

Ju-Young Park: F

I have to say, I was quite excited when we announced this signing back in August. I'll admit it - this was mainly based on the fact I once signed Park in Pro Evo 2006, and he was the bomb, but there you go. In real life, he also seemed to be quite good. A lot of international goals, and a fair few for Monaco, despite their relegation. In short, he seemed like a half-decent back-up option, for a price that you couldn't really argue with.

But then, he didn't play. At first I thought that Arsene was just trying to ease him into the side, but no, he clearly just didn't rate him at all. Who knows how he must perform in training, but he must be fucking dreadful. With about 20 minutes of playing time this year, his appearances against AC Milan and Man Utd were simply bizarre, more than anything else.

I really don't know what to make of the signing, but the fact is we wasted both money and a squad place on a player we didn't use, essentially, at all. A major failing was made at some point, whether it was by Arsene or our scouts. At present, he easily makes the list of the worst signings of the Wenger-era.

Robin van Persie: A+ (Player of the Season)

Well, what can you say about Robin this year that hasn't already been said? We've all run out of superlatives, I think. 37 goals in 48 games is simply outrageous, and you can't help but wonder how much we might have achieved in the last few years if Robin had made it through a few more seasons without picking up injuries. He's scored all types of goals, and we would have been a mid-table side last year without him. To be frank, I am still unsure about whether we should be giving a player at his age and with his injury record an enormous new contract - but I do want him to stay, and I think the effect of morale on the club, especially if he were to sign for Manchester City, would be enormous if he left. Now he's gone off to the Euros without signing a new deal, I suppose this saga is going to drag on all summer. Given what we've seen this week - the Prem and Champs League both bought by oligarchs - you can't blame him for thinking that he may have to join another club to win trophies, especially the top ones.

Those are all things we can worry about tomorrow. For today, let's just applaud the magnificent season he's had. Football from another planet, and Arsenal's player of the season.

Theo Walcott: C+

Theo got to double figures in goals and assists in all competitions this season. He posted the kind of raw stats that you would expect from a top attacking talent. But there's an underlying sense of disappointment about Theo's performances. He got two brilliant goals against Tottenham, but also seemed to be unable to control the ball on  multiple occasions. He went missing in more than one game, and his ability to lose the ball was a constant worry.

With all the hand-wringing over Robin's contract, there's been a lot less chat about the fact Theo is also in the last year of his deal. It's interesting, because I think that a lot of top European clubs would be interested in Theo were he to leave, but I'm not sure Arsenal fans would be that devastated if he were to go. All I will say is that Theo doesn't really look like a player with whom we'll win trophies, unfortunately.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: C

I think the huge performances that the Ox had against Milan, Manchester United and, er, Blackburn have perhaps made a lot of people overlook the fact that he only got 2 goals and one assist in the league this year. He has an extraordinary amount of potential, shown by his inclusion in England's Euros squad. But he has been, understandably, inconsistent, and he has a long way to go before he can definitively be called a world-class player. That said, he was a genuine bright spot in what's been a tough season. I think he can push on and become the type of dominant box-to-box midfielder that we've missed for a while. Let's just hope he doesn't get buried under the weight of expectations.

Gervinho: D

After a few interesting performances at the beginning of the season, his form steadily dipped for the rest of the season, something that wasn't helped by a traumatic African Cup of Nations. My issue with Gervinho is that he never really looks like a threat. He kinda ambles forward, maybe beats a player, but the end-result is usually ceded possession, or a wasted opportunity. I think he does have the talent to be a better player than the one we've seen so far, but my fear is that he could go into a Chamakh-esque downward spiral if we're not careful. Hopefully next season will be a lot better than this one, otherwise we need to sell.

Marouane Chamakh: F

That Chamakh has only started one league game this season perhaps says it all. After a somewhat promising first season, he has officially been a complete waste of space this year. One league goal all year for a guy who looks like he is fundamentally not good enough for top-level football. Not only is he useless, he also, by all accounts, is on a massive weekly wage because of his free transfer. We desperately need to get rid of him this summer.

Andrei Arshavin: D+

Ultimately, Arshavin's career ended as ignominiously as it had begun gloriously. He didn't deserve to be booed when he appeared against United, but he was, and the damage was ultimately irreparable. I still think that loaning him to Zenit was a ludicrous decision, and I also think he had a better season than, say, Gervinho. We could have done with his ability to create chances in a few games towards the end of the season. Maybe if we'd ever played him in his preferred position we might have got the best out of him, but we didn't. Perhaps he'll come back for a glorious swansong, but he probably won't. One of the saddest stories in the last few years at the club - a player who really had the potential to be a world-beater. Someone else may yet get the best out of him.

Thierry Henry: no grade

I simply can't grade TH's contribution this year. I want to give him an A, but he wasn't really here for long to warrant that mark. Hence, I've sat on the fence by giving him the old 'unrated'. His goal against Leeds was possibly the best single moment of the season, and his winner against Sunderland was utterly glorious. But he also was a bit ropey in the other performances he made, including fairly anonymous outings against Swansea and Milan. However, his time at the club this year was a fitting coda to an Arsenal career that had previously ended on a sour note. I'm glad he came back, and wish he could've stayed until the end of the season.

Overall: A+ for Robin; D for the rest. 

Let's face it, our attack has basically been Robin this season. Without him, we would not be in the Champions League next year. I genuinely think we would have finished about 10th. On paper, this is a set of players that should be much, much better. Chamakh, Arshavin, Park, Gervinho all seriously underperformed, and we had to push Robin to his absolute limit as a consequence. We even had to sign an ageing legend because our other forwards were so poor.

The fact we announced the signing of a new striker, Podolski, before the season had even ended says it all. Great teams get goals from all over the pitch - next season, whether Robin is here or not, we can't be so reliant on one player to get us the goals that win us matches. It's a recipe for disaster that we only narrowly avoided this year.


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jc said...

How can you rate park and not henry based on not enough games, when park played for less time than henry? Not much logic there. I think theo is getting better and deserves higher. I'd be sad to see a threat like his (see vs barca last year etc) go.

Anonymous said...

^+1 to the Park vs Henry comment, lol.

Also, what is everyone's problem with Walcott? So he's not a Messi, but his contribution this season has been immense. People (arsenal supporters especially) somehow emphasise and elaborate on every mistake he makes, and play down his great number of assists + goals this season.

You're absolutely right that other top european teams would love to have him. Ok, Walcott isn't the best forward/winger in the world, but Arsenal supporters thanks in a large part to the media and Alan Hansen on MOTD will always think Walcott is rubbish not matter how much he contributes.

Purely compared to players in similar positions in other PL teams, Walcott is a B+ for me.

Anonymous said...

this is a most peculiar analysis as u seem to be rating players on ure feelings towards them. How can Arshavin get more than Gerv. Makes no sense and how can Henry get no grade but Park who was not given a chance gets an F. Wenger should get the F because he wasted everyone's time. How do u give him F and Henry a no grade? Lastly mate. Think about it, if Arshavin is a D+ then Walcott must be a B+ because he is about 2 percentile ranges higher than arshavin on any given day this season. I think ure rating players on some other kinda criteria other than football...maybe their golf swing

Anonymous said...

How can a player av a hand in 20+ goals and u rate him dat low? When he plays no left back overlaps. He is responsible 4 a quarter of rvp goals. Not all players dribbles bt theo is very effective. Except nani, he is d best RW in d league.