Sorry for the delay Gooners – attempting to watch every single match of Euro 2012 certainly has taken it’s toll! Here is my final part of who I think should stay and who should get their coat.
9. Park Chu-Young: I’m sure I’m not the only one that was baffled by this one. However I’m probably the only one that’s actually seen him score a goal for Arsenal, in the Carling Cup v Bolton. I hoped this was the beginning, that he could potentially become a valuable player for the end-of-season run-in. Instead there were sporadic pointless ‘appearances’ on the bench and a classic example was the 7-1 against Blackburn. We’re 6-1 up with 30 minutes left, you’d have thought this would have been a perfect opportunity to bring him on, boost the confidence against a side praying for the end but instead on comes Benayoun and Henry. There are lots of cynical theories regarding him going around, but for me the bottom line is if he isn’t good enough ship him out to get on with his National Service. Go
10. Robin van Persie: What can be said about RvP that hasn’t already been said? An outstanding season, capped off with 30 goals and a glut of awards its frightening to imagine how our season would have gone without him, he was rightly the first name on the teamsheet. The last 18 months have shown just how good van Persie can be when his fitness is uninterrupted by injury, treating us to some of the most sublime goals we’ve been deprived of since Messers Bergkamp and Henry left. Even when he tired towards the very end of the season he still pulled out that cheeky penalty against Wolves. A world-class talent, it remains to be seen whether he’ll sign a new contract (and lets hope he does), but if we can get at least 2 of the other players to play with the same clinical intensity as him just imagine what we could be capable of? Stay
14. Theo Walcott: Another frustrating season punctuated with criticisms, some warranted and some not. Can show so much at times and deliver so little that he is another player who divides Gooners. In terms of combined goals and assists this was one of Walcott’s more productive seasons, and when you compare him to a player like Stewart Downing (and our own Andrei Arshavin – more on him later), he is actually a very valuable player. Of all the quick players I’ve seen down the years though he seems to be the only one where his pace looks like a curse rather than an asset at times. Confidence is everything, and it is disheartening to hear the crowd getting on his case. So it certainly was a highlight when he transformed from shrinking violet to clinical finisher in the 5-2. More of the same please Theo, you’re getting better. Stay
15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Was quietly frustrated at being held back earlier in the season, but what a decision that was by Arsene as like Benayoun he was fresh for the run-in. I remember seeing him against Shrewsbury and he was strong and had an eye for a long shot, very exciting to watch. Capped that performance with a great goal and has rarely disappointed in his gradually increasing appearances since then. His big moment came in the United game at the Emirates, when the crowd were incensed at his removal for Arshavin. He’s become someone that fans look to change the game – I admit regularly found myself watching the touchline nearest the Arsenal bench in the second half to see if Pat Rice was about to call him back to strip down and come on. The worry is that this is a lot of pressure on young shoulders, but the signs are that he is coping well with it. Another upshot of his good form is that it seems to coincide with Theo’s fine end of season end – perhaps The Ox’s direct nature is pushing Theo? An explosive start to his Arsenal career. Stay
23. Andrei Arshavin: Another underwhelming season. The 4-goal spree at Anfield is now a very distant memory. It’s a real shame, as many fans hark after those sort of performances, and for the longest time I always hoped they were just around the corner. At least with the 2010-11 season his goals/assists stats were actually quite good even with his ‘relaxed’ demeanour. Fans can almost forgive a lazy disposition if a player is coming up with the goods – but 1 league goal between August and February is just not good enough for a man of his talent. A low-point for me was 60-odd minutes into a match (I forget which one) the subs board went up and he appeared to run to the touchline, perhaps believing the number 23 was up when actually it was 29. All too often it would seem like he would run out of steam after the hour mark. Against United at home, I suspect the crowd weren’t just angry at The Ox’s removal – Arshavin replacing him also had something to do with it probably. A crying shame, as like many others I loved him when he first arrived – I’ve felt for a while that he needs a change of scenery, a theory backed-up by his more fruitful form at Zenit. Thanks for those times when you couldn’t stop scoring at Anfield, the screamer at Old Trafford, the winning goal against Barça Andrei, all the best. Go
27. Gervinho: For me a decent first season. After a Premier League baptism of fire (I’m pretty sure he’d never faced a player like Joey Barton before) he was playing well, there was a period where he couldn’t stop finding RvP in the box. Went off the boil a little bit but the killer was the African Nations Cup – that missed penalty shot down his confidence and he never equaled his early season form after that. The only attacking player at the club who almost appeared to travelling backwards when he was bringing the ball forward, he seemed afraid to shoot at crucial moments. Some of our greatest players have had worse first-seasons and a great start is no guarantee of a fruitful Arsenal career (see below) but if he can recapture his early form and eradicate his bashfulness in front of goal he will be an asset. Stay
29. Marouane Chamakh: The 2011-12 season not being a terribly good one for Chamakh would be an understatement. In fairness opportunities to start have not been plentiful such was the extraordinary form of Robin van Persie. However, he was on the bench a lot and when Arsene did send him on, there was always something lacking. Towards the end of the season it certainly wasn’t effort, preferring to help out in midfield when he could see he wasn’t being effective up front. Some people forget that when RvP was injured early in 2010-11 Chamakh lead the line very well, and I had hoped this was on it’s way back after the consolation goal in 4-3 defeat at Blackburn. Sadly I feel that, like Arshavin, he needs a change of scenery. Go
12. Thierry Henry: Even though it was a very brief loan period I’ve added him in to end on a high note, such was his impact. Despite the apprehension in some quarters as to whether or not it was a good idea to come back he proved to be the decisive element in two matches and topped off the 7-1 against Blackburn (although that has since been awarded to Scott Dann – bet he’s pleased about that). His winning goals produced fantastic moments of euphoria, the returning king’s goals-to-games ratio put the then-misfiring Fernando Torres to shame. His excellent start to the MLS season was the product of a great ‘pre-season’ at the Emirates. In fact, he was so good my Henry DVD is now missing some great goals!
That’s it for my look at the squad, probably lots to agree/disagree with there. From an attacking point of view it looks like some of my suggestions can come to fruition with the arrivals of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Generally speaking though, I don’t think an awful lot needs to change. A few new players, clearing of the deadwood and a continuation of that winning mentality from the 5-2 onwards and I feel we can certainly push on next season.