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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Squad Review Part 4

Marouane Chamakh - kept us up there before Christmas

The final instalment in our four day odyssey is the attacking players at Arsenal. As usual there were plenty of goals scored for most of the season, but how did our strikers perform individually?

Robin Van Persie
Arsenal’s star striker missed the start of the season due to his involvement in the World Cup Final. Our Manager felt that rest for RVP and Fabregas would be good for Arsenal in the long-run (Man City and Liverpool had their Dutch and Spanish players involved from the very beginning). As it was Van Persie finally appeared up at Blackburn and lasted all of twenty minutes. We didn’t see him again until Christmas and he only got back in the side in the New Year. When he did get back it is fair to say he had something of an impact. Robin enjoyed his most prolific season in front of goal despite, once again, missing half of it to injury. His goal in the Carling Cup Final looked like it might raise us once again from our stupor, but he left that game injured as well and Arsenal fell apart thereafter. His red-card in Barcelona (a disgraceful piece of refereeing) effectively saw the end of the Champions League campaign. RVP kept us in with a (mathematical) shout in the Title race for a long time, though his goalscoring coincided with a lack of contributions from others. He is the most likely candidate to replace Fabregas as Captain, though I would not be in favour of a centre-forward as skipper.

Carlos Vela
We have the wrong Mexican it would seem. Vela made a reasonable start with a couple of goals in the early matches. Having been given RVP’s old shirt number I began to think we might finally see him do the business. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Vela has failed at Arsenal and he has also failed at West Brom where he couldn’t break in to the team while on loan. He will go down as a player who couldn’t fulfil obvious potential for some reason or another (the most likely being that he is a good time boy who enjoys the high-life a bit too much, or so I have been told).

Theo Walcott
Theo has had his most productive season and I have to say there was a marked improvement at times. I still believe he is far better suited to a central role and would benefit greatly from playing through the middle, off a big man. When Theo gets in on goal, down the centre, he usually makes it count – his goal at Tottenham being a prime example. He still frustrates more than anything else, however, due to his absolute reluctance to run past the opposition. With his pace (he has zero skill) he simply needs to knock the ball beyond a defender and get after it – they will not catch him and would have to foul him to stop him. His crossing has actually improved over the year, though not to the point where you would be confident of him getting on to the head of a colleague. A change to a two man attack next season could benefit Theo more than any other Arsenal player. Wenger has long said he thought Walcott would end up as a central striker – now is the chance to give him his opportunity.

Marouane Chamakh
The new signing was immense before Christmas. He contributed his share of goals but it was his team play that was most impressive. He is the closest I have seen to Alan Smith (Arsenal's version, that is, not the Leeds mummy's boy). Chamakh is excellent with his back to goal, holding up the ball and bringing the midfield in to the game. Arsenal did not play enough to his obvious aerial strengths – the first goal at Wolves showed how deadly he can be in that situation. He was also a very useful defensive addition – his handling of Christopher Samba at Blackburn’s set-pieces early in the season was top class. If there is a criticism to be levelled it is that he is far from clinical when faced with goal and the ball at his feet. Against Tottenham at home he twice turned back towards the halfway-line when one-on-one with Gomes. I don’t understand any centre-forward who would want to do that. Overall I was very impressed with Chamakh and I believe he was seriously under-used by Wenger in the second half of the season – more involvement for him might have given opposition defenders something more to think about.

Nicklas Bendtner
Big Nick has probably played his last game for Arsenal. Regular readers will know I’m a bit of a defender of Bendtner. I don’t believe he is anything like as bad a player as some who get their "opinions" from internet forums would have you believe. I also don’t go in for a lot of the slating he gets for announcements in the press. On the other hand I would be the first to concede that he will never be a World-Class striker. His goal at home to Ipswich shows how good he can be on the ball, but his miss in Barcelona was more indicative of his true ability I feel. This season he was forced to play out wide whenever he did get a game – a rare appearance at centre-forward came in the Carling Cup mauling of Newcastle (a coincidence? I think not). Ironically, given that he should be charged with getting on the end of crosses, Bendtner is probably the best crosser of the ball to have played for Arsenal this season – remember his inch-perfect delivery for Van Persie at Leeds? I, for one, will be sorry to see Bendtner go as I don’t think he got a chance this season – his career stats for goals, to games started, are pretty impressive.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Big Jay was prolific for the Reserves in the first part of the season and put in an energetic cameo as a late sub in the defeat at Chelsea. I had believed he was a better bet than Bendtner this season but Arsene Wenger didn’t agree and loaned him to Cardiff City. Unfortunately he tore up no trees in the Championship and, playing in one of the better sides at that level, that must be a concern. I have heard on a couple of occasions that Arsenal are worried about his attitude and anyone who follows him on Twitter can perhaps understand why. Next season will be make or break for JET and he must take any opportunity that comes his way, or else he will be out of the Club for good I fear.

So there we have it, the entire first-team squad reviewed on their performances this season. All we are able to do now is sit back and see which of the players are on their way out of Arsenal, and who will be signed to join them for next season (incidentally the fixtures are out at the end of next week).

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