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Friday, 3 June 2011
Squad Review Part 1
As it’s the end of the season, and it’s quiet, I want to go through the squad, player by player and assess their season. The assessment of each player is relatively brief and reflects what I feel I’ve seen since July last year. I’m not going in to the nonsense business of rating each player with a score or some kind of grade - the words should be enough to show what I think. There are a number of players who I think should be shipped out, though I don’t expect it to happen in a number of cases.
Before I get around to judging the players I have just re-read my post from 22nd December in which I reviewed the season at it’s halfway stage. It’s bizarre to look back and find that your worst fears were all realised, and all for the reasons you predicted some six months back.
I’ll split this up in to four separate posts, starting with the goalkeepers and moving on through the defence, midfield and attack over the next few days.
Here we go then:
It was a nasty surprise to many when Manuel lined up in goal at Anfield on the opening day of the season. Most of us thought we’d seen the last of him, especially with Wenger clearly trying to sign a replacement all Summer. It really was only a matter of time before it all started to go wrong and, sure enough, when West Brom came to town Almunia fell apart. I actually don’t think he’s that bad, but he has a serious confidence problem and that is not a good thing for a goalkeeper. He would have been, and was, a decent back-up option, but he is completely shot now. His performance in the return game with West Brom (which came hot on the heels of his best ever game for Arsenal at Barcelona) sealed his fate for good. Best of luck Manuel, but please be on your way now.
A shoulder injury has perhaps ruined Fabianski’s final opportunity to stake his claim to be Arsenal’s number one. The Pole had put in some first-rate performances before Christmas – Wolves and Everton away being cases in point. He made only one really serious error that I can recall, against Newcastle at home, but the defence always seemed to be even more on edge when he was in goal – even more so than when Manuel was playing. I can’t see Fabianski getting back in the side on merit and I don’t believe he will be prepared to play second-fiddle his compatriot and see his place in the Poland team also go by the wayside. It would be fair all round if Fabianski was allowed to move on, with our best wishes.
The Italian stopper didn’t make an appearance for Arsenal this season. He had a couple of loan spells at Hull City, the first of which was marred by injury. I have to confess that I paid little attention to how he was getting on in the Championship so it’s difficult to say whether or not he did well. Whatever the case may be he is never going to make it at Arsenal so should also be gently moved along.
The Invincibles goalkeeper returned to make one appearance, one week shy of being Arsenal’s oldest ever player, at Blackpool. That he was more busy than you would have hoped was an indictment on Arsenal’s late season failings. That he coped with it really quite well says it all about the professionalism of the Great Man. Jens is hoping to get his coaching qualifications sorted, but has not ruled out returning to Arsenal as a player next season, if so offered. Personally I would appoint him player/coach and put him in charge of the goalkeepers. He would be third-choice in the goalkeeping stakes, with some quality brought in as the first line of back-up.
The season began with Szczesny bemoaning his lack of first-team opportunity and threatening to not sign a new deal with the Club. It ended with him seemingly established as the first-choice, and there for years to come. I’m still not entirely convinced, but he is certainly better than the others available in the Club right now. I think that, if Wenger intends for Szczesny to continue as number one from now on then some genuine, experienced quality must be brought in as his back-up – even Robert Green might do a job in that regard. All in all I think Wojciech will be quietly happy with his season from a personal viewpoint, even if the team fell woefully short in the end.
The defenders in the squad will be assessed in tomorrow's post. Please let me know your views on the players and their season/future in the comments section.