Not Van Persie, but not bad either
The annual end of season squad review odyssey reaches its end today with the strikers taking centre stage. I hope that some of you find the lack of transfer gossip (or bull****) on this site a welcome distraction from the nonsense that dominates NewsNow at this time of year. Quite why people read it I will never know. Anyway, on with the show.
Sixteen goals and numerous assists from forty two appearances, mostly out wide and rarely for ninety minutes. What a disastrous signing Poldi has turned out to be, eh? If you believe the press and the way they've made out Podolski has had a poor time in England then you are an absolute moron. Either that or you frequent the Gooner 2 Gooner online forum, which is basically the same thing reading some of the drivel that gets posted on there.
I was more excited about the signing of Lukas Podolski than I had been about anybody we'd brought in since Sol Campbell. A World star was joining Arsenal and I was very happy about it. He announced himself with two goals on debut in pre-season against his former team, Cologne (incidentally Robin Van Persie made his final Arsenal appearance the same day). He would go on to score at Anfield and in Montpellier to help secure crucial away wins, before bundling one in against Spurs for good measure. In the after half-time demolition of West Ham he was the pivotal figure in Arsenal's scintillating attacking play - it was the first time I'd seen Arsenal play such devastating football on the break since Henry, Pires and Ljungberg were in their pomp.
There are times when Podolski can look pedestrian and is seemingly not in the game for very long periods. At Bradford he was a waste of space, though he was not alone that night. It seemed convenient to scapegoat him for certain media types, simply because Arsenal were struggling and he was a genuinely big name. Ultimately Podolski is the arch-finisher in this Arsenal squad. Give him the ball in front of goal and he will usually score. I'd like to see him use that rocket of a left foot from distance a bit more often, but I really enjoy having Podolski at Arsenal. We need to use his talents better, but that is down to the Manager. A Summer resting and recovering from whatever niggle it was that hampered him for most of the season will be most welcome. I reckon the best is yet to come from the number nine.
Another man who has had a lot of stick. I have to say that I have regularly referred to him as "Lee Chapman" because his quality is just that little bit below the top level. Giroud misses opportunities that a top striker shouldn't (though Van Stapleton and Henry missed their share at times). Given that he has had one season as the lone striker in a team that rarely plays to his aerial strength in the box I think Giroud can be quietly pleased with his contribution. He has scored a nice few goals and, as the man in reserve (with the formation we play), would be a very good squad player. Is he able to be the centre-forward at a Club that wants to win Title's? I suspect not, but that doesn't mean he isn't a very good player.
In open play I think Giroud has been quite outstanding. The man wins almost everything in the air and the other players in the team have to do much more to support him. If the likes of Walcott, Cazorla, Gervinho et al would get closer to Giroud when the ball is played forward we might find Arsenal would be more successful. I hope a top striker comes in this year, but that doesn't mean I hope Giroud is squeezed out. Play him up front with another striker and we could be on the verge of something.
This has been undoubtedly Theo's best season as an Arsenal player. His absence from the starting line-up in a side that didn't score in the early games was baffling. Unfortunately his contract situation was a seriously unwelcome distraction. Up until he finally signed his deal he was the most important player of our season, for me. After he signed it he became a bit more the old Theo - frustrating and ineffective, at least until the final few games when his goals came back to win us matches. To underline his importance to the side in the run up to Christmas I can only point to our disastrous results in his injury absence in early December. Theo will continue to divide opinion and will continue to annoy the hell out of all of us. He has so much he could improve on, but credit where it's due - without him this season we wouldn't be in the European Cup come August.
What a terrible waste. What a terrible shame. For me Arshavin has more ability than almost anyone we've had at Arsenal. He should have been up there with the legends, such is his quality. Sadly there is something missing in the total package. The little Russian has wasted his talent after such a spectacular beginning at Arsenal.
In fairness to Arshavin I thought he was very good in the League Cup games against Coventry and Reading, but that was as good as it got this season. You could argue that he has a right to be annoyed and disheartened at seeing the likes of Gervinho playing ahead of him but, had he applied himself and made the most of his exceptional ability, Gervinho would be nowhere. It wasn't meant to end like this for Arsenal and Arshavin, but we'll always have his first goal against Blackburn, his performance at Anfield, and the greatest night we've yet had in the new stadium against Barcelona. I feel privileged to have been there that night to see Arshavin score to beat the best side I've ever seen. He may have been a waste of space at times, but so was Charlie Nicholas. Thanks Andrey, I'll remember you fondly at Arsenal.
What can you say? He started the season like a player who'd settled in the English game. Suddenly he was able to create and score goals. The one he stuck away against Chelsea was sheer class. Sadly, he didn't get close to that again. The nadir for Gerv came in the Bradford humiliation where he missed the ball completely from a couple of yards out. If I could praise him for a moment I would say that Gervinho does not hide. More's the pity, some would say. The African Cup of Nations came at the right time as it prevented Arsene Wenger from selecting him and, in fairness, he made one or two crucial contributions during the unbeaten end to the season. It looks like it's not working out for Gervinho at Arsenal and I don't think too many would be upset if he moved on this Summer.
Another man who has wasted his talent while at Arsenal. Chamakh was excellent in the first half of his first season. He's never come close to that since. I was delighted for him when he got the two goals at Reading, and he really should have been given an opportunity to challenge Olivier Giroud straight after that. As it was he was back in to obscurity again and then loaned out to West Ham where he couldn't get a game either. Surely it's now reached the end of the road for Chamakh and he can return to Bordeaux and resurrect his career.
Akpom was an unused sub at Olympiacos. He was a very regular goalscorer in the U21s and youth games but whether he has a genuine future at Arsenal I would doubt. There's a difference between scoring regularly and being prolific. The fact that Giroud was the only genuine centre-forward at Arsenal other than Akpom after January, and that Arsene still never was tempted to call him up to the bench, tells me a lot.
Another unused sub at Olympiacos I don't see much of a future for the reserve striker from the youth set-up.
So there it is, another season over and another squad review completed. I'm off to Wembley tomorrow to watch England v Ireland. I don't have any interest in international football, but a trip to Wembley is always exciting if you're a real football fan. I'll report back at some point on Thursday.