Arsenal 2011-2012: Season Review Thread

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Post by Zaid Derweesh on Mon May 14, 2012 12:00 pm

The season is over with that nerve-wracking game against West Brom, and it's time to start dissecting... it may be a little early, but I'm eager to get started, and I'm sure, come Monday morning, most of you will be as well.

I don't really know how to do this, so I'm going to wing it a bit. There's been a lot of talk of "we came from 17th to 3rd place, so we should be happy", but I don't really buy it. That's like Redknapp saying when he came in Spurs had 2 points from 8 games, it's a bit rubbish. So lets put that aside. Third place is a great achievement, and I think even without the horrible start we'd have finished third - but with many more points, certainly. We're only third because of Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle consistently throwing it away. So it's more of a relief to finish third, rather than an achievement.

JUDGE ME IN MAY...
That's what Wenger said, didn't he? (or was that last year). Anyway, it's May now. Last summer's tranfer window was terribly managed. Of the players who came in on that last day, I feel only Park has been a real disappointment (more individual player ratings later). But leaving it to eh last day, and the lack of gelling that came with it, was a mistake. Losing Cesc and Nasri, and losing them so late on, was very bad - and don't get me started on the price for Cesc. So that was bad. And just the whole start of the season was bad, and fans were rightly unhappy because it seemed the board and the management didn't care all that much. But full credit to Wenger and the players, who steadied the ship, and slowly but unspectacularly won games. That was good. Skipping to the end of the season, the last few games have been majorly worrying. But overall we somehow managed to get third and finish three points higher than last year (because our end of season collapse last year was epic, this year was merely alarming). And we've bought a key player (Podolski) early. So full marks to Wenger for that. And all the right noises are being made, and we're being liked to the right players. So my judgement? Wenger stays for another year. Although we need a good summer's transfer business, that's for sure.

PLAYER RATINGS...
KEEPER:
- Chesney: He's come on leaps and bounds. He played 38 league games, which is amazing (and thank god he did). His distribution can be extremely poor, his decision making is erratic, and his save percentage isn't as high as it should be. But he's young. He's given us real strength and solidity on crosses and corners. He's been really poor the last 5 games, but it turns out he was playing injured. Overall, he can only improve. It's been a good breakout season, now big things will be expected of him. But for the first time since Lehmann, we have a keeper we can rely on. VERDICT: A-: Big things expected next season.
- Fabianski: Hard to say, since we've seen so little of him. But that in itself is a condemnation, especially since Chesney's been injured and played through it. VERDICT: F: He's about 28 now. Not old, but not young for a keeper. He needs to be shipped out, for his sake and for ours.

DEFENCE:
- Sagna: Sorely missed. Extremely missed, the whole team plays better with him in it. He's had a few poor games this season, but very few. He's Mr. Consistent, Mr. Reliable. That leg is becoming a concern, hopefully it's not a weak spot. Also, it was his awesome super-header against Spurs that was the turning point. VERDICT: A: More of the same please next year, sir.
- Koscielny: I don't think he was as bad as many suggested last year, but he's been every bit as good as people are saying this year. Superstar defender, one of the top three in the league this season IMO. Doesn't score much, but its not his job. Leads the team with 2.8 interceptions per game, which really tells you what he's all about: he's smart. His last ditch tackles are amazing and so accurate. Also leads the team with 1.5 offsides won per game, and ALSO leads the team with 5.1 clearances per game. There's just not enough good things to say about this guy. VERDICT: A+: Our star defender, it's up to Vermaelen and Mert to fight for the chance to play alongside him now.
- Vermaelen: After being out a season, and having a stellar debut, there was a lot of expectation. He hasn't really lived up to it. He's a good defender: all-action, strong, fearless. But he tends to make mistakes, and is too eager to get up the pitch. He needs more coaching, more discipline, and I think we'll see a better Vermaelen next year. VERDICT: C+: he'll improve next year or his place on the field and his standing amongst the fans will come under threat.
- Gibbs: First of all, it's great to see him start to overcome his injuries. But now we finally get to see what he's made of, it's clear he's got a lot to learn. Not a bad player: lots of potential. Brave too, and determined. But needs to grow as a defender. I don't want to be too critical of him, because I think he can be an excellent player for us, but Santos is a better player right now, IMO. VERDICT: B: if he can stay fit, will grow and become a good player.

JENKINSON: First season, we didn't see too much of him. I'm excited about him, because he seems to have a stupendous engine, very determined, and puts in good crosses. Maybe not much genius, but lots of industry. No verdict.
MERT: First season and he struggled a bit, but he wasn't calamitous. He's an intelligent player, and I think his second season will be much, much better. VERDICT: B-.
DJOUROU: Fourth choice CB and he hasn't been all that bad when he's played, but he still doesn't inspire confidence. Needs to fight for a place in the team. VERDICT: C: if he doesn't improve, he'll need to be replaced.
SANTOS: What a gay. Everyone loves him. Is he any good? Well, he contributes going forward. He doesn't have much of an engine, and as a defender he's suspect, but he does put in a few handy tackles. Looked to be getting much better before his injury in Greece. Hopefully he can remain injury free next season and we'll have a nice battle between him and Gibbs for the LB spot. VERDICT: B: first season he did okay, if he works on his defending and his fitness he could be a good player for us.
SQUILLACI: Passing percentage: 100%. Total passes in the league this season: 3.

OVERALL: the individuals are all either very good or have much potential, but something isn't working out. Conceding 49 goals when you have individuals as good as ours means something else is wrong. Is it cohesion, coaching, or a problem further up the pitch? A mix of all, perhaps. VERDICT: F: not good enough at all. I could've given it a D, but it's really a fail. Something MUST be done, and the answer isn't Vertonghen or another defender. It's the way we play that needs to change.


MIDFIELD:
SONG: An enigma. 11 PL assists. Of our semi-regulars, the 14th best passing percentage (poor). So he's not a good passer, but he plays Hollywood balls all over the park. Has attempted 90 throughballs this season: the next highest is RVP with 49. Of those, just 24 successful. 2.9 tackles per game (3rd top behind Santos and Coq, not regulars), and 7th highest on the team in interceptions per game (I'd expect higher from someone in that position). So is he a defensive player or not? Hard to say. VERDICT: C: without knowing Wenger's plans for him, it's tough to say what expectations are. But if he were sold for a good price, many people say that they would be happy.
ARTETA: Goals and assists may not be plentiful But it's clear he's our engine. I'm running out of time here, so.. VERDICT: A+: excellent first season with us. Not getting any younger though. All I want from him next season is to keep it up.
ROSICKY: stats don't point to him being the most effective, but it's great to see him back. A great hustler, but I don't think we'd be able to rely on him for creativity next season. Wish his shooting was more accurate. VERDICT: B+: keep it up, that's all. Score a few more.
RAMSEY: strange season for him, and he lost the fans halfway through the season. Slow to react, slow of thought. Tends to turn too much and takes too many touches, slowing us down. But there's something about him. It's clear he sees the game differently than most, and that might turn out to be a bit of genius which comes through later. But needs to really improve quick if he wants to win back his place. He needs to be quicker, stronger, and more decisive. VERDICT: D+: lots of work for him to do, and little patience because of his role in the team.
COQUELIN: Good breakout season. Expect to see a lot more of him next season. Tenacious, strong, and confident - but he needs to be get stronger and more aware of his surroundings, and pick the right pass. VERDICT: B-: he'll get there.

OVERALL: it's hard to talk about the midfield as a whole, because Arteta is so crucial to it. We need someone to back him up - be it Wilshere, a new signing, or Song if he can learn to play the simple game. Arteta's fitness is a concern, so we need to be able to have someone who can replace him when needed. VERDICT: C: too much reliance on Arteta for stability and Song for creativity. That's not right.

ATTACK:
RVP: Genius. VERDICT: A+: sign him up, boss.
WALCOTT: first real season injury free, and he's shown that he has some worth. He may never have skill on the ball or much of a brain, but he's a player who has great instincts. His pace scares opponents and forces them to defend deep, a good weapon. He went through a poor spell, but he recovered somewhat. Needs more consistency. VERDICT: B: hope he stays, but not a guaranteed starter.
GERVINHO: started with promise, then faded before AFCON and didn't recover. At first was unpredictable, now seems one dimensional. Not the player we hoped to get from Lille. But he's shown signs of life recently. Maybe with a summer's rest, and some confidence, and now he's done a year in the league, he can be the player we signed. VERDICT: D+: overall poor, but there are reasons for optimism.
BENAYOUN: one of the 30+ trio (him, Rosicky, Arteta) who've been the most energetic and willing to close down on the pitch. Has really come good of late, a model pro. In the last game of the season, which means little to him since he's most likely not staying, he was the most eager to close down. For the goal, any other player and it would not have been a goal, because they would've left Fulop alone. Not Benny. VERDICT: B+: didn't contribute enough over the season, but has shown enough for us to see he's a real contributor. I would try to sign him for 3m on a 2 year contract, if possible.

OX: Young. Exciting, raw, one of the near future. Too much hype around him though, he's not there yet. But he will be... VERDICT B+: next year will be his breakout year.
ARSHAVIN: stats were quite good, but never good enough on the pitch. VERDICT: D-: if he's willing to play his part in the squad, and to really fight for the team, keep him. Most likely we'll sell him, and it'd be the right choice.

OVERALL: goals haven't been the problem. Reliance on RVP, unfortunately, has. But we've gone some way to addressing that, with Poldi coming in. I see more from Gervinho next season as well. VERDICT: B.

OVERALL: 3rd is lucky. We haven't had enough quality all over the park. Must improve.

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Post by nick t on Mon May 14, 2012 1:36 pm

well done. i feel the criticism of Ramsey is a bit harsh. yes, he didn't play that good. but i think we all forget is that he is 21 and it's his first full season in the PL, and after the leg break. He finally got back to full fitness and actually played in games. We had Nasri for a while and he wasn't that good until last year, so some patience is needed with Rambo. I think it was unfair of Wenger to rely on him so much. he definitely tried on the pitch, ran a lot, but he was trying to do too much and got caught in decision making. next season will be better for him with the experience around him and more realistic expectations for his growth. after all, we are talking about the captain of Wales

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Post by Alejandro Perreira on Mon May 14, 2012 2:03 pm

I question how anyone can say we were lucky this year compared to our competition. Yes they all dropped points at key times, but so did we. Somehow, I think people really underestimate the injury problems we had this season and I don't know why that is. Not many teams could hold it together losing as many defenders as we did throughout the year. Even during our late swoon, we did have arteta and walcott out. It was season of ups and downs, but I think we should definitely be looking optimistically at this team. We did improve over last year and with some actual luckwe would have had more points. Heading into next year we should be in much better shape than we were at the beginning of this year and with another good signing we'll be in good position to compete for trophies.

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Post by Sami Rockfeller on Mon May 14, 2012 8:50 pm

With the defense this year, I think the main problem has been injuries. Also I don't see Vermaelen and Koscielny playing together next season. Both like going forward and defensively also I think both are very similar so it has to be either of the two with Mertesacker. Mertesacker is vastly underrated by a majority of our fans. He is one of our better defenders, reads the game well and does not have the urge to make attacking runs, and now that he's had a taste of the league he'll only get better next season.

Midfield has been a major concern this year, we get run over by smaller teams. There is a lack of proper communication and most of them play like they have no idea what their duties are. Arteta held it all together for the most part and when he was not there, we fell apart. How many times have we seen a ball played straight through our midfield without anyone to intercept it? I think we need serious sorting out in this department through transfers and otherwise.
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Post by Jenks1981 on Mon May 14, 2012 9:29 pm

"SANTOS: What a gay. Everyone loves him. Is he any good? Well, he contributes going forward. He doesn't have much of an engine, and as a defender he's suspect, but he does put in a few handy tackles. Looked to be getting much better before his injury in Greece. Hopefully he can remain injury free next season and we'll have a nice battle between him and Gibbs for the LB spot. VERDICT: B: first season he did okay, if he works on his defending and his fitness he could be a good player for us."

What a gay!? LMAO

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Post by Mike York on Mon May 14, 2012 9:40 pm

Good post.

Zaid Derweesh wrote:OVERALL: the individuals are all either very good or have much potential, but something isn't working out. Conceding 49 goals when you have individuals as good as ours means something else is wrong. Is it cohesion, coaching, or a problem further up the pitch? A mix of all, perhaps.

The lack of protection the defence recieved from a proper DM hurt us this season. If Song had been more disciplined we would have conceded a lot less in my opinion, then again we would have scored a few less too. Also the coaching.

And I agree with Nick on Ramsey. It is too soon to be harsh on him. He is young (a good few years away from his peak still) and this was his first real uniterrupted season with us. I expect better next season from him though. Does anyone know what is his best position is, the Arteta role where he sits deeper or the advanced Rosicky role?

And also agree with Alejdandro. The crazy injuries we got in defence made Wenger's job a whole lot harder and credit to him for pulling us through it. I doubt any other side we were in competition with for top four would have done as well.


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Post by ralph avedikian on Mon May 14, 2012 11:57 pm

I said that at the beginning of the season and I'll repeat it now: Vermaelen and Koscielny are too similar as defender which means it should be Mertesacker with one of them.

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Post by Michael Schatzky on Tue May 15, 2012 12:15 am

ralph avedikian wrote:I said that at the beginning of the season and I'll repeat it now: Vermaelen and Koscielny are too similar as defender which means it should be Mertesacker with one of them.

I agree Ralph. ( I was even thinking of putting a prediction/wish in the predictions thread that Kos and Mertesacker be the starting CB pairing next year. )
Vermaelen's positional sense is a weakness.
I first noticed it 3 years ago vs. Barca in the 1rst (?) leg when Ibrahimovic pulled him way upfield creating space for Messi. I think being partnered by Gallas that first year, an experienced quality CB, papered over a lot of Vermaelen's deficiencies.

Kos and Vermaelen are too similiar in that they are both mobile ,tackling CB's. As slow as Mertesacker is ,he has great positional sense and will rarely get caught too far up field- probably because he knows he can't track back quickly!!
In terms of defending, the last 2 games of the season this yr vs. Norwich and WBA were shambolic for many reasons -Szczesny being an issue too. But it showed me that a trio of Song ,Kos and Verm in their current form is untenable if we want to be stronger defensively...

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Post by Jenks1981 on Tue May 15, 2012 12:23 am

Personally I would pick them depending on the strikers they are playing against (obviously form and fitness are an important part of this) but against players like Aguerro and Tevez I think Mertesacker suffers but against a Peter Crouch or a Jonathan Walters he would do better, for me.

Vermaelen will be better next season and he is our vice Captain, a leader on the pitch and does do some talking, we need him in the side for me. Those three are prime to play with three at the back with Mertesacker sitting in the middle of Koscielny and Vermaelen, I think.

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Post by John Foxall on Tue May 15, 2012 12:57 am

But it showed me that a trio of Song ,Kos and Verm in their current form is untenable if we want to be stronger defensively...

They're not a trio. Song in no way plays as the tip of the diamond in front of the centre-backs. Arteta did that well, although I feel his reputation is being inflated in his absence because we have no replacement for him. The fact is we have no defensive specialist, and if he must have a fair amount of footballing ability to satisfy AW then M'Vila would fit the bill.

As for papering over the cracks, I thought those cracks were all too apparent too years ago in Vermaelen's first season. Most of the good sides (and Mark Hughes' Man City side) exploited Vermaelen, not to mention our lack of ability to get back into defensive shape when turning over possession. We can't pay much attention to it, otherwise we surely would've improved.

Mertesacker did well but is by no means a flawless purchase either. From what I've seen he's at his best in the German defensive set-up because they sit deep and protect their centre-backs so well. We're far too anarchic to do that.

It's now accepted that Kos is our best CB, who partners him is the next question. I'm not ruling out that Vermaelen could do it well, but he needs to look at his game (and have someone help him do it), otherwise teams will continue to target him succesfully.

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Post by Ashraf Peeran on Tue May 15, 2012 1:24 am

Jenks1981 wrote:Personally I would pick them depending on the strikers they are playing against (obviously form and fitness are an important part of this) but against players like Aguerro and Tevez I think Mertesacker suffers but against a Peter Crouch or a Jonathan Walters he would do better, for me.

Vermaelen will be better next season and he is our vice Captain, a leader on the pitch and does do some talking, we need him in the side for me. Those three are prime to play with three at the back with Mertesacker sitting in the middle of Koscielny and Vermaelen, I think.

I agree with Jenks. I don't think we have a set pairing which will undoubtedly start every game if fit. I think Koscielny is clearly our best defender, and then depending on who we're up against Vermaelen or Mert will be chosen accordingly. Also, Vermaelen has a lot of intangible qualities that I think are valuable. They were on display against newcastle. When it was 1-1, even before he was getting forward he was acting like a real leader, getting the defense organized and the rest of the players pumped up for one final push in the last 15 minutes. He's a warrior, gets the crowd going which in turn gets the players riled up, and I think that's a great facet of his game.
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Post by John Foxall on Tue May 15, 2012 2:01 am

The best sides have a settled centre-back partnership. Playing Vermaelen at left-back is not a great option either.

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Post by Jenks1981 on Tue May 15, 2012 2:31 am

Yeah I wouldnt play him at left back at all unless absolutely necessary. The best sides do, your right. I do think we have the defenders to play 3 at the back, but then you get to midfield and its a total mess in my eyes.

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Post by John Foxall on Tue May 15, 2012 2:40 am

Positives this season:

Two excellent runs of form, the second of which after our full-backs returned almost made us believe we might push on for the rest of the season.

Having an outstanding captain and striker without whom we wouldn't have been able to stick in there when it was tough. He scored some superb goals and every touch is a joy to watch. I hope we offer him £150,000 a week just to develop a side around him.

The continuing development of Koscielny, an encouraging run of games for Gibbs and a nice return to form for Rosicky. Song's balls over the top to RvP and Arteta's consistency were constants too. The Ox and to a lesser extent Coquelin are quite promising.

High points - the Chelsea away win, it obviously meant a lot to the players and it felt like a significant moment. The split-second genius of TH14 (sorry, 12) to win the FA cup tie and then win the game at Sunderland - like turning the clock back. The first hour against Milan at home and the late winners against Liverpool and Newcastle at home. A couple more, RvP's bit of genius against Sunderland before chipping against the post and just the whole derby.



Negatives this season:

10 league losses, 49 goals conceded. Even the depressing manner of our early season form doesn't excuse these stats. Miles away from challenging from the title at this rate. We have excellent players, but the solidity and defensive shape required is still lacking. As we don't alter our game plan to fit the opposition or the occasion it always seems to be the opposition that work out how to do one on us not the other way round. We have a few excellent individuals (perhaps we could do with a few more) but you can still win the title with some journeymen. Just look at Clichy at City. He's a decent LB but nothing more, he's not changed. What we need is to improve as a team and work on our weaknesses. As mentioned before, the frequency with which the opposition exploit Vermaelen's positioning is ridiculous. Ditto conceding a goal just after scoring. The one good sign is we seem to have stopped conceding to poor sides just before half-time to make it 1-1 and go in at half-time level.

Last minute shopping - can't happen again. There's no need to take the piss out of the fans. It's better to pay more for a good player than pay half for a mediocre one that you're just going to replace the year after anyway.

Players we can't get rid of. Urgghhh - hopefully this will change. Our wage structure is way too generous to players who have proved sweet f.a.

Too many players desperate for a goal - Gervinho, Ramsey, even Theo to be honest. Arteta still contributed a few despite sitting but Rosicky and Song don't represent much of a goal threat. They could all do better next season.

Continuing to play players who are well out of form. Never mind their confidence, they need time out of the team - Theo and Ramsey especially. It took too long to realise that Rosicky was our only viable no.10 because AW was so determined to keep Ramsey in the team.

Lack of brainpower and common sense within the side, leadership etc. Not even lining up properly away at Swansea at 2-2, the late equalizer Norwich got etc.

The Sagn(a)-o-meter. You know we're not up for it when Sagna has a mare. West Brom at home last season, Milan away and Wigan at home this season. It's obvious we're just not well prepared when even Sagna, one of our more consistent and solid players has a mare and gets beaten way too easily. Jerome Thomas, Victor Moses and Zlatan Ibramovich recognised it.

Anytime we were forced to watch SS warming up on the side lines. He whose name must not be pronounced. Swinging those arms, doing high knee stretches .... looking like an unemployed French plumber turning up to the job centre. "Who? Me Boss? You want me to go on?" Never again, please.


Neutral:

The manager. He embodies the worst and the best of us. Part of me can't wait for him to leave just so we can taste something different. The comment after the Sunderland/Milan defeats that we have become far too stale still rings true. We're certainly at a financial disadvantage but we're no paupers. It's up to him to turn the tide, to make the very most of every possible resource to make us better. The side must take charge and coach from within. Outside influence on the team would be lovely, hopeful something dynamic from Steve Bould too. We all love Arsene Wenger yet it has become a veritable cult, a personal fiefdom for him. We can't be content to continue the way it's going. With a few signings we should be aiming to be in close touch with the leaders next season, not making excuses left, right and centre. I'm willing to believe that the owner and the board aren't helping but in that case we just have to do better with what we've got.

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Post by Jenks1981 on Tue May 15, 2012 3:12 am

2 points more and 1 place better than last season.

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Post by Chris Chan on Tue May 15, 2012 5:25 am

It's a really tough one.

First off, our summer was plain unacceptable, losing our star player and a good first team player in the last two weeks of the transfer window was a disgrace. No matter how our replacements fared, they were all panic buys and that is not good enough for a club like ours.

Our start to the season was a disaster, our team wasn't a team, our players were clueless trying to integrate a whole raft of changes and we had no idea how to adapt losing the player this team was built around. Add to that an insane number of injuries to defenders and we were in disarray.

Our recovery was good, although maybe appeared more impressive than it actually was due to our worst start to the season in god knows how long.

Then post Christmas was a little odd. We lost every prem game in Jan, went out of the CL and FAC in Feb, but that was also the beginning of 7 prem wins in a row including setting a new record with 4 come-from-behind victories.

Our end of season was pretty poor, injuries and fatigue took it's toll, but that doesnt excuse some of the drab performances we put in. Our defence started making basic errors again and it just all got pretty sloppy. It has been the same old story for the last few seasons, crawling across the line.

This team will perform when they are written off and disregarded, but as soon as they enter the spotlight, it is like a different side out there, complacency sets in and there appears to be a lack of drive. If we want to win anything, we need to stop these sort of performances/runs.

Overall, considering this was a rebuilding year, the end result was acceptable, however there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. Finishing with more points and places than last year should not glaze over the problems with this club. We have a lot of areas we need to address before we can even consider winning a trophy

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Post by Vanig Bostanian on Tue May 15, 2012 5:37 am

Pretty much agree with what's been said so far. Something I have to say though is that Walcott's good form is so reliant on Sagna it's unreal.
Positives:
That away game at Chelsea. At that point in time I was so full of hate towards football I bust my guts out shouting when the captain scored his hat-trick. Low points: defeat at OT and San Siro.
We definitely need more quality. I hear AW talking all this stuff about having a big squad and not being able to bring players. It's easy, sell three shit players and get one good player. Problem solved. Lol, I know it's not that easy but still, if he sells Denilson, Arshavin, Squillaci, and Almunia and only brings in one good player instead of them, no one will be saying why he hasn't replaced the other four.

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Post by Jenks1981 on Tue May 15, 2012 5:44 am

Walcott had his best season yet, he played more than ever before. 32 Premiership starts, 8 goals and 8 assists. I'm hoping with a small improvement next year he could make double figures for both and that would be a good return, we need the same from the left hand forward.

Its true he does rely on Sagna, but what player wouldnt? They have a good understanding and its a strength we should exploit when they are both on the pitch, not a flaw we should highlight imo.

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Post by Vanig Bostanian on Tue May 15, 2012 6:46 am

In another thread I mentioned Walcott will only improve because this was his first full season with us (more or less). It's not a flaw for a winger to have an understanding with a fullback. Cole and Pires had it, but Walcott was unplayable right after Sagna's recovery (Newcastle game, I remember reading his ratings one of them was saying "he left the Newcastle defenders with stretchmarks") and was in terrible form before that. The difference in his game shouldn't be as big.

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Post by Mario on Tue May 15, 2012 9:21 pm

Positives:

- We finished the season in 3rd place, one position higher than last year. We don't have to qualify for the Champions League which is a huge relief in Euros/Olympics year and should make our life easier in the transfer market. It is a better final position than many expected.

- We showed character to bounce back from poor spells of form with some good spells. The 7 match run from February was just brilliant. The post-Blackburn run wasn't the prettiest but we dug out results, whilst the latter in February was much more exciting.

- Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham. Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal. Arsenal 3-0 Milan. The last minute wins against Sunderland, Liverpool and Newcastle all reminded me of why I love football. The atmosphere at the Spurs, Milan and Newcastle games was fantastic.

- Robin van Persie. Was a pleasure to watch this season.

- Thierry Henry. Just lifted the place and also scored crucial goals for us, it's a shame we couldn't have kept him until the end of the season because we probably would have wrapped up third 3 weeks ago.

- For me personally (and Chan and Liam), the Dortmund away game. Another game which reminded us what football is all about and what football in this country should try to be.

- Some players continued to grow. Koscielny is now the first name on the team sheet (well, defensively). Szczesny is now our number 1, despite his end of season tail off. We saw Van Persie finally show the world what a world class players he can be.

- Despite threatening to finally do it for most of the season, and again after the Norwich draw, Tottenham still managed to do a Tottenham and finish below us.



Negatives:

- Last summer's transfer window was the worst I can ever remember at Arsenal. We don't need to go over again about what happened but because of that we were out of the title race before the season had even started. It led to some disastrous results and there was an ugly feeling around the club for some time that took a long time to shake off. That must never be allowed to happen again. Never.

- 10 league defeats and 49 goals conceded in the league alone. We have had bad 3 periods in one season, that is not good enough. Without RVP we lacked potency up front and defensively we have been a shambles at times. When the full backs were injured it hurt us at both ends of the pitch but again we saw the Arsenal inability to even try and adapt, both with the injuries and without them. No defensive structure, conceding goals whenever the opposition felt like scoring (I don't think I will ever get over the Norwich game), an inability to control a game when in front (a recurring problem in recent years) and a complacent culture still at the club. That comes from the top.

- Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal. Blackburn 4-3 Arsenal. AC Milan 4-0 Arsenal. Swansea 3-2 Arsenal. Arsenal 3-3 Norwich. Arsenal 1-2 Wigan. Sunderland 2-0 Arsenal. Every team loses but we have had some really embarrassing defeats this season.

- Early exits in all cup competitions. It was said it would help us in the run in, and for a while it did, but then we saw the same end of season stumble (which I guess is better than the usual end of season collapse).

- Finishing 3rd was a relief, not a cause for celebration. We were lucky clubs around us faltered as well and that Marton Fulop started for WBA. I know we had more points this season than last but last season we had a shot of winning something up until February/March, this season we were never in contention for anything and just stumbled over the finishing line.

- There are still plenty of players at the club not good enough and eating away at our resources that need to be shown the door.

- Our midfield was pretty average throughout the season. To be kept together but a last minute signing in Arteta kind of sums it up. No disrespect intended towards Mikel, a fine player.




Overall, I don't think this was a good season despite the top 3 finish. Losing early in the cups, never being in contention for anything but 3rd and having 3 spells of poor form is not what we expect from the club. Yes, I think we would all have taken 3rd place at the start of the season and again in January but in the grand scheme of things, when the 2010-11 season finished none of us would have been happy if you offered us this season.

The culture at the club to me doesn't scream 'we want success'. Or maybe more accurate, the current structure doesn't scream 'we will get success'. If, despite new signings every season, we see the same collapses in games, the same lack of shape or organisation or in-game intelligence, then you need to question the manager and coaching staff and the core of the team.

I look at our first team and without talking about Messi/Xavi/Ronaldo/Robben/Vidic type signings, I can see about 4 maybe 5 positions that can be realistically improved. Both wide areas (Podolski will sort out one side), left back and a couple of midfield positions. Unless of course, we were to buy big. M'Vila, Goetze and Podolski for example, that would be nice. And would cover more than 1 position and therefore wouldn't need the extra players. As for some of our back ups... They are either awful or inexperienced.

Btw, not saying I want us to sign a new LB or anything, just that it's an area that can be improved. And we will never sign 4 huge players, I'm not expecting or demanding it. But if we are to win the title, it's what I feel needs to happen because something is not right within the core. We all talk about individual players having good seasons yet the proof is in the results, something has to give.

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Post by Mario on Tue May 15, 2012 10:36 pm

As for Walcott, I wanted to see more. It was a decent season, not as good as I thought it would be after his start, but way too many times he disappeared and was completely ineffective. Finishing inconsistent. I know there was no Sagna for a while and his form did improve when he returned, but if Sagna was out for the season, should we expect Theo to have an awful season? It will affect your form for sure but if you want to be a great player you need to find a way and there was a period in January-February where he didn't even look bothered. And I don't really care how many goals/assists he has compared to Bale, tbh. He plays for us not them.

I know not to expect a superstar, he is an impact player who can create something out of nothing just with his pace and I want him to stay at the club and build on his first injury-free(ish) season. RVP certainly wants him to stay, their relationship is very good and he frightens teams. But when defences are packed and deep and organised, quite often it's like we have 10 men.

I hope he signs on but if he's asking for silly money then...


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Post by Z. Derweesh on Tue May 15, 2012 11:12 pm

I have a feeling Walcott might go. It's been very quiet on that front, it's all about RVP's signing. I have a feeling the club are ok with selling Walcott, and either that's what's going to happen or he will cave and sign a new contract, and part of the reason the 2nd scenario is possible is because I just can't think of who would want him/he'd want to go to. Not Man City or Man Utd certainly. Chelsea perhaps, but I think their wings are full - plus he'd be competing with Sturridge. Spurs never. Newcastle? It'd certainly be a step down. I'm sure Liverpool would love to have him, but again it'd be a terrible step down at this point.

Will he go abroad? He'd be a decent replacement for Hazard at Lille, but I doubt Walcott will want to play abroad. He's very concerned about his England place. Has Joe Cole done well in France? Nobody knows, and nobody will know. Unless it's Real or Barca (haha) then I doubt he'd move abroad.

I think he'll stay, but I don't think the club are too bothered about losing him, which is a bit strange.

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Post by Z. Derweesh on Tue May 15, 2012 11:31 pm

Right, part II of my season review (under a different name...)

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE...
First off, we won't challenge for the title next season, lets be clear. A 19 point gap is too much to make up in one year. Depending on whether United have a good summer, injuries, etc., we might be able to compete for 2nd, but I think we're realistically looking at third again. That's fine, as long as we show progression, for me.

As Mario said, many areas in the starting 11 where we could improve if we wanted to, but not essential. LB, DM (Song's current position), RW. Assuming Wilshere is back, it remains to be seen where he would play (Arteta or Rosicky's position). If he comes in for Arteta, then the Rosicky position could be improved.

ON SONG AND THE DM POSITION...
Many say they wouldn't be disappointed to sell him, and I can understand that. What is his best position? It's clear he's not that interested in defending, but he's not a great passer of the ball either. But is it really important to sell him? With all the other players the club needs to get rid of this summer, I think the last thing we should be worrying about is selling Song. We should bring in a DM - ideally M'Vila - to play in that DM spot, and worry what to do with Song later. He could be cover for that position, or he could play alongside M'Vila (interesting to see how that would work out, but he's done it before with Coq). So no, I wouldn't consider selling him until all other transfer business is done.

But he will likely go to AFCON next year (unless I'm wrong). So we do need another body in there. Frimpong and Coq aren't reliable enough for me.

ON DEADWOOD...
Some of this will sort itself out anyway.
- Almunia and Squillaci are done I believe.
- Denilson is a worry, but if not this year he'll be gone next year. Recouping nominal fees isn't as important as squad places and salary. Hopefully somebody picks him up.
- Bendtner wants to wait until after the Euros. I think we should get rid of him earlier if possible: after the Euros, all the focus will be on the players who actually impress (not Bendtner). But ultimately he will decide when he wants to move. I wouldn't be too fussed if he came back and played for us since he can be useful, but he said he doesn't want to, so that's that.
- Park needs to go. I'm sure there would be some clubs interested, but I'm not sure how much we're paying him. An average player can usually find an average club.
- I'm okay with Djourou staying, but he needs to perform more consistently and more dominantly when called upon. I hope Bartley is brought back to compete with him for a place.
- I would sell Diaby the second he's fit. He takes up a squad place and he's reliably broken. If no buyers, I would just let him run down his contract. It's gotten beyond sad now.
- Chamakh has looked okay in the last couple of games, so if he can build on that I'd be happy for him to stay. But it's always going to be hard for a one-dimensional player like that when RVP is fit - he can't get games. Plus, he'd be competing with Afobe next year I think.
- Vela's done well of late, I think that finding a buyer for a decent fee won't be a problem. Even if not, it should be fairly easy to loan him out again, as long as we're not paying his wages that's fine.
- I think Arshavin will ultimately need to go, and whatever we get for him above 4-5m is fine.

It won't all get done, but if it does it'd clear up a bit of space for other players.

ON BENAYOUN...
Sign him up, boss. 3m transfer fee, 2 year contract, we're golden.

ON GOALKEEPERS...
Fabianski needs to go I think. If Jaskelainen is available he'd be good, I'm sure he'd rather Champions League bench than Championship (maybe). Craig Gordon is also a good keeper. Mannone should also go, that goal he conceded that one time (you know the one) was unforgivable.

ON OTHER SIGNINGS...
I would like to see an attacking mid/right winger come in. Rosicky and Ramsey don't fill me with confidence, even though both have their advantages. Rosicky is almost done though, and while Ramsey has a touch of genius about him, it's not yet ready. Kagawa seems destined to go to United, but he might be an interesting option if we could tempt him. There's a lot of talk about Hoillet, and I don't know how good he really is, but might be worth a punt. Another striker is clearly something that would help, but with Podolski coming in I don't see it happening.

So ideally, we'd get about 4 players with Podolski, M'Vila, Jussi, and a Kagawa/Hoillet. Practically, I think we may get 3. Again, these signings probably won't make us challenge, but they'd strengthen and add depth and certainly make us a much better team.




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Post by Alex Hadjicharalampous on Tue May 15, 2012 11:56 pm

First off, we won't challenge for the title next season, lets be clear. A 19 point gap is too much to make up in one year.

I see absolutely no reason why not right now. The points gap is irrelevant. Did you see Newcastle challenging for a CL spot this season? Last season they finished on 46 points in 12th place, this season 5th with 65. Funnily enough that's an improvement of 19 points.

We can challenge if we keep our best players, sell the deadwood, make some good signings and try and improve on our defensive problems. It's quite a lot to do, but it is possible. This is also assuming that our rivals remain at the same level. Who knows what can happen in a new season?

We're not in Spain, where the rest of the league has no chance of ever catching up to the top two due to the ridiculous imbalance of the TV deals and whatnot. Make the right moves and we'll be right up there next season.
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Post by eyal.peer on Wed May 16, 2012 12:12 am

Challenging requires consistency and spirit. Spirit - we have. Consistency? Not.
The thing about consistency, it requires tactical organisation, leadership on the field and off the field (anyone said Steve Bould?), a firm defense (anyone said Steve Bould?) and luck (injuries etc).

So, theoretically, if we keep RVP, sign a couple of quality players (other than poldi) which MUST include a proper DM (M'Vila would be perfect), and have some luck - we can and will challenge.

We probably will not win the PL, but I don't see a reason for us not to win one of FA/CL, or at least reach semis in one and final in the other, and finish 2nd/3rd in the league with an acceptable margin from 1st.

We don't lack that much quality. United have a few talented players, but a lot who underperformed this year and I think overall their squad is less talented than ours. But they are tactically organized and consistent, and concede much less goals than us.

City have tons of quality, but they still do not outplay us when it's 11 vs. 11.

I think a successful 2012-2013 season will see us:
1. Finishing 2nd/3rd in the league, competing through April
2. Winning the FA cup
3. Reaching Final/Semis in the CL
4. Doing a double over the scum and united.

That would prove we are on the right track.

But much depends on who we sign, and more importantly, who we re-sign.
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