With the Arsenal news thin on the ground yesterday, I decided to run through my thoughts on how the season has gone so far. I started with our goalkeepers and defenders, and today I'll attempt to give my opinions on the midfielders and attackers.
To start with there's the only holding/defensive midfielder that Arsenal have in Alex Song. Last season Song stuck primarily to his defensive duties, and Arsenal fans very rarely saw him venture forward unless it was at a set piece. That seems to have changed this season, as he can be found in just about every attacking position on the pitch as well as his allotted one. Before this season Song had an average of one goal or assist every 10 games, but this season he is averaging a goal or assist every two games. It tells you just how much he is getting involved in the attacking aspects of the game, and it's something a lot of fans are a little anxious about.
The other absolute mainstay of Arsenal's midfield when all the players are fit is of course Cesc Fabregas. After his exploits at the World Cup with Spain he has found it hard to get back into the bread and butter of club football. He hasn't been helped by the spate of injuries he has had, and it's unusual to see other Arsenal midfielders with more Fantasy points than him, but at the moment Song, Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri all have just that. He hasn't had a decent run in the team because of those injuries, but he has played the last few games, and his form is slowly returning. He is one of the very best players in the world, and as his form gets better with more games played, Arsenal will become even stronger. Hopefully he will be back to his very best for this Saturday's game against The Spuds, and he will then kick on from there.
In the absence of Cesc in quite a few games this season we have seen the emergence of Jack Wilshere. There was some talk in the summer of letting go out on loan again, as it was thought that his first team chances would be limited. However, when other players were unavailable he stepped up and showed that at the tender age of 18 he is more than capable of not only competing, but thriving at the highest level. He has shown a level of maturity well beyond his years, and Cesc himself said that Wilshere is better at that age than he was. The goals may not be flowing for him quite yet, but he possesses a sweet left foot, and I have no doubt that they will very soon.
It has also to be noted that he has helped out an awful lot with the defensive work in midfield, and that has been of great assistance with Song pushing so far forward at times. When he was on loan at Bolton last season he had a few seasoned professionals to learn from, and a few of his challenges this season could have been mistaken for those of Paul Robinson or Kevin Davies. I think that they have come when he has lost the ball with a poor touch, and chases after it. He has to learn when not to go steaming in after the ball, but I'm sure that will come with time. For me he has been a revelation so far this season, and the future of the club is in safe hands with Wilshere signed up on a long term contract.
After those three players the next midfielder Arsenal have used the most would probably be Tomas Rosicky, although some of his games have been in a more advanced and wide role. He has done very well at times when he has come off the bench, but his starts in the team have been limited. At times he looks very good, and he certainly works very hard for the cause, but he has admitted himself that he needs to make more of an impact when he does play. A few goals or assists wouldn't go astray either, but I think he is a fantastic player to have available when others are not, through injury or suspension. His experience is a great asset, and that can be seen when he plays in tight games.
Abu Diaby is still suffering the effects of the injury he picked up over four years ago against Sunderland, and it hasn't been helped recently by bad challenges on the same leg from Paul Robinson and Michael Essien. As it stands the club are unsure of how he stands, but he hasn't played for quite a while now. When he does play his form can be very up and down, but there's no doubting that on his day he has an awful lot to offer the team. The problem is that nobody knows which Diaby they are going to see from game to game.
He's one of quite a few players who want to play in the hole behind the striker, but the manager would prefer to see him operate in a more central midfield role. If he can overcome his current injury problems he's another player that really improves the overall strength of the squad, but with the emergence of Wilshere he might find his chances limited. For me his biggest problem is consistency or lack of it, as Arsenal fans never know if they will see the player with drive pushing forward, or the player who twists and twirls before giving the ball away.
Another player who has had an injury interrupted season is Denilson, and he's a player who frustrates so many fans at times too. The boss sees him as cover for Song at times, but his defensive abilities leave a lot to be desired in my opinion. Playing alongside Song against Everton last Sunday he had a very good game, and that may well be where he gets most of his game time this season when the need arises. It frees Cesc to push even further forward, and that can only be a good thing in my opinion. He's not a player I like to see in the Arsenal starting 11 too often, but he certainly helps with the overall strength of the squad.
Samir Nasri is having a very good season, but it's mostly in a wide role in Arsenal's three man attack. When Cesc was injured he got more time in his favoured position as a central player, but even when he plays on the right or left he still drifts infield to cause havoc in opposition defences. He's being banging in the goals so far this season, and it would seem that his omission from the French World Cup squad is the spur that he needed to push him on to greater things. If he continues with his current form he will be one of the most important players in Arsenal's title push this season.
Andrey Arshavin is a player who seems to split Arsenal fans, and I'm not too sure exactly how I feel about him at times myself. He scores some wonderful goals at times, and he has more assists than any other Arsenal player so far this season. However, he has a habit of looking lazy and disinterested, and that's not something that gets the fans behind you. He's nowhere near as lazy or disinterested as "he who shall remain nameless", but there is still the perception that he could give more at times. He can take on players and beat them, which is something that every team needs, and he has a fantastic shot when he gets behind the ball. If he can give that little bit extra I'm sure he can make a huge difference, and he will win back the fans that doubt him.
Next up is Theo Walcott, and he's a very tough player to judge at the best of times. He has blistering pace, and he seems to have found a killer instinct in front of goal this season. However, the problems arise against teams that sit deep and defend in numbers, as he just doesn't look up to the task of breaking them down. If a team comes out and plays football against Arsenal he is a great asset, as he gets behind defences and causes havoc.
In most of Arsenal's home games that he plays he can be seen looking lost on the right hand side, unless we go ahead, and the opposition push players forward. He still seems very unsure what to do when he is faced with a full back keeping tight on him, and his crossing leaves a lot to be desired at times. When he has managed to stay fit this season he has been very dangerous, and he has being scoring goals at a faster rate than any other Arsenal player. It would seem that he isn't getting to play as he often as he might expect at the moment, but he is up against both Arshavin and Nasri when it comes to team selection.
The new player who has made the biggest impact so far this season is of course Marouane Chamakh, and as it stands he is our leading scorer this season. His ability in the air was very well known before he signed on a free transfer from Bordeaux, but he can also hold the ball up very well, and lead the line for Arsenal. I'm still not sure that he is overly comfortable when he is faced with a one on one chance with the opposition keeper, but his overall play is excellent.
He works tirelessly for the team, and causes the opposition all sorts of problems. If Arsenal can get their players to the end line, and cut more balls back for Chamakh to head, he will score an awful lot of goals this season. It will be interesting to see how much game time he will get when Robin Van Persie regains full fitness, and if he has to take a back seat I can't imagine that he will be too happy.
RVP is a fantastic player, but he is so injury prone that a lot of fans are of the opinion that Arsenal should possibly cash in on him if they get the chance. Every time he comes back from injury the fans hope that he will have put all those injury woes behind him, but just as the belief starts to grow the next injury comes along. After the World Cup the boss took his time to reintroduce him into the team, but he got injured in his first start, and he is only coming back now after almost three months out. When he is playing at his best he is a fantastic player, and he's right up there as one of the very best players in the league. I just hope that we get to see exactly how good he is very soon, and for the rest of this season.
It's very hard to judge Nicklas Bendtner on his performances so far this season, as his appearances in the World Cup, when he was carrying a groin injury, led to him being injured for almost three months. Since he came back he hasn't had too much game time, and with RVP back now he will probably get even less. It's led to rumours of discontent from him, and he is a player who is very sure of his own ability. He did very well at the tail end of last season when he came into the side, and if he had stayed injury free he might have been ahead of Chamakh when this season started. I can't see him playing too much if the other two strikers are fit, and who knows what that might lead to. He is still a god player to have available in our squad, but I don't think that he plays the game at the same pace, or with the same technical ability as most of the other players at times.
That brings us to Carlos Vela, and he seems so far down the pecking order now that his future at Arsenal must be in doubt. He has played a few games this season, and bagged a few goals as well, but he looks like his chances will only come as a wide left player. If he is to make a real impression in the team, he needs to play in a more central role, but I can only see that coming as a substitute, or if Arsenal have a severe injury crisis. He has bags of potential, but it may be that he fulfills that potential elsewhere.
Finally I'd like to mention Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel Thomas, as they are both players with a very bright future. Arsenal fans have only seen glimpses of what they can do this season, but Lansbury showed how well he can fit into the team and system in the Carling Cup victory over The Spuds. JET has only got about 15 minutes of action so far this season, but even the boss admits that he is knocking on his door with both hands. Personally I think his 10 goals in six reserve games this season, and the manner of some of those goals, are a sign that he has ripped the manager's door off it's hinges and thrown it into the car park. I would love to see him play as part of our best team to see what he could do with the likes of Cesc, Nasri, RVP and Arshavin around him.
That's it for today, and normal service will be resumed tomorrow now that the international break is over.
See You Tomorrow.