It seems like an age since I started my season review, and I finally get to finish it today with my judgement on Arsenal's attack for last season. Arsenal managed to score 119 goals in all competitions last season, and that was a fairly impressive return in 58 games. I'll attempt to run through the contribution of each of their attacking players, and see if they are good enough to play at the level Arsenal aspire to.
Robin Van Persie is Arsenal's first choice striker and when he returned from the World Cup he sat out the first couple of games of the season. He made his first start away to Blackburn Rovers, but he lasted just over half an hour before his injury jinx struck again. When he returned from injury he was eased back into the team for a while, but once he returned to full fitness he showed exactly how good he is.
He only started 19 league games last season, but he managed to score 18 goals in those games. He was only three goals away from being the outright top scorer in the Premier League despite missing half of the season, and if he can somehow play a full season the sky is the limit for him. He managed 22 goals in all competitions and it was his best total in any season for Arsenal.
I love to watch RVP play as he wears his love for Arsenal on his sleeve, and Arsenal need more players with his desire and commitment. If only he wasn't so injury prone he would be the best striker in the Premier League, and one of the very best in the world. He seems to have found the ability to find space in the box to score goals from almost any position, and he has developed a great understanding with Cesc Fabregas.
On the down side RVP's free kicks were a long way from his best last season, and I think he needs to practice them a lot more. He used to be deadly from free kicks on the right hand side, but this season they have tended to go straight into the wall. It's a very minor complaint, and I'm sure it's one he will put right next season.
When Arsenal's season fell apart towards the end of the season RVP kept playing well and scoring goals. He could do no more as he carried the team all on his own at times, as he scored in Arsenal's last nine away games in a row. Hopefully he can start next season off in the form that he finished last season.
Marouane Chamakh joined Arsenal on a free transfer last summer after he saw out his contract at Bordeaux, and it was thought he would be used sparingly at first, as he eased his way into the English style of football. However, the early injury to RVP saw him take over the role as Arsenal's main striker with Nicklas Bendtner injured as well. He played very well in those games, as his goals and link up play helped to keep Arsenal in the title race.
Around the time RVP came back from injury there was a story that Chamakh was feeling fatigued from the tough half season he had. When he did get chances for the rest of the season that fatigue looked evident, as he failed to reproduce his early season form. The goals dried up for him, and he was a pale shadow of the player on display for the first half of the season.
I like Chamakh but I am not sure exactly how good he is. He lacks pace which means he tends to cut back on the ball too often, even when he is played through with only the opposing keeper to beat. His heading ability is second to none, but Arsenal are not known for their ability to put good crosses into the box.
I think Arsenal will buy another striker this summer, and Chamakh might find his chances even more limited. If that is the case he will have to take those chances when they come his way. At least he won't be complaining of fatigue if he spends a lot of time on the bench.
Nicklas Bendtner played for Denmark in the World Cup last summer despite the fact he was carrying an injury. It meant he missed out on the start of the season for Arsenal, and he also probably missed his last real chance to stake a claim for a place in the Arsenal team. If he had been fit for those early games I think he would have got his chance in his favoured position ahead of Chamakh.
When he eventually recovered from injury he spent a lot of his time playing in a wide role, and he wasn't happy with it. He has stated his desire to leave Arsenal this summer, as he wants to play first team football. I can't blame him for wanting to leave, as I can't see the point of playing him in a wide role.
He looked very ordinary at times last season, but every so often he does something which makes him look like a very good player. I was at the game against Burnley in March 2010 when he missed five or six absolute sitters, but only four days later he scored a Champions League hat trick against Porto. If he could reproduce that form on a consistent basis he might just become the player he seems to believe he is already.
Samir Nasri was absolutely fantastic for the first half of the season, as he looked to show France they were wrong not to bring him to the World Cup. With other players missing through injury or not playing at their best he was by far Arsenal's best player up until the turn of the year. If he had continued that form for the rest of the season he might well have been voted the best player in the Premier League, but his performances dipped.
It's hard to know why he didn't maintain his excellent start to the season, but there were a few possible reasons. Arsene Wenger continually played him in a wide role, but I think Nasri wanted to play Cesc's role when Cesc wasn't playing at least. However, he was played on the left of the Arsenal attacking three even when Cesc didn't play, and it may have affected his performances.
He put in some of his very best displays filling in for Cesc, and it's hard to understand why he didn't take that role every time Cesc was out. He looks like he will become the player Arsenal hoped he would be, but unfortunately he might fulfill his potential at another club. As it stands he has only one year left on his contract, and he is holding out for a huge wage rise.
If Nasri and his agent don't get the money they want the chances are Arsenal will have to sell him, or he will be able to leave on a free transfer next summer. Arsenal cannot afford to let him go on a free transfer which only leaves them with the option of selling him this summer if the issue cannot be resolved. As the days go by Arsenal fans are losing patience with Nasri, and he will soon reach the point where his apparent greed will turn them against them.
I would love to see Nasri sign a new contract and continue his progress at Arsenal, but he cannot be allowed to hold the club to ransom. He wants to be paid as much as Cesc, and he is nowhere near as good as Cesc at the moment. If he stays I'm sure he will earn even more money if he continues to improve and show more consistency, but if he goes he can be replaced.
Theo Walcott reckons he has had his bet season ever for Arsenal, and he only missed 10 of their 38 Premier League games. Only RVP and Nasri managed to score more goals that Walcott, but despite all of that he still fails to convince far too often. At times he looks world class as he streaked through on goal and finished with ease past the advancing keeper.
However, on other occasions he looked like he simply didn't know what he was doing, as he ran past defenders without the ball or just ran straight into them. He does an awful lot to help Bacary Sagna out when he plays on the right, and that part of his game cannot be overlooked. He has made it known that he would like to play as a central striker, and Wenger has said he sees that as his ideal role in the team in the long term.
Walcott would probably do even better if Arsenal had more opportunities to play on the break, but opponents tend to sit deep and invite Arsenal on to them. A lot of his impact is lost when he can't get to run in behind advancing defenders, and he did well to score the 13 goals he got last season. If he can continue to progress he can possibly become the player his potential suggested he might become, but it is by no means certain.
I hope Walcott can progress to the next level, and he is still very young. He can have a better impact against some of the better sides t times, as they are more prepared to come out and play against Arsenal. I think he has made the right side of the front three his own, and next season might just be the season for him.
Andrey Arshavin is a difficult player to figure out sometimes. He can be fantastic one minute, but he can look totally disinterested the next minute. If he was more consistent he would be one of the very best players in the Premier League in my opinion.
It can be very frustrating to see him lying on the ground after he has lost the ball, as others attempt to win it back or cover for him. He looks like he doesn't want to be on the pitch at times, as he strolls around and does very little, but suddenly he comes alive and the opposition pay the price. Like so many other Arsenal players he would prefer to play in the role just behind the striker, but it's a role he rarely gets to play.
He turned 30 last month, and the chances are he won't be at Arsenal for more than another year or two at the most. He needs to get his head down and apply himself to each and every minute he plays, but the chances are he won't always be a first choice selection. When Wenger had all of his attacking options available to him last season Arshavin spent a lot of time on the bench, and I suspect next season will be no different for him.
Carlos Vela had to spend a few seasons out on loan after Arsenal had signed him before he was able to play in England. He is a player who had massive potential when he signed, but he has rarely got the chance to show what he can do in the Arsenal team. The only games he started last season were in the Carling Cup, and he only made four substitute appearances in the Premier League for Arsenal.
He was loaned out to West Bromwich Albion in the new year, but he rarely got to start there either, and he needs to get some first team action. When he does play he is usually deployed on the left side of the front three, but his best position is a central one. He has an uncanny ability to chip the keeper when he gets the slightest chance to do so, but he appears to be sliding down the order at Arsenal.
If Bendtner leaves and another striker is signed the chances are Vela will be the fourth choice striker again, and he could even be fifth choice if Walcott is given a chance in a central role. I can't see him staying at the club too much longer if he doesn't get to play, and that would seem to be his fate. I hope he does get a chance and he takes it, but I sincerely doubt that will happen.
That's it for my summary of Arsenal's forwards for last season, and my season review is almost over too. If each player is judged individually they performed well enough last season, but as a unit Arsenal just didn't perform well enough for the whole season.
Arsenal look to finally have a goalkeeper who is good enough for a team challenging for honours, and hopefully both Szczesny and Fabianski can continue to improve. Changes have to be made to Arsenal's defence and how they defend set pieces, and I hope Wenger has the ability to bring in the players needed to make that happen.
Arsenal need to find more urgency in midfield at times, and they need to play each game as if it is their most important game of the season. There can be no more games where Arsenal simply fail to perform until the last 2o minutes, and hope to undo any damage in the later stages of the game. If Cesc stays at the club and manages to stay fit for the whole season I think the midfield will find the drive it needs.
I'm not so worried about the strikers once RVP is available, as I have a feeling next season will be his season. A suitable backup for him might need to be found in case of injury, but if he stays injury free I think Arsenal will score even more goals next season.
The season just passed can only be judged as a failure, as Arsenal failed to win a trophy, and they slipped back to fourth in the league too. There was a Carling Cup final appearance, but unfortunately a last minute mishap cost Arsenal a chance of winning that trophy.
There's a long summer ahead with plenty of transfer activity expected, but it will probably be September 1st before Arsenal's chances for next season can be assessed properly.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at RVP at his best.
See You Tomorrow.
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