It's day three of my review of Arsenal's season, and today it's time to deal with the midfield and how they performed. Arsenal have some very talented midfielders in their squad, and they have the ability to control a game against any other team in the Premier League. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish which players are playing in midfield, and which ones are meant to be playing in attack.
The first player just has to be Cesc Fabregas who is Arsenal's captain and star player. I have absolutely no doubt that Arsenal would have won the Premier League title if Cesc had managed to stay fit for the whole season, but he only managed to start 22 of the 38 games. It was such a shame for Arsenal that he couldn't stay fit for the whole season, as players of his quality are very rare.
In those games he managed to score three goals and he added 13 assists as well. It's not quite up there with his better seasons for Arsenal, but there were a few reasons for the fall off in his return. The biggest problem for me was the fact he played in the World Cup for Spain last summer, and that came straight after his recovery from a broken leg.
He still looked to be head and shoulders above any other player in that position when he did play, but he needs a rest this summer to return to his best. Not only did he not get a proper rest last summer, but he didn't get one in either of the previous two summers either. He has played an awful lot of games for a player of his age, and he seemed to suffer from burnout last season as a result.
Arsene Wenger fought very hard to keep Cesc at the club last summer, and it's clear he would like to return to Barcelona one day. I hope he will stay for at least one more season, and maybe even two to finally win the trophies at the club that he wants to win. He must know he has more to offer to Arsenal if he can stay fit, and hopefully next season will be the season he leads Arsenal to the promised land.
Alex Song had a lot of critics in his early days at Arsenal, but he kept his head down and proved them all wrong. He has become a very important part of the team, and when he doesn't play Arsenal are missing defensive stability in midfield. However, he didn't particularly improve last season, and it would seem the lack of competition for his place may have caused some complacency on his part.
He was still a very good player for Arsenal last season, but like so many others he needs to up his performances for next season. His recent falling out with Samuel Eto'o on international duty might mean he misses out on the African Cup of Nations early next year, and that can only be a good thing for Arsenal. Hopefully Arsenal will sign someone to not only cover for Song when he is injured, but compete to play instead of him or alongside him depending on what tactics are needed.
Jack Wilshere was Arsenal's best player last season, and he looks like he will be a star for them for many years to come. He made the breakthrough in international football as well, and he has very much earned his summer break. Thankfully he won't be going to the European Under 21 Chmpionship with England, and hopefully Arsenal will be the ones to benefit from that decision.
He showed a maturity well beyond his years at times last season, and his skill and composure on the ball are a beauty to behold at times. He has a bit of a nasty streak which is no bad thing at all in my opinion, and he certainly won't be pushed around when he plays for Arsenal. His return in terms of goals and assists wasn't particularly high, but he has them in his locker and they will become evident as he becomes more experienced.
His emergence was a huge boost for Arsenal, and it's a little scary to think where they might have finished without him. He looks to have all the attributes of a future captain of Arsenal, and he has expressed his love for Arsenal and his desire to play for them for his whole career. In my opinion Arsenal don't need to sign Scott Parker this summer because Wilshere is similar to him, but an awful lot better.
Aaron Ramsey took over a year to fully recover from the horrific injury Ryan Shawcross inflicted upon him in 2010, but thankfully he made his way back into the Arsenal team towards the end of the season. He only managed to start five league games, but in those games he managed to show enough to indicate that he has managed to recover from his injury. He took his goal against Manchester United very well, and he fits seamlessly into Arsenal's midfield trio.
The injury to Ramsey was probably the main reason why Wilshere got so much game time last season, and Ramsey will probably have to bide his time behind Wilshere in the pecking order next season. He has the ability to play in Cesc's position or Wilshere's, and when he has fully found his feet he will be difficult to keep out of the team. I think he is probably seen as a long term replacement for Cesc, but the injury has put him back by more than a whole season.
Abu Diaby is a little like Ramsey, as his time at Arsenal has been defined by an injury he received at a young age. It's now over five years since Diaby had his horrific leg break away to Sunderland, but he is still suffering the effects in my opinion. He cannot seem to play more than four or five games in a row without suffering another injury, and I don't think he will ever fulfill his potential as a result.
He's a player who flattered to deceive at times last season, as he nearly always followed a good performance with an anonymous one. He has the ability to be an exceptional player, but like so many other Arsenal players the attitude seems to be wrong far too often. He likes to play in the position just behind the striker, but there are an awful lot of players ahead of him in the line for that role.
I wouldn't be surprised if Arsenal decided to sell him this summer, but it won't be easy to find a buyer for a player who is so injury prone and earns an awful lot of money. I hope he stays and goes on to fulfill his potential but I just can't see that happening. If he was able to play in the defensive midfield role he would have a much better chance at Arsenal, but despite the advantage of his physique he just isn't suited to the role.
Denilson is a player who has decided it's time for him to move on from Arsenal, and it's probably the best thing for both the player and the club. He used to divide opinion at one time, but the vast majority of Arsenal fans would now agree that he simply isn't good enough to play at the level Arsenal want to play at. He may be a Brizilian, but his attacking instincts are hardly those of a Brazilian.
Far too often he has been found wanting when he has been called on, and towards the end of the season he was even unable to command a place in the squad. He was famously overtaken by the referee as he chased back against United a couple of seasons ago, and his sudden collapse against Everton in the same season was a mystery to all but him. He doesn't seem either willing or able to put in the required effort at times, and he adds nothing to the team when he plays.
He will probably have a reasonable career at a mid table team in a less competitive league, but he doesn't have the attitude to succeed in the Premier League in my opinion. If Arsenal can get over €5 million for him they should be happy to get him off the wage bill, as Ramsey is a far more capable player than him. I don't know if they will find it easy to sell him though, as his wages won't be easy for other clubs to match.
Tomas Rosicky has become an anonymous figure at Arsenal since his very long absence with injury a few seasons ago. There is no doubting his talent, but the injury has taken so much from him that he no longer has an end product to his game. It's a shame to see a player with so much talent struggle so much, but like Denilson I think it's time for him to move on.
His career at Arsenal is full of what might have been if he hadn't missed almost two years through injury, but that can't be changed and the club need to move on. He is like so many other players in Arsenal's midfield in so far as he likes to play in the role currently occupied by Cesc, and that hasn't helped his cause either. On the few occasions he played last season he did very little to indicate that he has anything left to offer, and I will be surprised to see him still at the club next season.
Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, and Andrey Arshavin are all probably considered to be midfielders, but I'll review them in my analysis of the strikers as they have had a more advanced role.
That's it for today.
Here's a little bit of Jack Wilshere at his best.
See You Tomorrow.