Monday, June 4, 2012

The 2011/12 Season Review (3) – Players

In this post, we look back at some of the key players' individual performances over the 2011/12 season, as well as recap on all the new signings.


The player of the season

Robin van Persie

It's difficult not to choose the captain. He won the two Player of the Year awards and the Golden Boot, scoring 37 goals in all competitions. On top of the outstanding personal records he established this season, he inspired the whole team as captain.

The young player of the season

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Ox has already captured the fans' hearts as well as the attention of the new England manager, Roy Hodgson, despite Arsene Wenger's overcautious stance towards overusing him in his first season. The fans' displeasure was obvious when he was taken off the pitch during the Man U game (The victim of his popularity was poor Andrey Arshavin. The Russian's confidence never recovered from the incident). We want to see more of him next season.

Francis Coquelin also impressed us after his return from a season-long loan to Lorient. Although his playing time was limited as Song had established himself as a first-choice defensive midfielder, Coquelin proved himself as a versatile utility player, playing at right-back, left-back, and in the central midfield.

Other candidates include Manny Frimpong, whose season was cut short yet again by a cruciate ligament damage to the other knee, and Nico Yennaris, who gave us a glimpse of his potential when he played in the Carling Cup competition and stood in for the first-team right-back during Arsenal's full-back injury crisis.

All in all, we think the Ox, one of the nominees for PFA's Young Player of the Year, is Arsenal's best young player of the season.


The most improved player of the season

Laurent Koscielny

He was already showing all the signs of becoming a great defender last season, but one of his shortcomings was a lapse of concentration. Apart from two unnecessary own goals against Blackburn and Liverpool, he looked solid and consistent.

Other candidate include Theo Walcott, who had arguably his best season in an Arsenal shirt, Alex Song with an impressive 14 assists in all competitions (joint top four assist provider in the Premier League), and rejuvenated Tomas Rosicky. However, we think none of them has made as significant improvement as Laurent Koscielny did this season.

The most influential player of the season

Robin van Persie

This is a close call between RVP and Arteta. RVP scored 30 goals in the Premier League, of which 11 were match winners. He also created goal-scoring chances, which was proved by the number of assists he made, 11 in the Premier League and 13 in all competitions. On the other hand, Arteta's influence on the team was evident as we struggled to win (P5 W1 D3 L1) after he had sustained an ankle sprain towards the end of the season.


New signings

Mikel Arteta

Best new signing of the season. He was regarded as the poor man's Fabregas by many and his signing did not overly impressed the fans because he was considered past his peak. In the absence of Jack Wilshere, Arteta was assigned to take an enforcer role and developed excellent understanding with Alex Song. His presence in midfield brought cohesion and stability to the team, but most of his work went unappreciated until he started scoring some exquisite goals. He was sorely missed in the last five games of the season. We never found his replacement. He may not have produced any eye-catching performance, but all the stats, including a passing success rate and the number of tackles, indicate that he was one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season. Hopefully, we will have both Jack Wilishre and Mikel Arteta fit next season and the Spaniard may be given a more creative role.


Pre-season signing from the French Ligue 1 outfit, Lille. He made a sensational debut by scoring two goals within 15 minutes of the opening in the pre-season match against Cologne. However, the start to his first Premier-League season was not as successful as that, with a red card shown in the first match of the season after having been provoked by Joey Barton. Following the subsequent three-match ban, he was a regular starter on the left flank. He has good dribbling, trickery and pace, but his decisions in the final third were often wrong, while he lacked composure in front of goal. The African Cup of Nations competition in January significantly hampered his progress, but 4 goals and 6 assists didn't compare unfavourably with Nasri's first season at all. Hopefully, he will build on this season's performance to grow into one of key players in his second season at Arsenal.

Per Mertersacker

One of the so-called "Wenger's panic buys". If Arsenal had signed him a season before, I would have been extremely happy. That said, he fitted in Arsenal's system in a short period, featuring in many games before he suffered a long-term injury to his already once reconstructed ankle during the Sunderland match (the pitch didn't help). He has many critics especially about his pace and pundits and journalists were very quick to conclude that this summer signing was a flop, but we believe he will become a good defender. Now adaptation processes are over, we expect him to make a big improvement in his second season as Koscielny did.

Andre Santos

The jury is still out on this signing. He is very good coming forward with his powerful shots and no hesitation to take a shot, but his defensive ability remains a big question mark. It is good to have him as an alternative for open games and a back-up as Gibbs is injury-prone.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Our bright prospect. Scored 4 goals in 26 games in all competitions, in 11 games of which he came off the bench. The Ox came with a rather hefty price tag for an 18-year-old, but he had a promising first season, which seems to have justified the price we paid for him.

Ju Young Park

Deadline-day signing from a newly-relegated French Ligue 2 side, Monaco. His playing time was limited to 3 Carling Cup ties, 2 Champions League matches (1 start + 1 sub),  reserve games and just one substitute appearance in the Premier League. The transfer fees have reportedly been inflated as a result of the successful postponement of his mandatory military service, as his transfer contract included a provisional clause to be enacted in such a case. Also, he is under severe criticism from the general public in his country. So much so that the South Korea national team coach had no choice but to leave him out of his Olympics squad. If Arsenal's main intention for the purchase of the Korean player was shirt sales, it is likely to turn out to be an expensive buy.

Yossi Benayoun

A season-long loan from Chelsea. Scored 6 goals in 25 games in all competitions, starting 15 games. His patience paid off in the latter half of the season. He scored some important goals and his experience and all-round ability proved to be valuable in big games. His commitment to Arsenal's cause was outstanding. He stated he didn't care where Chelsea were going to finish this season, but all he wanted was to make sure Arsenal would finish third. He also got stick from his Chelsea-fan followers when he contratulated Arsenal team-mates on Twitter after Arsenal's 5-3 defeat of Chelsea. We think Arsenal should make his loan deal permanent.

Carl Jenkinson

What a difference a year made to this life-long Arsenal fan. The 19-year-old was playing for a non-league outfit, Eastbourne, on loan from Charlton in the previous season. This season, he played in the Champions League against Udenese and in the Premier League against Manchester United in his beloved Arsenal colours. His debut in the pre-season game against Cologne was not as spectacular as Gervinho's, with a careless own goal to prevent Arsenal from keeping a clean sheet. We had thought he would have time to learn his trade, but the departure of Eboue for Turkey meant he was thrown into the first-team action straight away as Sagna's back-up. Since Sagna broke his leg against Tottenham at the end of September, he was promoted to a regular starter before he, himself, succumbed to a long-term injury with a stress fracture to his back. Koscielny, Djourou, Coquelin, and Nico Yennaris played at right-back, but Wenger's faith in Jenkinson, or a specialist right-back, was clear because the boss always picked the Finland U-19 international ahead of any makeshift right-back, when he was fit and Sagna was not available. What caught the eye of Arsene Wenger was his athleticism and stamina. We think he has good crossing as well. He is still raw, but we believe he will make it. At least we can count on his loyalty to the Club should any mega rich club offer him a lucrative deal in the future.


Joel Campbell

The Costa Rican summer signing was sent straight on loan to the Ligue 1 outfit, Lorient. He had a decent loan spell and shone in the international matches, as well. Interesting to see whether he will be involved in Arsenal's first-team setup next season or spend another season on loan.


Thomas Eisfeld

January signing. We were worried that he might be another Amoury Bischoff, but after having regained his full fitness, he scored two goals in reserve games, looking on course to fulfil what Arsenal expected from him. At the time of the signing, even Arsene Wenger did not seem to be sure whether the 19-year-old attack-minded midfielder would be slotted into the first-team setup or youth team. This is still to be seen.