2010-11 Season Review: Forwards
Not strictly a forward but not strictly a midfielder either. The young Frenchman began to fulfil his promise in the opening half of this season. He offered us a penetrative dribbling ability, intuitive passing, an above average work rate and a little nasty streak that most top players seem to have. Some of the things he did this season were genuinely breath taking. The two goals he scored against Fulham were so good I contacted everyone I knew to demand they watch Match of The Day that night.
Unfortunately, his season mirrored the team as a whole. He went gradually off the boil around the time of the Carling Cup defeat and never really regained his form. Regardless of that dip in form we’re still far better with him than without.
The current dispute about his contract is a cause for concern but I do think he’ll re-sign. Obviously, after a stunning first half to the season his agent was obviously going to agitate for a rise. He’ll probably get one but it would be nice to think that Wenger will have a private word and warn him that the improved salary demands more performances when the chips are down. That said, he’s a genuine match winner and one we should do whatever it takes to keep hold of.
For a spell, around the turn of the year, it looked like the diminutive Russian was trying to emphatically prove all his doubters correct. He looked slow, overweight, lazy, ineffective and bored. He’d just been squeezed out of the first team by Theo who was selected in his stead for the 3-1 win against Chelsea. Wenger had to field some tricky questions about Arshavin’s worth and groans of discontent were audible from the crowd.
Then, out of nowhere, Arshavin tracked a runner back into his own box and made a heroic clearance against Huddersfield. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who rubbed his eyes in disbelief when I realised it was him with the clearance. In the latter stages of the season this became a bit of a trait, he made lung busting sprints and tough tackles against Blackburn, Liverpool and United. He obviously wanted to prove he wasn’t a complete luxury player.
There are however some who believe that the luxury has gone. He doesn’t seem to go on as many mazy dribbles as he once did and he hasn’t scored too many spectacular goals this season. In fairness though, he’s still weighed in with 11 assists and six goals so he does offer us a tangible input, it’s just not as much of a headline grabber as we’d like.
It may be that a decent offer from his homeland coupled with a need to reinvigorate the squad would result in his departure. In a way, I hope he stays, but in another I grudgingly agree that it might be for the best for him to move on.
My personal view on Theo is that because he rose to fame at such a young age he gets judged far too harshly. There are many fans and pundits who seem personally affronted that he’s not quite as good as Lionel Messi yet! Regardless of your perception of him, he’s not had a bad season. In the combined Premier League assists and goals chart (9 goals, 7 assists) he compares favourably to Lampard (10,4), Silva (4,9), Anelka (6,6), Giggs (2,8) and Gerrard (4,5). He’s even been more productive than Gareth Bale, who only contributed 7 goals and 1 assist despite attracting the most embarrassing level of praise I can ever remember.
As with a number of our players Theo’s form is often disrupted by injury, if he could stay fit for a long time he’d be a valuable weapon. The major question mark over Theo is whether he’s truly intelligent enough to play in those games where we need intricacy to break teams down. Set him free of a defence and he’s developing a ruthless streak, however put him one-on-one with a defender in a tight space and he’s significantly less dangerous.
There might be an argument that using him in those games where we might be afforded a bit more space, or as a substitute, would get the best from him whilst rotating him with someone a bit more intelligent in the other games. Given his blistering pace and ability to finish I’d also like to see him up front now and again rather than hugging the right flank. I wrote previously how we need to alter our tactics from time to time; it would be nice to see Theo ahead of RVP in 4-4-1-1.
We’d been missing a target man since the acrimonious departure of Emmanuel Adebayor – a man whose memory was rehabilitated slightly when he destroyed Tottenham in the Champions League. When Chamakh arrived we knew Wenger had been after him for a while. He doesn’t possess the best touch or the silkiest of skills but he’s energetic and strong. In the early part of the season it was impressive to see that the rare hopeful ball out of defence would stick to Chamakh, as it should to a top quality target man.
He also weighed in with his fair share of goals (11 in all competitions by Christmas) as he led the line to good effect in the absence of Van Persie. Rather mysteriously “tiredness” set in around the festive period and he never quite rediscovered his stride. Rumours of personal problems look to have affected him also and only managed to score once after Christmas, in the 5-0 drubbing of Orient.
Hopefully, with a good summer under his belt, we’ll see the early season Chamakh again. It would help if we could deliver some decent balls into the box and make the most of his clear aerial prowess.
If I had to make a pie chart of my most common topics of discussion this season a significant slice would go to “Defending Nicklas Bendtner”. Sure, he’s arrogant and he’s not quite as good as he says he is, but nevertheless, I believe he’s a decent striker.
He misses chances and he misplaces passes but, this is only to be expected from a player who never gets a decent run in the side. What I like about him is the fact that regardless of the stick he takes from his own fans and despite missing chances you’d put a fiver on your Nan netting, he still wants the ball and still puts himself in positions to create chances. This might have something to do with his self belief which literally ranks at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.
There were so many occasions this season where we were struggling for a goal yet the option of putting Bendtner on and exploiting his height and strength were eschewed until the final 5 minutes. As a committed Wenger apologist I still can’t get my head round putting Bendtner on and paying him on the wing when we’re desperate for a threat through the middle.
It seems like Nic, and his outspoken Dad, have told the club that they want out. I also understand that the club had lost patience with him also. I’m willing to go on record and say that wherever he ends up, if he’s given a decent number of games as a striker, he’ll score goals. He’ll never be the best striker in the world but he’ll be an above average striker for someone.
Robin Van Persie
If the Player of The Year awards were voted on the second half of the season rather than the first it would be quite likely that RVP would have had to dust down his tux. 18 goals in 19 starts, more goals since January 1st than any other player in Premier League history and an unprecedented 9 goals in successive away games. Quite simply he’s a World Class striker, up there with Tevez, Rooney, Drogba or anyone else you’d care to mention.
He’s proving to be a prolific marksmen but he’s so much more than that. His passing is exceptional; his control and touch are almost at Bergkamp levels. I’m not the first to say it but what might have been had he been fit for the entirety of any of the last three seasons?
Some have said that neither Nasri, Cesc or RVP are as prolific when either of the others are around and this may be true however, the number of goals attributed to any one of them are unimportant as long as they conspire to deliver three points. My wish for next season, more than any budget busting signing, is to see Theo, Nasri, Cesc and Van Persie together for a decent stretch. The home win over Chelsea showed how devastating they can be.
Robin Van Persie is a leader. He stands up and tries to do things when everything is against us and I truly believe he feels the disappointment nearly as much as we do. He is the heir to Bergkamp for reasons other than his passport; he seems to truly love the club and, as any true sportsman should, he looks to improve his performance and that of his team rather than looking to new pastures every time there is a challenge ahead of him.