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5 Arsenal Players Who Need To Step Up Their Game Next Season
As Arsenal fans continue to wait for those big-money signings they’ve been promised this summer, blogger Gooner Daily looks at five existing players who need to step up next season.
I certainly cannot look back at the entire 2012/13 season with pride because it turned out to be another classic case of what might have been…a familiar story with anyone concerned with Arsenal Football Club lately.
In the last 10 Premier League games, Arsenal recorded an impressive eight wins and two draws, which would be regarded as a title-chasing form but unfortunately, it was just enough to usurp fierce rivals Tottenham to fourth place.
Some players like Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on five Arsenal players that were largely disappointing and they need to step their game up for the forthcoming season.
Here’s my take on the infamous five.
With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected the big Pole. Despite his young age and inexperience, Arsene Wenger was more than willing to stick by the youngster because he had shown glimpses of quality in the past and he could only get better with experience on the field.
He began the campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a gaffe against Southampton. He swiftly returned to action after his injuries and even featured in cup matches, as Wenger certainly wasn’t convinced about Vito Mannone.
This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.
Wenger acted swiftly by dropping him for a returning Lukasz Fabianski in March but an unfortunate rib injury to the elder Pole handed Szczesny another chance in the team. He put in some assured performances during the run-in but Szczesny has to remember that there will be no room for error in the 2013/14 campaign.
Arsenal have been heavily linked with a move for Brazilian shot stopper, Julio Cesar, but nothing concrete has come to fruition as yet. Szczesny needs to step up this season to convince everyone that he’s still the right man for the job, because Arsenal can afford able replacements.
In one word, last season was an aberration for Thomas Vermaelen. With Robin van Persie departing for greener pastures, the mantle of the captaincy was handed over to the Belgian Verminator and it probably turned out to be a burden as his performances proved.
The Verm always tried his best but things just weren’t happening for him. His clumsiness was a major highlight last season and he kept on committing needless fouls and making silly mistakes that didn’t used to be in his game.
Then there was the inch-perfect assist to van Persie in Old Trafford as well as that penalty miss that doomed Arsenal to defeat against Bradford.
More appalling performances particularly against Liverpool (home) and Manchester City (home) followed but the last straw was undoubtedly his atrocious outing against Tottenham (away). Wenger axed him from the squad from that moment on and he could only manage a game against Norwich (home) because Mertesacker was suspended.
In Vermaelen’s absence last term, Arsenal conceded only five goals in 10 Premier League games and two were conceded from open play. The Verm has to step up if he’s to break the impregnable Mertecielny combination, although an untimely injury looks likely to keep him out for up to two months.
Despite the affinity Arsenal fans have towards Bacary Sagna, his performances after his return from injury weren’t good enough, especially coming from a player that has maintained such high standards in previous campaigns.
Young Carl Jenkinson deputized admirably in Sagna’s absence, but many wondered if Bac would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. He was a colossus in Arsenal’s away victory over Sunderland when he deputized as a make-shift center back but his outing against Newcastle (home), Chelsea (away) and Southampton (away) were appalling.
Just when we thought we had seen it all, Sagna self destructed at home to Manchester United by gifting a wayward pass to van Persie before scything him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot.
This summer he has been linked with a move back to his native France but if he decides to stay with Arsenal, he needs to step his game up, because Arsenal have been linked with moves for Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek and Freiburg’s Sebastian Jung. Let’s not forget that there’s a certain Carl Jenkinson waiting to get take advantage too.
It’s fair to say that the Ox suffered the well-renowned “second season syndrome” as he clearly failed to live up to the hype surrounding him in his first campaign in the Premier League.
Last season, the Ox failed to assert himself and his chances diminished with Theo Walcott’s growing importance to the team. There was even a point when he was further down the pecking order behind Gervinho.
Despite his shortcomings, the Ox showed some glimpses of his undoubted quality and his wonder strike against Coventry City was a friendly reminder of what he was made of. He also scored a goal in that 7-3 thumping of Newcastle and his most important contribution last season was his neat cutback to Giroud the 3-1 win over Norwich.
Arsenal’s reliance on Walcott may become a burden and there may be times when the Ox will be called upon and he may also be given more playing time in the middle of the park next season, and he has to show that he has what it takes to succeed a the highest level.
Anytime I think of a defining moment last season, I think of Gervinho’s horrendous miss against Bradford. If Arsenal had managed to win against the lowly League Two outfit, a semi-final berth against a struggling Aston Villa would have beckoned and if they had secured a win against the Villans, the Gunners would have been in Wembley against Chelsea or Swansea. If only – a classic Arsenal cliche.
Gervinho on his day can be a world beater, showing his powerful dribbling skills and goals against Southampton (home), Montpellier (away), Chelsea (home), Olympiakos (home), Swansea (away) and Reading (home) showed he can put the ball in the net. Despite his numerous shortcomings as a player, Gervinho still managed seven goals and supplied five assists last season.
He’s certainly not going to be a regular and he’s been strongly linked with a move away, but if Gervinho stays, he really has to really has to show us the kind of form that persuaded Arsene Wenger to pay Lille £11m two years ago. This is a player that scored 36 goals in two seasons with Lille, that’s the Gervinho we need.
So there’s my five players who need to up their games this coming season. Who would be on your list? Get involved in the comments section below.