The SMR Arsenal Squad Review – Midfielders

With the season over and a trophy in the cabinet, I’m going to assess the season for each member of the Arsenal squad and rate them. I’m sure there’ll be some disagreements about some of my ratings, so feel free to comment at the bottom with your thoughts. Moving up the pitch, it’s the midfielders.
 
7. Tomas Rosicky
The Czech has been an excellent player to have around the squad in 2013/2014, and is someone that can be relied on in big games. Rosicky can be brought on to control the tempo of the game if Arsenal are leading, or he can add urgency to the team with direct bursts forward. As he moves towards the latter stages of his career, it’s great to see Rosicky making an impact at the club considering his previous injury problems.
Rosicky is developing an excellent knack of scoring against Tottenham, contributing two crackers this season. The FA Cup goal was a result of his relentless pressing high up the pitch before a calm finish, and the goal at White Hart Lane was a rocket. It was one of the few Arsenal goals that made me stand up and shout THRIKER!
Season Rating: 7/10
 
8. Mikel Arteta
Arteta is beginning to divide some opinion amongst Arsenal fans, with some suggesting he’s getting a bit old and slows the play down, but others saying he plays a key role in keeping the team ticking over. Arteta is undoubtedly one of the players that Arsene Wenger trusts most as the Spaniard does quietly do a very important job for the team.
He’s not the big destructive defensive midfielder that many want, but Arteta will rarely be found out of position and putting the team under pressure by misplacing a pass. His penalty taking is also excellent, with the twice taken one against Everton in the cup showing his coolness under pressure. He’ll gradually play less as he gets older, but Arteta remains a big part of the Arsenal squad as a respected vice-captain.
Season Rating: 7/10
 
10. Jack Wilshere
It’s been a strange season for Jack Wilshere. He’s had his fair share of injury problems again, but there have been real signs of improvement. Wilshere hasn’t been dominating games as many fans thought he would do in his career, but like Aaron Ramsey was last season, he’s almost in the consolidating period after a very long injury.
Wilshere has added more goals and assists to his game this season, with the brace against Marseille being particularly impressive, along with the finish at the end of the liquid football goal against Norwich.
Next season will be a big one for Wilshere. If he can stay fit, he can build on the good progress made in 2013/2014.
Season Rating: 6.5/10
 
11. Mesut Ozil
The German attracted, and still attracts, too much criticism for his performances in 2013/2014. Expectations were always going to be high after arriving for £42 million, and whilst he might not have lived up to them for some people, Ozil still had a huge impact on Arsenal.
He clocked up assists and brought more out of others around him. This season was always going to be about adapting for Ozil, and the signs are good that he’ll be even better next season. His control is incredible, and his passing is not far short of Bergkamp-levels at times. That fact he’s at the club will make Arsenal a more attractive tea, to join for players in the summer transfer window, as they know they’ll get chances with Ozil in the team.
Season Rating: 7.5/10
 
15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
It’s been a frustrating season for the Ox. A lengthy injury on the first day of the season was far from ideal, especially after looking dangerous and getting an assist early in that match.
He recovered well to make a difference in the second half of season, especially in the cup run against Liverpool, Everton and Wigan. I’m not sure about the insistence that he’ll ultimately be a central midfielder, as even though Oxlade-Chamberlain is good enough to play there, he’s at his best when committing defenders and running into space. Hopefully he’ll be fit to play at the World Cup, and be fit enough next season to further develop. The Oz is an exciting player and one that makes things happen when he plays.
Season Rating: 6/10
 
16. Aaron Ramsey
What else is there to say about Aaron Ramsey? The transformation has been incredible. He’s been confident, committed and sensational in almost every game he’s played. It’s just a huge shame he was out for four months of the season. He’s gone from being a semi-reliable squad player to a world class game-changer. More of the same next season please, Rambo.
Season Rating: 9/10
 
19. Santi Cazorla
Cazorla wasn’t quite at his influential best in 2013/2014, and that was partly from not having much of a summer break following a long first season in the Premier League. His quick feet still dazzled as he was deployed more on the flank than he was in his debut season, because of the arrival of Ozil.
He can occasionally go missing in games, but his technical quality and ability to use both feet mean he’s always a danger in games. The FA Cup final free-kick was also stunning. Forget any criticism of the goalkeeper, that was a hell of strike. At his best, Cazorla is a beautiful player to watch.
Season Rating: 7/10
 
20. Mathieu Flamini
It seemed like a slightly strange signing at the time, but bringing Mathieu Flamini back to the club was a good move from Arsene Wenger. He brought passion, organisation and commitment to the team at the start of the season, especially when Arsenal seemed fragile at that time.
He appeared less in the second half of the season, and as much as it was funny seeing him get booked every game, the ill-discipline did cost the team with the red card at Southampton. However, anyone who comes on for a second North London derby, kicks lumps out of a lot of Spurs players and pushes someone out the way just to get a clear run-up to fly in for another tackle against Tottenham is an instant hero.
Season Rating: 6.5/10
 
24. Abou Diaby
It was brilliant to see him even play twenty minutes this season. Any sustained playing time Arsenal get out of him next season will be a bonus. Diaby does have a huge amount of talent, and incredible motivation to comeback from what he’s been through, but his body does not support him being a professional footballer.
Season Rating: 4/10
 
29. Kim Kallstrom
He was not the striker Arsenal fans wanted in January, and having been signed with a broken back, it was going to be difficult for Kim Kallstrom to make an impact at the club. He made a few useful Premier League appearances and scored his penalty in the FA Cup semi-final. Kallstrom didn’t do much else, but did as much as fans could have hoped for from him.
Season Rating: 5/10
 
31. Ryo Miyaichi
Made no real impact on the first team except for some Capital One Cup appearances. Unfortunately for him, I can’t see Ryo making it at Arsenal.
Season Rating: 2/10
 
44. Serge Gnabry
Gnabry did make some encouraging performances in the first team, and scored an excellent first goal at Swansea. He still has a lot to learn but Gnabry is an exciting player for the future. It’s good for him to have a strong German connection at the club as well.
Season Rating: 5.5/10
 
Listen to the Sam’s Match Reports podcast end-of-season awards special!
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

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Carl Jenkinson lives the fan's dream

For the majority of Arsenal’s final Premier League game of the season at Norwich City, it felt like the dead rubber that it was. Norwich were virtually down and Arsenal were trying to not over-exert themselves before the FA Cup final. However in the second half, there were a few brilliant moments for Arsenal to close the league season.
There have been many ‘what if’ questions about Aaron Ramsey in the last few weeks, especially when the Gunners only finished seven points off the top of the table, and the 2-0 win at Carrow Road only served to provide another chance to ponder those questions. As Arsenal stepped up the tempo in the second half to try and get something from the game, Olivier Giroud found some space on the left and picked out the Welshman on the right side of the penalty area. Ramsey’s volley was sensational. No goalkeeper would have saved it as the ball went perfectly into the top corner. One TV angle from behind the goal showed how pure the strike of the ball was. He may have been missing at key times in the season with injury, but Ramsey is peaking again before the cup final.
If the Ramsey goal was a superb piece of skill, Arsenal’s second goal was one that was a beautiful moment in another way. Carl Jenkinson is living the fan’s dream just by playing in the Arsenal team. His family are Gooners and he grew up at Highbury. When the ball broke to him in the penalty area and he found the bottom corner, albeit via a deflection, the joy on his face was superb. He charged off, arms out-stretched, towards the travelling fans, as if he’d scored the winner in the cup final. It was just how any Arsenal fan would react when scoring for their boyhood club. Jenkinson is someone all fans can relate to, and to see him score his first goal was brilliant.
The final great moment at Carrow Road was the introduction off the substitute’s bench of Abou Diaby. The French midfielder is inspirational in the way he has fought back from numerous career great ending injuries, so to see him get some minutes was great. He’s a player that some think Arsenal should cut their losses on because of his injury record, but there were some good touches in his Norwich cameo, and a reminder that he has a presence in midfield that no other Arsenal player can provide. At his best, he can motor through midfield and glide past players. The response he got from the superb travelling fans was all a bit emotional. Even though it was a dead-rubber match, this was an uplifting moment.
The Arsenal team selection was interesting for the game, with Per Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla rested. Lukasz Fabianski started in goal, implying to me that Wojciech Szczesny will start at Wembley in the FA Cup final, despite not playing in the competition this season. It would be harsh on Fabianski, but when he’s virtually out the door this summer, I don’t have a problem with Arsene Wenger picking his number one at Wembley.
Bacary Sagna also started at centre-back, and put in a performance that reminded Arsenal fans how much he’ll be missed. He’s an exception defender, and his versatility is useful. As I said last week after the West Brom match, I really hope it isn’t a farewell, but the signs aren’t good.
Wenger generally picked a stronger team than I expected ahead of Wembley, but there didn’t appear to be any injuries, so it was positive that most of the key men for the final were able to sharpen their match fitness. Arsenal have won five in a row going into the final, so have momentum and form.
Even though he probably won’t play in the showpiece game, Arsenal also have a proper Gooner in the squad. After seeing his reaction to scoring at Carrow Road, it’s hard to fathom just how mental Carl Jenkinson would go if he did score the winner in the cup final. If he did, all Arsenal fans would be with him.