There would be little value in doing an opinion poll on who has been our best player of the season. No doubt, a vast majority would opt for our captain, top goal scorer, and the PL’s Player of the Season, Robin van Persie. But it all becomes a lot more difficult when we have to choose our second best player of the season.
There have been many fine performances throughout the season, but not many players have actually been able to play through the whole campaign, with only the odd week out as a result of a slight injury. Only a small number of players were fit, and judged good enough, to play more than 70% of the games: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Koz, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Walcott, and Ramsey (and of course RvP). Rosicky and Ramsey both had good spells this season but have not done enough for me to be included in a shortlist for ‘second best player of the year’, so I suggest we choose our favourite out of the remaining six players (but feel free to suggest any other player in today’s post comment section).
Szczesny – Played 48, 29 clean sheets
He has had a good but not a great season imo. Wojciech makes us feel generally comfortable when he plays in goal and although he has made a few mistakes this season, I think most of us will agree that he has done well. He has enjoyed only very few periods of consistency with regards to the four defenders in front of him, which of course does not help when trying to get some defensive reliability and solidity. He has done enough though to be our Nr1 in goal again next season, but it will be interesting to see whether Arsenal will buy an experienced back-up keeper who would provide a bit of healthy competition for Szczesny. Not my second best player of the season.
Vermaelen – Played 39, 6 goals, 2 assists
He has had a good season, but again, not a great season. Thomas was a key player in our unbelievable recovery in February and March, but in the last few games of the season we have been able to see a few weaknesses. We all love his tenacity and energy, his surging forward runs, and his ability to battle with any attacker, on the ground and in the air. But in those last few games, he should have been one of the players with the intelligence and experience to maintain our shape and defensive discipline, and to lead our team at the back, and for me he did not do that enough. Not my second best player of the season either.
Koscielny – Played 39, 2 goals, 2 assists
He has been our rock in defence throughout the season, and he formed a fine partnership with both Mertesacker and Vermaelen. Especially his partnership with the BFG seemed to get the best out of him. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and has improved physically, as he seldom or never was outmuscled this season. He reads the game well and can play with focus and discipline. In every game, he seems to play a number of wild forward passes which usually end up with the opposition’s defence, but other than that he had a pretty faultless season. If we take into account the whole season, it is fair to say that Koscielny has been our best defender. Koscielny is a strong candidate.
Arteta – Played 37, 6 goals, 3 assists
He has been our rock in midfield, and surprised many of us with both the position he occupied, and the skills he has displayed at Arsenal this season. We all loved his unselfishness, his work-rate, professionalism and the joy with which he played football for us in the last eight months. He has been the vacuum-cleaner in our midfield and linked up defence with midfield, and midfield with attack seamlessly. Since his injury, Arsenal have struggled to stick to its formation and play with composure. He has also scored 6 goals in 37 games, but his assists (three) were a bit on the low side, even when we take into account his deep position in midfield. Another strong candidate.
Walcott – Played 46, 11 goals, 13 assists
This season, he has been our best winger, and he produced the third highest number of assists of all our players (RvP was second 14). At the start of the campaign, there was a fair bit of criticism for Theo, but since then he has shown the thickness of his skin and the brightness of his football brain. 11 goals and 13 assists in 46 games is a pretty fine return, and during this season he has grown into a man. He scores goals and produces assists against any opposition – for example, this season he scored against the Mancs, Chavs, Udinese, and the Spuds (two). I would love him to sign a new contract and become a long-term Gunner, but I am not sure whether that will happen. He has really impressed me this season, but has not done enough to be my second best player of the year.
Song – Played 46, 1 goal, 16 assists
This season, the big question surrounding Alex was whether he has been neglecting his DM duties with the blessing of Wenger. A lot of fans have given him stick for not being disciplined enough in protecting the back four, which they regard as his main duties. Alex has suffered a lot from Arteta’s season-ending injury as the Spaniard proved to be his perfect partner in the centre of midfield. For me, Alex Song has been a phenomenal player throughout the season. I am convinced Arsene has asked him to play a free role in which he both helps out defence and supports the attack whenever he could.
A lack of creativity in midfield forced us to play Song in such a demanding role, and he has revelled in it. Other than Yaya Toure, I cannot think of another midfielder with such a diverse skill-set. Yes, he is a slow starter in games and loses the ball unnecessarily too many times, but these are minor compared to what he has brought to the team. At crucial times this season he has been world-class, both defensively and in terms of producing a high number, and match-winning, assists. His performance against Milan at home was one of the best I have seen in an Arsenal shirt this season. 16 assists in 46 games is simply exceptional – with two more than RvP and three more than Theo he produced the most assists of all our players! At the end of the season his performance dipped a little bit, but overall Song has made a tremendous contribution to our team. Another strong candidate.
For me, the strongest candidates for second best player of the year are Koscielny, Arteta and Song, and taking the whole season into account, I think Song just shades it. I really hope he signs a new contract and Arsene is able to make him an even better player in the next few seasons.
But who would you choose and why?