With the January transfer window coming to an end, Arsenal are finally looking like getting defensive reinforcement. After closing in on Kristian Bielik last week, Arsenal are set to complete the transfer of Villareal centre-half Gabriel Paulista.
Whilst I’ve never heard of either of those players, and we unfortunately still haven’t signed Schneiderlin, I believe those moves are positive and, added to recent promising results and performances, inspire hope for a better end to the season.
So how good is Arsenal’s current squad? In this post, I will assess the current team, giving each player a grade out of 10 based on their contribution to Arsenal, this season and since arrival..
The bottle episode
Let’s be honest, we’re still awaiting the signing on a truly world class keeper. I like Szczesny, but his unreliability and weird breakdowns (what was that bottle episode at Southampton about??) mean he still can’t be seen as a top PL keeper. So I’ll give him a 6.
I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Ospina so far. A solid keeper with international experience (49 caps), he’s probably better than a lot of first team goalies we’ve had over the years. Not world class by any means, but sufficient to keep Szczesny on his toes with a little healthy competition. I’ll give him a 6 as well.
I’ve not seen Martinez play that many times, but as number threes go he seems alright (5).
Awkward business as usual at the back
It’s hard to assess Arsenal’s defense. Short in numbers, ravaged by injuries and exposed by the midfield, it’s been awkward business as usual at the back.
Looking at full backs, I like Debuchy when he’s fit (7) and have been impressed by Bellerin’s attacking contribution at home versus Newcastle and solidity at City recently (4). Gibbs is a decent player (6), but he’s far too injury prone as well. He could also do with a more credible rival than Monreal, who’s too physically weak and tactically naive (3).
I think Chambers can become a decent player, although I don’t think he’s mobile enough to be a full back (5). Mertesacker has not always been great this year, but I think he’s particularly suffered from the lack of cover in midfield because he lacks pace. A good player nonetheless (6).
Putting aside the odd red card or silly penalty, Koscielny is the best we’ve got when it comes to defending (8).
Thomas ‘good wine’ Rosicky
Looking at the midfield, I think some of the players are out of their depth. Despite the odd determined performance, Flamini is no longer the player he used to be (4), and I don’t think Arteta brings much to the team anymore because he lacks phyisical impact (4). If anything, it looks like Coquelin might contribute more than these two in the coming weeks (5).
Ramsey hasn’t yet reached his form of last season, but remains one of the squad’s few world class players in my opinion (8). Wilshere on the other hand needs to sort himself out: praised as the next big thing for years now, he’s failing to live up to the hype, spending too much time shouting at refs, smoking and holding his ankle in pain. Time’s ticking, Jack (5).
Like a good wine, Rosicky just seems to get better with age- his technique and passion are a genuine delight to watch (7).
Ozil is class, but hasn’t delivered so far. I hope he comes back with a different mindset in 2015, because World Cup winners shouldn’t do low confidence crisis (6). Likewise, Cazorla hasn’t always lived up to his talent, but has been a key player over the past few weeks. Hopefully he’ll keep it up (7).
I’ve always rated the Ox, and wish he contributed more goals and assists. But he’s still only 21 and keeps getting better and better (6). For obvious reaons, I can’t rate Diaby..
Looking good going forward
Looking at the attack, I think things are looking good. Although there isn’t a 20+ goals a season forward as City or Chelsea have, Sanchez has been absolutely extraordinary and is one of few players to combine technical ability with great fighting spirit (reminds me of Tevez a bit). I’ll give him a 10, because I think he’s the only player in the squad who would actually get into the Invincible’s team.
Olivier Giroud is a good target man with a few goals in him, and provided he can avoid head butting other players in the near future, is a strong asset to the team (8).
Walcott’s been out a little while, but looks good since coming back, and got back to scoring ways against Brighton in the Cup. Would get into most teams when fit (7). It’ll be interesting to see who plays the most between him and Welbeck: I could never take Welbeck seriously at United, mainly because he always looked like his long legs were controlled by independent, conflicting brains. But his pace, strength and versatility have helped (7).
I won’t rate Campbell, because he hasn’t played much and is looking like going out on loan again anyway..
To wrap up..
Football is no exact science, and of course those numbers mean nothing without the adequate tactical and physical preparation. Having said that, it would surprise few fans to see that the strongest area of the team is by far the attack, with an average score of 8 thanks to Sanchez’s exceptional form.
Although the midfield is awesome from a creative point of view, it is let down by the lack of quality in the more defensive roles (average 4.3), causing a disappointing overall score of 5.7. Unsurprisingly, the defense scores a low 5.5 because of the lack of quality in depth, while the absence of exceptional talent in goal gives an average of 5.6 between the sticks.
Looking at the players in the squad, it is a tricky argument to point towards midfield as a weak spot. However, those lucky enough to have seen the likes of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva in an Arsenal shirt will know that the lack of leadership, strength and defensive presence is where the team’s current downfall truly lies. As much as I’d love to blame it on Monreal..