The Arsenal End of Season Awards – AKA ‘The Persies’Posted: May 18, 2012
Best Player: the easiest category by a considerable distance; who else but Robin van Persie? Handed the captain’s armband after Cesc Fabregas’s departure, he rose to the task of leading a team in dire straits back to the Champions League places after its worse start in 58 years admirably, with 37 goals in 48 games. The irritating stat going round about Arsenal’s would-be position without him just shows how important he has been this season. In what is really his first full season, not being hampered by injuries as he has so often been in the past, he has evolved as a goalscorer and has become possibly the best and most complete striker in the world, and, growing into an outstanding leader both on and off the pitch. A fantastic season for the Dutchman.
Worst Player: a tough choice, but it is a battle between Marouane Chamakh and Johan Djourou. The award probably goes to Djourou, on the grounds that he played a lot more, albeit out generally of position at right back. He had a very strong 2010/11 (its end notwithstanding), but failed to replicate those performances and his poor showings at Right Back exacerbated the fullback crisis; on top of this, his foolish and pointless dismissal at Fulham was the catalyst for the collapse, while his sub-par performance at centre back in the FA Cup against Sunderland was by no means helpful as they lost their last chance of ending their 7 year trophy drought.
Most Improved Player: Laurent Koscielny. For someone written off by many he has fully repaid Arsene Wenger’s faith in him. He has had an excellent year at the back for Arsenal and ended it with the league’s highest number of interceptions (91, average of 2.8 per game), ‘last man’ tackles (9) and tackles (85). If he builds on this season as he did on the last, he will soon get the recognition as one of Europe’s best centre backs.
Best Signing: Mikel Arteta. There was some surprise when Arsenal paid £10,000,000 for the 29 year old Spaniard, but he has been brilliant through the season. Playing as a deep-lying pivote, he had the highest number of completed passes in the league before his injury against Wigan, which ultimately ended his season. Until the final game against West Brom, they had won no games without him in the side, typifying his importance to the team. Metronomic, disciplined, managed to keep Alex Song mainly in check (quite the feat) and pivotal to Arsenal. Run close by Per Mertesacker, who was instrumental to the maintenance of order in the backline until his unfortunate injury on the potato field pitch at the Stadium of Light; an encouraging first season from the very, very, very tall German.
Worst Signing: perhaps it is a little harsh considering his minimal playing time, but it has to be Park Ju-Young. He looked lost in the League Cup game with Shrewsbury and although he scored with a very nice finish against Bolton, he spent most of the game offside, again looking hopeless, with Andrey Arshavin’s strong showing making him look a lot better than he actually was. Ineffectual against Marseille; another very poor game against Manchester City in the next round followed. From this point he would only feature again twice in the season: as a last minute, panic substitution when there really were no other options, against Manchester United and AC Milan. The manager has such little faith in him that he felt loaning in a 35 year old Thierry Henry was a better option than him, while Marouane Chamakh was at the Africa Cup of Nations. With performances this bad one wonders why Arsene Wenger bothered even buying the former South Korean captain; there are some theories suggesting he was a commercial signing, but if he was, this has backfired rather nastily, as Arsenal’s popularity appears to have nosedived in South Korea. Perhaps he was just a panic buy who did not work out? One thing is for sure: Arsenal fans will not be too happy if he stays at the club this summer.
Best Goal: a difficult one, as there have been some magnificent goals for Arsenal this season. Robin van Persie’s second against Chelsea springs to mind as a favourite, as do Thierry Henry’s against Leeds and Mikel Arteta’s against Manchester City, but in terms of quality, the following three take the plaudits:
3) Robin van Persie vs Tottenham: after falling 2-0 behind Arsenal needed something special to claw back not only the game, but their season. Bacary Sagna’s header had got them back to 2-1, but van Persie’s equaliser was of the Bergkamp levels of sublime. A poor clearance from Benoit Assou-Ekotto meant the Dutchman picked up the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box with his back to goal. With the ball sticking to his left foot, he turned, beating two players, evaded a tackle and curled it perfectly into the far corner.
2) Robin van Persie vs Liverpool: a game in which Arsenal were under the proverbial cosh for the majority, going 1-0 behind through a Laurent Koscielny own goal, but claiming an equaliser shortly after through their leading goalscorer. From then on, chances were relatively sparse for both teams, with Liverpool having the better of them. 8 minutes of added time were awarded after Jordan Henderson TOTALLY ACCIDENTALLY clashed with Mikel Arteta, causing a lengthy stoppage in play. In the third of the eight minutes, Alex Song had a few yards of space either side of him. He spotted van Persie lingering on the blind side of Jamie Carragher and lobbed a spectacular through ball towards him. Arsenal’s captain snuck behind him and with all the calmness of a man asleep on a memory foam mattress, side-footed the ball in at the near post, displaying sublime technical skill, and it was enhanced further by its being in the 93rd minute at Anfield.
1) Robin van Persie vs Everton: a clean sweep for the wondrous Dutchman in the ‘goal of the season’ category. On the day Arsenal celebrated their 125th anniversary, it was fitting that the final scoreline was 1-0 to the Arsenal. A drab much made memorable by one of the finest technical volleys seen in many years. Another Song chipped through ball, but this time van Persie was further back, on the 18-yard line. As the ball dropped over his shoulder, he timed his strike perfectly, and his the first time volley into the far corner of the goal, as Tim Howard stood helpless. In front of so many club legends, a goal worthy of the occasion.
Best Assist: there is clearly only one candidate for the award, but which one? He has had a few notable ones. The aforementioned Everton and Liverpool ones spring to mind, along with the pass for Thierry Henry’s return goal, but there is one standout – his sudden transformation into Lionel Messi for the first goal against Borussia Dortmund at home. He took the ball down the left wing, sprinting past two players and while Mats Hummels recovered and chased him down, he produced a marvellous piece of footwork to bamboozle him and Lukasz Piszczek before crossing the ball right onto van Persie’s head for Arsenal to take the lead. Wonderful piece of play.
Best Moment: there is only one option for this. 5 years after leaving, he returned and within 10 minutes of being re-introduced, he got his 227th goal. Thierry Henry’s returned transcended words and is a moment that will go down as one of the greatest in the modern history of the club. There is little more that can be said about it.
Worst Moment: the losses at Swansea, Milan and Manchester United were low points, but personally, I found the 2-1 home loss against United particularly grating; the way so many of the fans turned on the manager who has given them so much was shameful and reprehensible, on top of losing a game to a rival. Though it is trumped by the loss at Ewood Park. After the flurry of late signings and the win against Swansea, it seemed finally as though Arsenal’s fortunes were turning. Going 1-0 was encouraging, as was, following letting the lead slip, recovering and going 2-1 ahead. Then two avoidable own goals andanother goal from a set piece later, Arsenal were 4-2 down. Marouane Chamakh’s only goal of the season proved no saving grace. It was made all the more painful by the fact that it seemed their form had improved, and it was a downfall completely of their own making to plunge them further into the ‘crisis’ with which the media were so fixated.
Best Game: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham. The recovery from the third or fourth crisis of the season. At 2-0 down, Spurs stood 13 points clear of Arsenal. Hopes and ambitions of 3rd and St. Totteringham’s Day were fading away, until Bacary Sagna’s header gave Arsenal a route back into the game. The goal from van Persie, Rosicky’s first goal in 50 league games and a brace from Theo Walcott, whose performance epitomised Arsenal’s turnaround. He had a shocking first half but grew with the game, eventually scoring the two goals which sealed the game and the humiliation of, as Sagna called them, “the enemy”, which eventually proved to be the catalyst for their hilarious collapse. A great day for Arsenal.
Biggest Tosser(s): the Stoke fans who booed Aaron Ramsey for having the nerve to have his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross deserve an honourable mention, but it has to be Samir Nasri. He left Arsenal for money, took on the role as benchwarmer, got a league winner’s medal by virtue of this and chose to rub it in fans’ faces, as well as making snide remarks all year back at them. Although credit to him, he does give as good as he gets with regard to stick from fans, but has made little effort to thank Arsenal and Arsene Wenger for making his move possible and making him the player he is today. The embodiment of ‘wastrel’.
Tweet of the year (The Andre Santos Award): Andre Santos’s glorious Twitter page could have an article of its own. Just last week, he managed to get ‘West Brow’ trending worldwide after incorrect naming of the Baggies, after just days before claiming that the team must be “well fit” to get a win at the Hawthorns. Which leads to the greatest tweet in Twitter’s history, again connected with West Brom. After the 3-0 win at home to West Brow Santos, in the early stages of learning English, Santos took to Twitter to announce “Verry good win gays!!!”, which gave him cult hero status among Arsenal fans on Twitter – who are a vast, vast group. His whole page is a sea of smiley faces and exclamation marks – he even has his name down as ‘André Santos!!!’. His seemingly permanent happiness makes it impossible not to like him and his unconventional ways.