Friday, December 31, 2010

Arsenal Awards 2010: Samir Nasri bags Best Player award; Fabregas makes the Worst Error

At the very beginning of this article, I apologise for the ambiguity of the title and will explain it here. This article picks out the best candidates from different criteria on the basis of their performances from the beginning of the season (the game against Liverpool) till the game against Manchester United, which is almost half of the season.

Arsenal have been very inconsistent this season and are fortunate to remain in the title race despite three home losses and defeats in crucial games against Manchester United and Chelsea. However, most of the teams have suffered from inconsistency and have not produced the desired results over the course of the season.

Manchester United are the favourites as far as the title race is concerned as they generally do well after Christmas and they are currently the leaders having two points and a game in hand against Arsenal. Chelsea and Arsenal are expected to push them for the title while Tottenham and Manchester City are the outside bets for the title though both of them would be satisfied if they can book a slot in the top four.

In this article, I shall spell out the half yearly awards with different Gunners awarded for their achievements in different fields. I would be glad to have your feedback and give our opinions/suggestions on the article.

Best Player Award: Samir Nasri

Contenders for the Award

1.Samir Nasri

2. Alex Song

3. Marouane Chamakh

This is probably one of the easiest decisions to make this season considering Samir Nasri's superb form which has made him a strong early contender for the EPL player of the season. Nasri has been outstanding this season and has already scored 12 goals.

He has always had a lot of potential but the Arsenal supporters are only starting the best of him. He has been inspirational to the Gunners and in the absence of many key players, Nasri has shown that he is ready to take the mantle.

Alex Song and Marouane Chamakh are two more players who have been quite consistent in this season. Chamakh has adjusted to the rigours of the Premiership quite well and has already notched 10 goals this season. Alex Song was one of the best performers in the previous season and in this season, he has developed good attacking skills as well and has scored some important goals for the Gunners in addition to performing well in his holding midfield role.

Most Improved Player: Lukasz Fabianski


1. Samir Nasri

2. Theo Walcott

3. Lukasz Fabianski

Lukasz Fabianski was amongst the most maligned Arsenal players at the end of the last season because of his high profile blunders in many games. After Manuel Almunia's horrendous performance against West Bromwich Albion, Fabianski has been entrusted with the goalkeeping duties. He started off nervously against Chelsea and Partizan, in which he had decent games and as the season has progressed, he has gradually showed critics why Wenger had immense faith in him.

In the last slide, I had named Nasri as the player of the season, so far. He was a good player in the last season but he has been more influential than ever for Arsenal in this season. His body strength has improved and his diagonal runs have provided him opportunities to get into the box and score goals.

The third contender may be a slightly contentious choice because Theo Walcott is only used as an impact substitute at present but he has certainly improved some of his skills, especially his composure in front of goal. He was very impressive at the start of the season but could consider himself extremely unfortunate for being injured just as Arsenal supporters were starting to see the best of the England winger, who has immense potential.

Least Improved Player: Andrei Arshavin


1. Manuel Almunia

2. Andrei Arshavin

3. Denilson

Andrei Arshavin was one of the most important players from the time he joined the Gunners but his alarming dip in form is a cause for concern. The diminutive Russian was expected to step up after his first full season but has been far from his best. He has not shown any improvement at all and the fact is that he has not looked as threatening as he was in the previous season. The statistics are decent but his performances in some encounters have drawn a lot of criticism.

Manuel Almunia was handed the no. 1 shirt for this season as well and he started the season ahead of Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny. However, he failed to keep his place in the team because of the horrendous performance against West Bromwich Albion and many injuries.

Denilson has fallen behind Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby in the pecking order and will too be happy with the progress he has made this season. He has not established his place in the team and has managed some apperances in the Premiership only due to injuries and suspensions to the other players.

This award is designed for the player who has spent most time in the hospital room in this season. Arsenal have always had a few players injured but this season seems to be relatively better compared to last time around.

The Hospital Bill Award : Thomas Vermaelen

The Contenders

1. Thomas Vermaelen

2. Kieran Gibbs

3. Robin van Persie

It is not a huge surprise to see Robin van Persie's name on the list considering he has been injured a lot of times in his career. It was a fairly innocuous tackle which made him miss around three months of action. Even after he recovered, Wenger has been cautious in using his services and has given him many weeks to regain his full fitness.

Kieran Gibbs has been unbelievably unfortunate with his injuries and is currently injured. The England International is very talented but cannot seem to be fit long enough to challenge Gael Clichy for a spot in the first team. He has sustained many injuries and has played very less number of games because of that.

Thomas Vermaelen was one of Arsenal's fittest players last season but this season he has been injured for a long time because of an achilles problem. He is expected to return in January but Arsenal's defence has done quite well in his absence. If he can return in January, then Arsenal could receive a huge boost to their title hopes.

The Farewell Award: Manuel Almunia

This award is for the player who is most likely to bid goodbye to the Arsenal faithful in January.

The Contenders:

1. Carlos Vela

2. Nicklas Bendtner

3. Manuel Almunia

Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner have slipped down the pecking order due to Marouane Chamakh's very consistent performances this season. Both young strikers have been linked with moves away from Arsenal but Bendtner recently said that he will stay and fight for his place this season. Vela is still the subject of speculation and could move on if the right offer comes.

Manuel Almunia is almost certain to move because Lukasz Fabianski has established himself as the no.1 keeper and young talent Wojciech Szczesny has shown he is ready for the big stage. Szczesny will challenge Fabianski for the goalkeeper spot while Manuel Almunia is likely to move from Arsenal having let down Arsene Wenger with some horrendous errors in the game against West Bromwich Albion.

The Best Goal Award: Samir Nasri

The Contenders:

1. Samir Nasri ( 1st goal ) vs. Fulham

2. Samir Nasri ( 2nd goal ) vs. Fulham

3. Carlos Vela vs. Bolton

It is not often that you see two brilliant goals by the same player in a game but that was the case with Samir Nasri as he scored two wonderful goals. There have been many superb goals but maybe, Nasri deserves the accolade because of his superb consistency this season and those two goals were as fine a goal you would see.

Both the goals were a result of his brilliant footwork as he weaved past defenders to slot into the goal to provide Arsenal a huge boost. The second one in particular was better because he had to slot it from a very tight angle which he did in aplomb. He went past Schwarzer but had gone too far. So he came around and slotted it from an extremely tight angle.

Arsenal are a team who like to pass a lot and the Carlos Vela goal was an exhibition of possession play from the Gunners. They had at least 25 passes and pulled 10-man Bolton out of position. Then captain Cesc Fabregas played a lovely chip over the defenders which was anticipated by Carlos Vela who had made a good run. He then slotted it past the Bolton keeper to seal the victory over Bolton.

Best Substitute Performance: Theo Walcott

I could not find too many great substitute performances which is why I spare the list for contenders. But one substitute performance which was crucial from Arsenal's point of view was from Theo Walcott. The England winger has not played enough this season despite recovering from the injury he sustained on England duty.

However with around 25 minutes to go, Arsene Wenger introduced Walcott for the ineffective Arshavin and it immediately had an impact as he added energy to the team. He also scored the all important second goal for the Gunners which helped them take the lead against Partizan Belgrade. It was important that Arsenal won the match to qualify to the next phase of the tournament which they did thanks to his goal.

Another substitute performance which was good was from Johan Djourou who replaced Laurent Koscielny due to a concussion after his collision with Sebastien Squillaci. The Swiss International looked assured and was immense at the back. He was excellent in the air and helped Arsenal to clinch the three points they needed.

Worst Error of the Season: Cesc Fabregas


1. Cesc Fabregas handball vs. Tottenham

2. Manuel Almunia howler vs. West Bromwich Albion

3. Sebastien Squillaci taking out Laurent Koscielny which led to equaliser for Fulham

Cesc Fabregas is one of the most experienced players at Arsenal and has performed extremely well for the Gunners. He is a leader in the team and is expected to show the way for the others. But on this occasion, he had his arms raised well above his head for a Rafael Van der Vaart free-kick and since it was in the box, it was awarded a penalty for Spurs. Tottenham equalised through the penalty and went on to clinch the game in the closing stages of the game.

Manuel Almunia was given a reprieve in the summer as Wenger decided to keep the faith in the Spaniard. But the goalkeeper had a horrible game at the Emirates against West Bromwich which they lost. The Goalkeeper made a horrible mistake to let in the second goal and was in no man's land for the third goal. He has not played since with Fabianski doing a consistent job for the Gunners.

The two new defenders have found it difficult to adjust immediately to the Premier League and they have both made some errors which has cost them some important goals. However, this goal they conceded clearly showed that the duo are yet to develop any sort of understanding. Squillaci had a weak header which meant they could not clear the ball immediately. Then, he tried to make amends but could only take out his partner. Dempsey threaded the ball to Kamara who slotted it past Fabianski with Koscielny on the ground.

Worst Team Performance: Braga 2 Arsenal 0

The Contenders

1. Braga 2 Arsenal 0

2. Arsenal 0 Newcastle 1

3. Arsenal 2 West Bromwich Albion 3

There have been a couple of games this season which should have been easily won by the Gunners. However, they have made a mess of it which could cost them over the course of the season. West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle have both been successful at the Emirates which is really poor from Arsenal's point of view.

In the WBA game, they were let down by the defence and horrendous goalkeeping and they did not create much until the 70th minute. Samir Nasri scored two good goals to give them a glimmer of hope but they emerged with nothing from the game. It was an abject performance from them against Newcastle and though they defended decently until the Andy Caroll goal, they did not create much during the match and they were clearly not at their best.

But the Braga game was even worse with them creating very less chances and they did not seem organised as well. Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs had decent games but apart from that, almost everyone including the captain Fabregas had a poor game. To make matters worse, they lost Emmanuel Eboue and Cesc Fabregas due to injuries in the game. Due to that insipid performance, they finished second in the group and have to face FC Barcelona in the next stage.

Best Team Performance: Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1

The Contenders:

1. Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1

2. Everton 1 Arsenal 2

3. Manchester City 0 Arsenal 3

Arsenal were at their best as they finally ended their horrible run of recent results against Chelsea. It was a performance which had very few errors, one of which led to the lone Chelsea goal. It was a comprehensive win in a derby game which could yet prove to be a turning point for the Gunners. There was not a single player on the pitch who let the team down while some were brilliant on the day. But it was clear that everyone was determined to fight hard in this game.

The Gunners are known for their beautiful passing game which has got them decent results and rarely do they fight very hard for a victory. That was the case against Everton as they showed excellent resilience to clinch three important points. Also, it was a victory coming on the back of two losses which meant more to the Gunners.

Arsenal had a bad time at City of Manchester stadium last season as supporters were treated to a celebration they will never want to see again. But they were more determined this time around and the early red card to Boyata meant that Arsenal would have the upper hand in the game. Samir Nasri was excellent in the game and also scored as did Alex Song and Nicklas Bendtner. Clean sheets are hard to come by for Arsenal and Fabianski deserves extra praise for that special performance.

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