END OF SEASON REPORT CARD: Arsenal's Midfielders

Well, that's that then. Another season done and the only thing we have to look forward to in the next couple of months is the fixture list for the next Premier League campaign coming out: June 17 at 10am, for those of you who are Addicted as we are.

But with nothing but endless tittle tattle about who might be coming in and who might be departing the Arsenal, we thought to ourselves, what better a time to rate each of our first team players with an end of term report card.

So feel free to post your views on each of our players as we analyse their contribution in the past season - we'll be covering keepers, defenders, midfielders, strikers, coaching staff and the board of directors and major shareholders, so I reckon we'll catch everyone over the next few days.

Today it's the turn of the midfielders to be put in the spotlight:

Manu Eboué

End of season mark: C

What can you say about Manu Eboué? Well for a midfielder he makes a decent right back. Here at Addict Towers we debated long and hard where to put the Ivorian, such is his flexibility.

The problem is that Eboué doesn’t really fit into the side or even the club. Many say he is a joker and that he’s great to have around the training ground, but when it comes to the pitch, he leaves a lot to be desired.

The thing with Eboué is that he is a decent crosser of the ball and can occasionally be pretty direct and dynamic going forward. He certainly has a lot of energy and that helps when it comes to the latter stages of a game.

But he has the habit of losing his head, lacking any sort of football intelligence – or is that simply intelligence per se? Either way, he can’t defend as well as Bacary Sagna, he dives around a lot and really should be considered as nothing more than an impact sub late on in the game. Unless it’s against Wigan.

Alex Song

End of season mark: C+

There was a time when the prospect of Alex Song coming on filled me with absolute dread. Apart from one impressive showing against Blackburn in the Carling Cup, he did nothing to inspire me.

This season has been different of course. He’s got a long run of games and showed himself to be neat and tidy, energetic and resilient.

But for me, Alex Song has no future at Arsenal in midfield. I have given him the benefit of the doubt for a long time and watched as he has tried exceedingly hard to be the new Patrick Vieira or Mathieu Flamini and on those counts he has failed. He does not have the presence, the passing or the tackling ability to be a decent ball-winner.

That said, he is showing himself to be not such a bad central midfielder, which gives him the chance to establish himself as a utility player who could remain an asset. An extra body in the middle or at the back always comes in useful.

But the fact is that Song will never be world class and that is why he should be nothing more than a bit-part player at Arsenal.


End of season mark: B-

My opinion on Denilson changes every couple of weeks, which is probably a good thing.

At the start of the season, he was impressive, then quickly showed he was so raw and scared of making a mistake. You can’t blame him for that.

The strange thing is that when he played in the Carling Cup and even some Premier League games in previous seasons, he was a little more dynamic, willing to have a shot or make a killer pass as all midfielders have to do, whatever their position.

I remember one pass with the outside of his foot in the Carling Cup final in Cardiff a couple of years ago against Ch*vski which totally took out their defence. We just don’t see that anymore. Denilson seems to think that playing as the ‘water carrier’ means he has to pass sideways, which is actually counter-productive at times.

There is no doubt that Denilson and Song as a midfield are completely wrong as a pairing, but Denilson actually looked the far better of the two when he played towards the end of the season.

The fact is, he is growing, he is learning, and if he can just add some of the qualities he displayed at the start of his Arsenal career, he may well grow into a world class player. He has the capacity in my opinion. Whether he has the application is another matter.

Aaron Ramsey

End of season mark: C+

When Arséne Wenger stole a march on M*nure last summer and signed Ramsey, it was a real coup, and the young Welshman has shown at times just why he is known as the Welsh Steven Gerrard. Direct, energetic, not afraid to shoot and willing to play all over the park, he could turn into one hell of a player.

The balance is that he needs games and how that is going to happen with so many in front of him is anyone’s guess. We’re stacked up in midfield but he should certainly have been given some games when fourth place was secure, to get him ready for next season.

Wenger expressed concern that he had gone flat midway through the season and had to be rested completely. That may be so – and there is no doubt that Ramsey gave away the ball a few times. But the fact is that he never did so in dangerous positions and his dynamism makes him a hugely exciting prospect.

Samir Nasri

End of season mark: B-

Signed as Alex Hleb’s replacement, it seemed, Samir Nasri announced himself on the opening day of the season against WBA in fine style. His two goals against M*nure cemented his place as a quick learner of the English game.

I don’t think he was helped by Wenger deciding to try him as a Number 6 in a deep midfield position similar to that Andrea Pirlo plays for Milan, and there are question marks about his best position.

For me, Nasri gets forward and then checks back a little too often, taking the pace out of attacks when he could be taking advantage of disorganised defences.

I think he’s a wide man and should stay that way, though, and as first seasons go, for such a young man as well, I think he was promising. He could do with getting into some matches more, because he can become anonymous, but that will hopefully change with time and experience.

Tomas Rosicky

End of season mark: E

Thoroughly disappointing. He was supposed to be out for two weeks, wasn’t he? Undeniably classy, we should sell him or take the insurance and use the savings on a more robust midfielder (if indeed we need anyone else). Having a glass body in this day and age is no good for a footballer.

Abou Diaby

End of season mark: C-

When Abou Diaby arrived at the club, despite the obvious comparisons with Paddy V, it seemed we had a fine player on our hands. He can’t tackle really and he hasn’t got pace, but he has some quality.

Remember his runs against Newcastle, Villa away, even, going a little further back, at Anfield in the Champions League? He had ability. In his defence, he is usually played wide when he should be in the middle.

That said, he often seems to go to sleep, either with the ball or when he is about to receive it and that is incredibly infuriating. It’s as if he’s toked a bit of the herbal weed before a match, so laid back and unaware is he.

With Jack Wilshere and Ramsey coming through, I have to say that Diaby is the one midfielder apart from Rosicky who I would happily sacrifice to make some space in the squad. Occasionally brilliant, he just does not have enough consistency or impact to deserve as regular a role as he seems to enjoy. Frankly, he is dispensible.


Jack Wilshere

End of season mark: C+

If the coaches are to be believed, Jack is developing at a slower rate than was initially anticipated. It didn’t look that way against Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup but hopefully a run of games in pre-season will have him showing what he can do with the seniors more often than not.

Jack seems to me to be one of those players who knows quite how good he is and is happy to express it on the field. The problem is, not everyone is on his wavelength yet and that makes his clever passes and trickery go to waste. He has time on his side and will no doubt become a star for Arsenal and England, injuries permitting. As exciting a talent as Arsenal has ever seen and I expect with a bigger role for the first team next season, he’ll be talked about as the next big thing in English football.

Amaury Bischoff

End of season mark: D

A couple of cameos, some tidy but uninspiring and forgettable performances, we really haven’t seen enough of the Portuguese/French/German midfielder to make any sort of informed decision about him.

Injury prone and allowed to regain full fitness at Arsenal, will Wenger want him to remain or see him as a block to others? Will the player want to fight for his place or seek regular first team football now he is fit? Will he remain fit?

Whatever...I would be surprised if Wenger offers him a new deal.

Cesc Fabregas

End of season mark: B-

I hate internationals for many reasons. The only purpose they serve is for the World Cup and Euros to break up the dreaded close season.

I don’t want our players to do well in internationals. They will either be tapped up by bigger clubs (Madrid, Barca, Milan) or come back knackered.

Or, as we’re seeing now in Cesc’s case, both.

Cesc may or may not prove to be captain material – and giving him the armband was certainly a way of showing him how important he is to the club.

On his game, he is one of the best in his position in the world and his range of passing is such that he takes your breath away.

But after a shortened pre-season and a couple of injuries, it’s fair to say we saw nothing of the real Cesc this season. Without his mate Flamini, he also lacked the cover and so dropped deeper himself for much of the campaign, negating his threat.

As a second striker (What WERE you thinking, Arséne?), he also proved to be impotent.

Will he stay this summer? Who knows? He’s certainly the player most likely to be chased even though we’d all wish it to be Manu Adebayor. If we get £45m for him and sign three world class players (a keeper, centre back and a midfielder), I think we can cope without him.

Would he even get a game at Barca with Iniesta and Xavi there as well? Who knows?

But selling our captain just months after appointing him would send out a signal that we’re not as resolute or resistant to bids as Wenger claims we can be. We haven’t enough world class players at present and selling Cesc would be madness.

Go away and have a long rest son, and remember how close we were just two years ago. It’s up to you to help us, with the aid of a couple of new faces, get back to that top level and show the world that you are Arsenal, you are great.

Andrey Arshavin

End of season mark: A+

Can you remember a player fitting in so quickly or making so much of an impact as our little Russian? No, neither can I.

Simply a world class talent, Arshavin has it all and is prepared to work hard to do what needs to be done when we don’t have the ball.

He’s in the side as a midfielder, according to the official Arsenal website, but has already made it clear he prefers playing further forward.

For me, he is the perfect Number 10, the creator who makes things happen and scores goals. He is, in many ways, the new Dennis Bergkamp given his trickery, determination and downright genius. It should really be he and one other player in attack.

My only fear for Arshavin is that he gets frustrated in his left-wing role and falls out with Wenger. He has a habit of being outspoken – and perhaps Wenger needs some people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds – but I have no doubt that we will have a much better season with him this year than we did last year without him for six months.