Good morning one and all. It’s that time again. Here we go…
Player of the Season
We start with quite a tricky award – partly because this is a year in which very few of the squad deserve recognition, but also because a couple of the assumed main contenders for the prize, Thomas Vermaelen and Cesc Fabregas, had campaigns decimated by injury.
Even so, some excelled. Samir Nasri was named second in the PFA Player of the Year Award, yet it is not just the awkwardness of his contract negotiations that means he misses out on the Gunnerblog awards. He faded in the second half of the season, which is really the crunch period. Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney was pretty dreadful up until the spring, but that will be forgotten in the light of his title-winning contribution at the tail-end of the campaign. Nasri is the antithesis of this.
Bacary Sagna joined Nasri in the PFA Team of the Year, and would certainly win any prize for an ‘unsung hero’. His consistency and commitment make him stand out from the rest of his defensive comrades. His performances last season reaffirmed his status as the best right-back in the country.
Jack Wilshere too has to be considered after an outstanding break-out year. He took the Arsenal.com Player of the Season prize, voted for by the fans – the bond between Wilshere and the supporters is inevitable and undeniable.
However, Gunnerblog is a state under my dictatorship, and I have arrived at a different conclusion. My Player of the Season only played for half of it, but boy did he play: Robin van Persie. In between January and May, Van Persie was in the kind of red hot form that could only be matched on the continent by the likes of Ronaldo and Messi.
I’ve felt frustrated by the Dutchman in the past: his injury problems mean he is perennially underachieving. But in that five month run, he demonstrated a consistent excellent hitherto unseen in his Arsenal career. Whilst others like Nasri faded, and Wilshere understandably tired, he was able to keep producing the goods. Pray he can keep it up. Lord only knows where we might have ended the season without him.
Young Player of the Season
The PFA’s Young Player of the Season is also my own: Jack Wilshere.
There can surely be no contest. Amidst talk of a loan return to Bolton, it wasn’t even clear if there would be a place for Jack in our first team squad. Within weeks, however, he had established himself as an integral part of the first XI.
When he first emerged on to the scene as a sixteen-year old, it was as a flair player. Now he is so much more: aggressive, dynamic, powerful on the ball – he is showing signs of developing in to a complete midfielder. And he is Arsenal to his very core.
Honourable mention goes to Wojciech Szcesny, but impressive as he has been I think we’re still waiting to discover if he’s legitimately ‘the real deal’. With Wilshere, there is no doubt.
Worst Player of the Season
Gosh. So many from which to choose, all equally as useless as each other. You could go for the underachieving Andrey Arshavin, but his impressive numbers spare him. Manuel Almunia suffered the indignity of falling to fourth choice, but redeemed himself with a stunning display at the Nou Camp.
The winner, cruel though may this sound, has to be Tomas Rosicky, who made 34 appearances without doing anything of note.
Game of the Season
It’s easy to forget that a season that holds such negative connotations contained probably the greatest night in the Emirates’ short history.
The game with Barcelona was billed as a clash between European football’s two great artists, and on the night we triumphed. Even the second leg defeat and our elimination can’t taint the value of beating them in a one-off game: just ask Man United how difficult that is.
It was a beautiful night too:
Sadly, however, this game marked something of a turning point. Within a couple of weeks we were out of the race for three cup competitions, and in a downward spiral that would never be arrested.
Worst game of the Season
Most of our games from March onwards could be seen as contenders for this infamous award. Defeats at Bolton and Stoke particularly rankled, whilst there were a few dismal home draws that had a chance of waltzing off with this prize.
The undoubted winner, however, has to be February’s 4-4 draw with Newcastle. Which, to the neutral, was anything but a ‘bad’ game. And indeed, had you turned off at half-time, you would have regarded it as one of our finer performances of 2010/11, as we went in a the break four goals to the good.
However, the subsequent capitulation ought to have been a microcosmic foreshadowing of the remainder of our season. We demonstrated our weakness, and Newcastle punished us. Letting a four goal lead slip is not only inexcusable, but almost inexplicable. And yet our guys managed it.
Highlight of the Season
For me, it was undoubtedly Andrey Arshavin’s winning goal in the first leg against Barca. A flowing move capped with a sumptuous finish. I’ve rarely heard a roar like the one that greeted that strike.
At that stage, anything seemed possible. Arsenal had matched the best side in the world – perhaps ever – and bested them. Watching from my seat, I was welling up with pride.
It is just that potential that makes the subsequent collapse so hard to stomach.
Disappointment of the Season
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s that familiar failure to win a trophy – capped off by the nightmare of losing the Carling Cup Final to Birmingham. This was the platform from which a new, win-happy Arsenal was meant to be born. Instead, we stumbled.
It was embarrassing. Humiliating. And it caused a crisis of confidence that would haunt us for the rest of the season. Just how long that haunting continues remains to be seen.
Right. That’s it for 2010/11. Onwards and upwards. Let’s brush that under the carpet, and look ahead. This place could do with a makeover, too.