Archive for June 21st, 2006

Gunnerblog End of Season Awards 2006

63 comments June 21st, 2006

I’d love to say these awards were “back by popular demand“, but that would be a lie. They’re back because I felt like it. Last year brought glory for Henry and Fabregas, and shame for Almunia and Reyes. Want to see the winners and losers of the 2005/06 season? Right this way…

Player of the Season
Last season Thierry Henry walked away with this award. This year, the competition is much closer. Kolo Toure and Jens Lehmann’s work at the back has been nothing short of outstanding. In midfield, Cesc Fabregas has emerged as the star we all knew he could be, justifying his award as the Gunnerblog Young Player of the Season for 2005.

But Henry remains head and shoulders above all others. If he’s the Football Writer’s Footballer of the Year, then surely he deserves to be ours too? Top scorer in the Premiership again, he capped a fantastic season by signing a new four-year contract. He’s not a natural leader, and he doesn’t claim to be one, but he’s slowly growing into the role of Arsenal captain with real distinction. In my humble opinion, he’s the best player in the world.

Young Player of the Season
In a squad as young as Arsenal’s, there are several candidates for an award of this nature. Emmanuel Eboue has burst onto the scene as a flying full-back, whilst Philippe Senderos finally displaced Sol Campbell as first choice in many people’s eyes. Robin van Persie showed glimpses of his astonishing potential, whilst Mathieu Flamini proved himself to be more than able in a variety of positions. What’s more, Sven has proved that Theo Walcott doesn’t need to be playing games to be rewarded.

But like the Player of the Season award, last year’s winner did more than enough to retain his prize. Cesc Fabregas just keeps improving. In 2005 he managed to play like a regular experienced midfielder at the tender age of 17. Now, having just turned 19, he is regularly playing like an exceptional experienced midfielder. Having found his feet, he’s starting to find the goal too, and his passing becomes more precise with every game. His performance against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu was when he became an international star, and becoming Spain’s youngest ever World Cup participent was fitting reward for another fine season.

Worst Player of the Season
I agonised over this, but in the end I had to go for Alex Song. Whilst I was tempted to nominate Sol Campbell after his disastrous year and knack of jumping out of tackles, and, on one occasion, a match, I couldn’t get past just how bad Song has been. It’s not all his fault: at 18 he is still very raw, and we shouldn’t have been relying on him in must-win games against Portsmouth etc. But we were. And he was poo.

Game of the Season
Domestically, the 7-0 against Middlesbrough was a real treat, and the 3-2 win at Wigan a feast of attacking football. However, the real showpieces came in our incredible European run. Whilst the performance at the Bernabeu was an incredible feat, the home win against Juventus was hugely significant.

The return of Patrick Vieira to Highbury added extra spice to a tie that was seen as Juve’s old heads against Arsenal’s young legs. It was our boys that triumphed, as Turin’s Old Lady was well and truly mugged. Young Player of the Season Cesc was outstanding, totally eclipsing our former number four, and showing the way to life after Paddy.

But for me, all of this was eclipsed by the Highbury Finale: the 4 – 2 win against Wigan that clinched fourth spot and superiority over Spurs. An amazing game, and a fantastic occasion, capped by yet another superlative Henry display. A fitting way to close the old stadium.

Worst game of the Season
Although the feeling of losing against Barca probably hurt most, it was in no way the worst game, and certainly not our worst performance. That award should be kept for one of our dismal away performances in the Premiership. I choose our performance at Anfield, losing 1-0. That was the day when I knew Robert Pires was finished at Arsenal – he just didn’t seem bothered. An incredibly frustrating game, which I will fast-forward when the season review comes out.

Highlight of the Season
The final day at Highbury? Thierry breaking Ian Wright’s record? Probably not. In spite of the heart-wrenching way in which we lost, anyone who was in Paris on the 17th May will never forget the day. Street football in Paris, the joy of Sol’s goal, and the togetherness of the fans make it one of the highlight’s of my Arsenal supporting life.

Disappointment of the Season
Our domestic form. Although fourth was ultimately respectable, we’re a side used to finishing in the top two. Away from home we simply weren’t good enough, and next season we need to show much more resilience if we’re even to stay in the Champions League places.


So there we are. It was a funny one last season. Lots of highs and lots of lows: what being a supporter is really all about. It’s quite unusual for Arsenal to finish trophyless, but going to Paris really felt like winning something.

Next season is all about improving domestically, hopefully with the help of a sprinkling of summer signings.

We’re waiting, Arsene…

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