As I’m a teacher and starting to write report cards for my students, I was moved to consider grading the members of the Arsenal squad. We’re about a quarter of the way through the season and this is a good time to assess how the lads are doing.
Manuel Almunia – B minus. Almunia was actually having a pretty good season until the Spurs and Stoke games. He was starting to exude confidence … until Bentley punted the ball over his head. The talk of him becoming England’s goalkeeper will thankfully subside, but we need Almunia’s form to return.
Lukasz Fabianski – C plus. We’ve only seen him twice this season and there isn’t much to judge him on, just his lack of confidence to challenge the Fenerbahce striker and to retreat to the goal. After that I was nervous about him. He definitely needs more playing time.
Bacary Sagna – C plus. He has not reproduced his form of a year ago. Most disappointing have been his poor crosses. One suspects that his ankle is still not 100 percent.
Gael Clichy – A minus. One of the few bright spots on the Gunners team this year. He gives his all, he dominates, he is the best left back in the Premier League. Unfortunately, his gaffe against Spurs may prove as costly as his gaffe against Birmingham last year.
Kolo Toure – C. Toure has had some health issues this year and that has affected his performances this year. Personally, I’d prefer him in the lineup over Gallas. One thing he needs to work on is his shooting. It really is erratic.
William Gallas – C minus. Gallas has had some good games and he has had some bad ones. He provides some needed goals and he doesn’t mark anyone on set pieces and gives opponents a chance to score goals. He hasn’t rallied the troops as a good captain should. Instead we see him leaving a night club with a cigarette in his mouth. I suspect Wenger made Gallas captain to make him shut up and be a team player, but there is still the uncontrollable attitude about him.
Mikael Silvestre – C plus. He has actually been better than I thought he’d be. One has to wonder if the broken nose will be the first of many injuries for Mikael.
Johann Djourou – B. I’m befuddled why Wenger doesn’t choose to play Djourou more. He has actually played quite well everytime he has featured. Well … he wasn’t that great as a right back. Djourou last summer said he’d like to play central midfield. Wenger may be desperate enough to try that.
Gavin Hoyte – C. Has played just once, nothing special. Wasn’t particularly impressive in the preseason.
Kieran Gibbs – B. One appearance in the Carling Cup. Played very well. Unfortunately he’s playing behind Clichy so he won’t play too often (which is why Traore is playing at Portsmouth this season).
Alex Song – B minus. Song is finally playing for the Gunners this season. He is the best defensive midfielder we have, but he doesn’t have Flamini’s workrate. It was worrying to watch him get his pocket picked against Sunderland, which led to their goal.
Emmanuel Eboue – B minus. Last season I would have given Eboue a D or an F, but this season he has actually played not too badly. He has even managed to score a goal! He played quite well as a right back recently. This season he has played a variety of positions, but he shouldn’t be played again in central midfield.
Denilson – C plus. Denilson has played some good games and he has played some bad ones. He is not the ideal man to play the holding midfield role, he is more of an attacking midfielder. He tends to play upfield too much, which forces Fabregas back to mop up more than he should. On the plus side he has gained a lot of valuable experience this season.
Aaron Ramsey – B. Ramsey plays with confidence and while he may not make a big difference this season, I believe he will be one to watch in the years to come. Against Fenerbahce he wandered into central midfield too often. Obviously prefers playing in the middle more than being out on the wing.
Mark Randall – C plus. Has played just once this year. Like so many young Gunners, he needs to play more. I thought they’d send him out on loan again this season.
Fran Merida – B minus. Ditto the comments about Randall above. Some felt this could be his breakthrough year, but he hasn’t managed to even get to sit on the bench.
Jack Wilshere – B plus. Another of the youngsters who will provide more cheer in years to come. He was excellent against the Blades in the Carling Cup.
Abou Diaby – B. He has just returned from injury and was excellent against Fenerbahce. His subsequent appearances were less spectacular. He doesn’t appear to be the kind of player to play defensive midfield.
Cesc Fabregas – B. Cesc has actually been pretty disappointing, but I’ve given him a B because without him we’d be almost pathetic … like we were against Fulham. Cesc looks tired, spends a lot of his time dropping back to cover for Denilson, hasn’t really adjusted to his new partners in midfield. His dead ball kicks (free kicks and corners) are actually quite awful. Not only that, but he isn’t really scoring either. However he’s class and we need to keep him.
Samir Nasri – B. Nasri has been a pleasant surprise. He’s scored as many goals this season as Hleb did the entire year last season. He is not afraid to go for goal. My concern is that he seldom takes the ball to the baseline to cross it, preferring to cut back and put it on his right foot. Opponents will notice that as well and adjust accordingly.
Theo Walcott – A minus. Theo has been Arsenal’s best player and since the Croatia game he has become transformed. He opens up defences and he gives the team more confidence going forward. He definitely needs to improve on his finishing, but he’s Arsenal’s player of the season so far.
Robin van Persie – C plus. This is a player Arsenal need to step up this season. The start of the season saw him looking rusty, but he is definitely coming on right now. His free kicks are improving, his first touch is starting to improve, and some of his shots are going in. If he was on form he’d have scored fifteen goals by now. Needs to control his temper and not repeat what he did against Stoke.
Emmanuel Adebayor – B minus. He’s scored nine goals, but I don’t feel he’s hit his stride yet. Only against West Ham did I really feel he had a strong game. He definitely makes a difference when he’s on his game. I still cringe when he kisses the team logo on his shirt before games.
Nicklas Bendtner – C plus. Bendtner shows great little touches, makes wonderful passes, but he also looks like his feet are made of lead sometimes. He has great potential, but he doesn’t always deliver. If he could improve his consistency, he could be a very valuable asset.
Carlos Vela – B. Most of Vela’s mark comes courtesy of his Carling Cup outing. So far he hasn’t done a whole lot else, but we’ll give him some time.
Jay Simpson, Henri Lansbury, and Francis Coquelin also featured in the Sheffield Carling Cup game, but it would be unfair to assign them grades.
So far this season the team has not played very well. Overall, I’d give this team a C plus, which is not good enough. It’s time for the Gunners to work harder and save the season, if it can be saved.