As the season wraps up with a 12th FA Cup win and third-place league finish, we look at how the players did over the course of 14/15.
Flamini has undergone something of a transformation this year, from a player lauded for pointing and shouting (back when Arsenal needed someone, anyone, to show some interest in defending) to a player criticised for not listening to his own pointing and shouting.
His desire has never been in question, but his lack of vision and execution on the ball, his reducing mobility and his uncanny knack of picking up yellow cards has seen him compared increasingly unfavourably with his fellow French holding midfielder Coquelin.
A player who did a job when he first arrived, and not a bad player to bring on when you need to tighten up a game, he isn’t good enough to start at this level any more. He may find himself struggling for minutes, let alone starts next season.
Past his peak.
Another who has had something of a breakthrough season, Coquelin has shown where hard work and dedication can get you. At the start of the season most of us expected that he would be on his way by now, yet it’s suddenly hard to imagine us starting next season without our Gallic destroyer.
Pacy, robust in the air and strong on the ground, Coquelin has spent this season disabusing everyone of the notion that he’s not good enough to play at this level. His presence at the heart of this Arsenal side has been the platform on which the more attacking players have been able to achieve the kind of results which over a whole season could deliver the title. Next season then.
His passing has come in for criticism at times, and in part that is down to his change of approach, now focusing on his strongest assets instead. However, he has shown an ability to hit inch perfect cross-field passes with the FA Cup final a case in point, and he is never one to hide. If he can improve the consistency on this side of his game, he will be the complete holding midfielder.
It’s difficult to make too much comment on the captain’s season, such is the number of minutes he has had on the pitch.
When he has played, his range of passing puts the rest of our current crop of holding midfielders into the shade, but in truth his best seasons are now behind him. He is however a worthy ambassador for the club, and with clear ambitions to progress into the non-playing side of the game in future, he is a model professional to keep in and around the club.
Mikel must focus on the strengths he still has – his reading of the game and his metronomic distribution – to stake a claim for a role next season. He has a part to play in games where we need to settle the team down and his experience is invaluable, but the reality is that he should no longer be starting.
Pleasing to see him lift the FA Cup alongside Per.
A precious year wasted.
Aaron has had something of an up and down season after last year’s highs, starting well and continuing his excellent goalscoring exploits, but gradually dropping off in form.
It has taken him some time to get back to his best, keeping his game simple and adjusting to the players around him, but he has shaken off a number of knocks and kicks to hold down his place in the team in the run-in.
It was always going to be a tough ask to hit the same levels as last year – the mark of a truly great player – but at just 24 Rambo has shown, in glimpses at the very least, that last season was no fluke. By most standards this would be a very successful season, but he has set the bar so high.
The renaissance of Santi Cazorla while Aaron was forced out of the team through injury has meant that he has found game time in the centre of the park difficult to come by. Pre-season represents a chance for him to stake that claim once again. His regular goals and unmatched stamina mean that there will always be a place in this Arsenal side for a fit Aaron Ramsey.
Good, but not quite as good as last year.
Our English terrier is another player who started the season with a point to prove, both in terms of how he has developed as a player and his robustness to injury. On the latter, it’s hard to rebuke him for succumbing to a shocking challenge from McNair any more than it’s fair to blame Diaby, Eduardo or Ramsey for their various problematic injuries, yet it has meant yet another interrupted season for Jack.
A player who wears his heart on his sleeve, Wilshere continues to offer a different type of threat from the centre of the park, and has shown moments of adeptness on either wing as well. He has great ability to go past players, a skill which is unusual for those who share his position, but he must learn sooner rather than later the point at which to release the ball if he is to maximise his potential.
It’s easy to understand why he feels he needs to take on the world whenever he plays, and even more so when he is fighting to get back in a competitive and successful side, but he needs to realise that he is no longer playing in a substandard team which needs dragging up to his level. He can now trust those around him to share his ability and ambition to reach the top.
Finished the season with a number of strong performances, and excelled himself during the cup celebrations. Now needs to excel more regularly on the pitch.
A solid but stop-start season, improvement needed next year.
In the season he has turned 30, Santi Cazorla has effortlessly proven that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Migrated from the wing, via the number ten role, back into a deeper box-to-box position, Santi has delivered week in week out.
Previously considered a hardworking but less than effective defender, he has added anticipation and positional discipline to his skillset, allowing him to sit alongside Coquelin when required but without losing any of his attacking talent when the situation needs it.
Flawless from the penalty spot and with a hatful of assists to his name, he has been the standout player who has barely had an average game let alone a poor one. If there was one criticism to be had, it’s that his shooting accuracy needs a bit of improvement, but it says it all that he has been simply undroppable. Ozil and Ramsey have been moved around to accommodate varying formations but throughout the tinkering one man has remained constant.
Crowned an awesome season with the Man of the Match award in the cup final, although how anyone could pick out a winner when our players were superb to a man is beyond me! That said, despite Alexis’ outrageousness taking the light away from his less spectacular colleagues this season, it’s difficult to think of anyone who deserves it more than Santi.
Exquisitely excellent – player of the season.
It has been a fairly bizarre season for our little Mozart. When he has played, he has played well, and when he has been introduced to games where we need a goal, he has invariably upped the tempo and driven the team forward with his probing and his direct running.
Injuries have again played their part and although he is low on mileage, he approaches his 35th birthday at some speed. It was something of a surprise to see the Czech extend his contract for a further year – the manager will surely have sought Rosicky’s agreement to taking up Arsenal’s option to extend – when more regular game time is surely be desirable.
Doing the simple things well is something of a cliche in football, and it doesn’t get the juices flowing quite as much as a clever piece of skill or an audacious pass. Mesut Ozil doesn’t just do the simple things well, he does them perfectly. And this season he has grown into his role as conductor of the Arsenal orchestra, and never more obviously than in the FA Cup final.
That’s not to say he hasn’t delivered clever pieces of skill or audacious passes – his flick on against (who?) was sublime, and his assist for Alexis’ first goal against Reading was also pretty special. On Saturday he dipped shoulders and played beautiful reverse passes for fun.
Jokes about his other-worldly vision are common on Twitter, but where they have previously been mocking they are now as much in amazement.
Perhaps he has relaxed by sharing the burden of expectation somewhat with Alexis this year, but since returning from injury he has delivered a level of consistency which eluded him in his first season in English football.
He has a lot of people eating humble pie.