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.
Signed as a direct replacement for the departing Bacary Sagna, Debuchy has been seen as something of a stopgap while the likes of Bellerin and Chambers push through into the first team. As it was, two lengthy injuries have seen him spend a goodly proportion of the season on the treatment table, while his younger teammates were out staking their claims.
When he has played, Debuchy has been very solid with a particular talent for sweeping up behind Per Mertesacker in the early games of the season. He has also able deputised in the centre of the defence when called upon, a trait Arsene Wenger has increasingly favoured when purchasing full backs.
Hasn’t really done a lot wrong, but needs more game time (and less of Arnautovic shoving him into the advertising boards) to really shine.
Solid debut season.
Bellerin started the season third in line to the right back throne, and his expectations for the season will have been to get a few games in the cups and refine his tactical game training alongside more experienced full backs. Instead, he found himself playing 28 games (25 starts), scoring a couple of goals and firmly ensconcing himself both in the Arsenal team and the hearts of Arsenal fans.
He has shown on occasion that he still has a bit to learn on the tactical side, but he has come on leaps and bounds from his shaky start in the Champions League and has pushed Calum Chambers firmly down the full back pecking order. Apparently been playing with an injury at times, but you’d struggle to notice.
If he can continue this rate of development, his natural attributes of speed and technique will mean Arsenal have quite the player on their hands. This is a boy who really can do anything.
Exceeded all expectations, more to come.
Another of the summer signings, capable of playing right back, centre back and defensive midfield, Chambers was thrust into the team following Mertesacker’s World Cup travails and Koscielny’s troublesome achilles. He made a promising, if erratic, start to his Arsenal career and earned an England call up in the process.
A torrid afternoon against Jefferson Montero at Swansea and the return of the first choice pairing has seen his game time much more limited in the second half of the season, and often he has been the one to drop out of the squad when the boss has had a full complement to select from. This will do him no harm in the long run as he looks to learn his trade away from prying eyes.
Did a job for us in a time of need, but lacks the pace to play full back at the top level despite playing there for his previous club. You suspect Arsene Wenger is working his positional magic on Chambers away from prying eyes to convert him to a top quality central player either in defence or holding midfield. The proof of the pudding will be where he plays in pre-season.
A difficult season, anticipating improvement next year.
An often underwhelming player to watch, Per Mertesacker’s height continues to be a valuable commodity in this Arsenal side of midgets (only Everton are smaller). He has taken on the captaincy in the continued absence of Mikel Arteta and his workrate and effort cannot be faulted.
It has broadly been another solid season for the BFG, but he was ultimately heavily responsible for the loss of one of Arsenal’s biggest games this season – the 3-1 reverse against Monaco at the Emirates – when his decision making was worse than poor, and effectively put us out of the competition.
That game aside however, he has been a steadying influence with young and inexperienced players around him, and his vision through the lines continues to be underrated in setting Arsenal forward on the front foot. Having never relied on pace, he still has a number of years at the top ahead of him.
Not his best year, but still a commendable effort.
Signed in January, we haven’t really seen enough of our Brazilian defender to form a hugely credible opinion.
On the occasions he has got some minutes under his belt, he hasn’t looked out of his depth and clearly has natural ability. The real question is how long it will take him to adapt sufficiently to stake a claim to a place in this Arsenal team. With Mertescielny’s partnership entering its fifth season, he’ll have his work cut out.
He is unafraid to use his strength which will ultimately prove valuable in the Premier League, but he has also shown glimpses of the education he will need to play in this physical a league where strikers often play a game of cat and mouse, trying to tempt him to commit to a challenge when it might be better to stand off.
One for the future, but yet to have an impact.
Another great season from our French defender, he was sorely missed early in the season when his Achilles either kept him out entirely or held him back when forced to play during our injury crisis, but he has shown since the New Year how valuable he is to this team.
Equally adept at stepping out to intercept the ball or sweeping up behind his German colleague, Koscielny has once again proven his reputation as one of the league’s top defenders.
A few more goals would always be welcome, but his contribution at the back of the pitch is far more critical and it’s hard to think of many situations where he has been caught out despite often being left one-on-one as the last man.
Reiterating his class, season after season.
Another man who has surprised this season, Monreal has been a vital cog in the Arsenal defence, both deputising at centre back and providing a more defensive option at full back.
He could still add a bit more to his game going forward, but the one goal he has scored this season was worth its weight in gold, coming in the FA Cup tie away to Manchester United. And a sweet finish it was too, with many of those without the benefit of TV replays assuming is was Alexis Sanchez who caressed the ball into the net.
He still has an occasional tendency to turn the wrong way from his player when operating at full back, but his reading of the game is otherwise excellent and sees him make numerous interceptions. His conservatism is a perfect foil for Bellerin’s attacking flair on the opposite flank.
2014-15 was badged as a critical season for Gibbs, with injuries punctuating his career to date and preventing him from getting any sort of run in the team. He started the season strongly, displaying excellence both in the timing of his tackles and his ability to get forward on the left hand side. The latter is particularly critical to provide width to this Arsenal side, which is so often missing a true winger.
An injury coupled with the return of Koscielny saw Monreal shifted to left back, and Gibbs has never really regained his place. On the few occasions he has had a chance, he has struggled to recapture his early form. One suspects he is a player that needs to play to stay sharp.
Pre-season will be critical for Gibbs in determining whether he starts next season as first choice, and there is a very interesting battle for the left back slot ahead.
Progression, but more needed.