Well, I haven’t written about the Arsenal for a while… and since it’s fun and all, I thought I’d set that right today. Indeed, what better time than now? Just a few short days after the team spiraled once again into the abyss of cataclysmic ruin (and all in glorious high-definition thanks to Messrs. Fox, Soccer, and Channel).
Anyhow, this time around, I’ll be getting all American on your asses: ranking this sorry bunch of reprobates (part one today)/plucky go-getters (part two right around the corner) according to their relative “MVP” status. And, I agree, by the way – with many members of this current Arsenal squad the ‘Most Valuable Player’ concept definitely does fly uncomfortably close to the oxymoronic.
Nevermind, here’s my 28 through 15 (aka: the chaff)…
#28 Manuel Almunia
It says much about the pre-Joe Hart English goalkeeper scene that this particular longtime English resident was occasionally touted as an option for the national team: namely, that in the business of keeping balls out of nets, far too often England are basically on the brink of calamitous liquidation.
#27 Sébastien Squillaci
In the 2010/11 season, Arsenal finished a creditable fourth in the Premier League with Sébastien Squillaci playing in a total of 22 games. I literally don’t know how that happened. He is basically the personification of the phrase “like starting one-nil down.” (And yet, of course, week after week after week, he’s still being paid.)
#26 Park Chu-Young
The latest example of Arsenal’s recent penchant for taking cheapskate punts on players demonstrably not good enough. Whoever would have guessed it – an approach to player acquisition that really doesn’t work! (Still, what price a player to come on for the dying embers of an already-done-and-dusted Carling Cup game, eh?)
#25 Łukasz Fabiański
Sure, it’s a last name imploring to be punned – but when your back-up goalkeeper is habitually referred to as Łukasz Flappy-Handski you know that things are at least a little bit askew.
#24 Johan Djourou
I’m mostly sure that Djourou started to look half-decent last year when injuries to others frequently crowbar’d him into the team. Maybe it was the regular playing time and the growing sense of belonging that it nurtured. Or maybe I was just wrong.
#23 Yossi Benayoun
If what you want in your team is someone to run around a lot without really doing much then Yossi Benayoun’s definitely your man. But who in their right mind would want such a thing?!
#22 Marouane Chamakh
As is often pointed out, Chamakh started his Arsenal career brightly – scoring a few goals and impressing even further by scoring some of these with his forehand (thus elevating his team’s set-piece threat from non-existent to minimal). That, however, was a mighty long time ago and only lasted about three and a half weeks. Subsequently, he’s been absolutely toilet.
#21 Carl Jenkinson
Arsenal are the fifth richest football team in the world, behind only Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich. Carl Jenkinson is the hardworking, worthy, but limited right-back they signed on the cheap from League One side Charlton. About says it all, really.
#20 Emmanuel Frimpong
One of the better Arsenal players currently out on loan (which admittedly isn’t saying much). Frimpong’s disciplinary ‘issues,’ however, are alternately endearing (when he’s charging into Tottenham players with only a fleeting interest in the whereabouts of the ball) and worrisome (say, whenever you’re looking to finish a game with the full compliment of players).
#19 André Santos
Santos arrived during last summer’s transfer window looking relatively ‘up for it’ but also abundantly overweight. Then he went on to be passably decent for a short while before getting injured and not playing since. So far then, he’s been not exactly underwhelming, and not exactly the opposite of that, either. (Read: he fits in very nicely.)
#18 Francis Coquelin
‘One for the future’ – only, in a good way. Somehow or other, a player who managed to make an essentially good first impression during the 8-2 shoeing Arsenal received at the hands of a Rooney-inspired Man Utd. Low-key and versatile – albeit, alas, in a team clearly needing more than that to escape the rancid quagmire of their latest league ‘campaign.’
#17 Abou Diaby
An unfortunate sort of chap and no mistake: more than averagely gifted; more than averagely injured. Could have been the next Patrick Vieira/Michael Essien/Paul Scholes*, but has a body made of Twiglets and jelly instead.
*Who knows? Hard to tell, on account he’s ALWAYS injured.
#16 Kieran Gibbs
Fleet of foot and eager, Gibbs is entering that thrilling phase of a young footballer’s development in which brittle promise inexorably turns into hardy accomplishment. Or he would be, at least, if he wasn’t forever banged-up and crock. (Longterm injuries: fast replacing the selling of crucial players as the softest of Arsenal’s many soft-underbellies).
#15 Andrei Arshavin
You know the story of Doctor Zhivago, right? Over time, a brilliant Russian gets to be a little less brilliant and then hardly brilliant at all the further removed he is from the reassuring comforts of home. No, he never stops being brilliant altogether – but, after a while, you sure do miss the bracing brilliance of old. Until, at last, the trembling husk of it becomes infuriating, maddening, and sad.
#14 through 1 (aka: the wheat) coming soon!