A couple of days ago, I started my 100% subjective search for Arsenal’s MVP… Now here’s a look at the top 14. The extraordinary wunderkinds who make this brilliant football team a true powerhouse victory-machine for the ages. (Note: this post may contain the occasional falsehood – as well as some visual elements of wishful thinking.)
#14 Tomáš Rosický
An attacking midfielder who is short, nimble, and skillful… one of the first of his kind of recent Arsenal vintage, but not by a long stretch the last. Yes, Rosický is increasingly back in favour. But would he be, you wonder, if it wasn’t for Wilshere being injured, Ramsey being shot, Cesc and Nasri being long gone by now, and Arshavin mentally if not physically mostly back in Russia. No, is probably the answer. If only for the fact he’s completely forgotten how to score.
#13 Theo Walcott
Chris Waddle put the boot into young Theo Walcott a year or so ago when he accused him of having ‘no football brain.’ It hurt Arsenal-watchers, and it seemed, well, rather mean. Trouble is, you get to realise he was right… Walcott can be amazing on his day – but those are few and far between. The rest of the time, he has all the close control of a trampoline, and the nous of a school kid running-off a sugar-rush.
#12 Per Mertesacker
No question, prior to Mertesacker’s arrival, the flaky Arsenal back-line had plenty of room in it for a tall, experienced German who knows where to stand. And, sure enough, it’s all the better for adding one… But did he have to be quite so slow and prone to falling over?
Though not exactly ‘composed,’ just yet, in front of goal, Gervinho has essentially managed to make a good first impression. He’ll be alright. Maybe not as good as Arshavin could have been, but better than Walcott is. Given beggars can’t be choosers, that ain’t nothing – especially when you like to see the odd defender beaten.
#10 Aaron Ramsey
Arsenal’s combative young Welshman is a walking advertisement for the restorative effects of sensible squad-rotation – unfortunately, however, only as an example of someone who doesn’t benefit from these. Ramsey’s been dead-on-his-feet for weeks, and the sum result is seldom fun to watch. Rather: fagged out and lumbering.
#9 Wojciech Szczęsny
Say many things about this Arsenal team – but no longer let it be said that they don’t have a good goalkeeper. From being the source of near-constant calamity, the position has suddenly become more lovely things like steady and reliable. The odd madcap moment aside (hey, we’re still not talking Lev Yashin here), good old Szczęsny is a man fully in possession of the right stuff.
#8 Bacary Sagna
Remember that lowly spell recently when various mishaps led Arsenal to play without any proper fullbacks? Well, most assuredly, Sagna was the one we missed the most. He’s pretty classy; the kind of unfussy chap who could happily plug unfussily away in a more accomplished team… if only wishing made it so.
#7 Laurent Koscielny
Koscielny had the unfortunate task of partnering Sébastien Squillaci in defence during his early Arsenal playing days – which made him seem at least a little crappy, if only by osmosis. He also made the key defensive error that cost Arsenal the Carling Cup last year, a setback from which they’ve never quite recovered. Nevertheless, he’s actually pretty good – talented and fast, if not exactly vocal or dominant.
#6 Alex Song
I think I can sum up Alex Song very simply: he’s a would-be cavalier tasked with being a roundhead, whose appreciable cavalier and roundhead qualities constantly do battle for supremacy to the occasional detriment of both. He’s Makélélé with a side-dash of Gascoigne, only, of course, not as good as that.
#5 Mikel Arteta
Your archetypal ‘very good without being great’ type of player. Still, plenty good enough for Arsenal to have massively missed him on a losing streak a month or so ago. One of his feet was hurt at the time and shorn of its services the team was largely incapable of humming. It sort of hissed a bit and spluttered, less than tunefully.
#4 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Ah, the Ox. Everyone’s talking about the Ox. Is it too soon to hype him up as a preternaturally gifted, once-in-a-generation type talent? Well, probably. But, hey, let’s just do it anyway. Swaggering, smart, and fast: the best 18 year-old English player since Wayne Rooney.
#3 Thomas Vermaelen
Ignoring his uncharacteristic crapness against AC Milan (he probably just put his boots on the wrong way round, or something…), Vermaelen has spent the last few years making himself more-or-less indispensable. Unlike most Arsenal defenders of late, he comfortably possesses a range of useful things that make it hard for the other team to score. Like positional awareness, the ability to head the ball, convincing ‘hard bastard’ credentials, and a willingness to shout at uncertain fullbacks. Plus he scores a lot, as well.
#2 Jack Wilshere
Only just turned 20 last month, but already the biggest difference between some semblances of hope for Arsenal’s future, on the one hand, and annihilating despair, on the other. The kind of player who makes 99.98% of other players look dull-witted, ponderous, and clumsy. Shame he’s spent the ENTIRE season injured, mind.
#1 Robin van Persie
The Arsenal fan’s biggest current dilemma: how much justifiable praise can you heap on RVP before he concludes beyond all reasonable doubt that, yes, he is indeed far too good for the team that surrounds him. You hope he doesn’t leave, but, let’s be honest, you really couldn’t blame him if he does. (See Cesc Fabregas, 2011, for further reference.)
Right then, next up: Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday… It’s not the *most* optimistic I’ve ever been.