In this post I’m going to concentrate solely on the positives from this season. Yes, we’ve had quite a few problems and I will write on that exclusively in the coming days but for now let’s just look at the bright side.
Some of the improvements are obvious like the league position, even though it’s not as big a jump as we’d hoped for automatic qualification for the Champions League is a good achievement. We’ve also scored more goals than last year and won more games. We’ve also seen improvements in terms of personnel, system, and in attributes like mentality, attitude and desire.
I think the biggest positive this season has been the form of Cesc Fabregas. Our new formation has its flaws but it has certainly brought the best out of El Capitan. Not only is he relatively free of defensive burdens, he also gets the opportunity to control the play in the attacking third. Some people feel he would be better off dictating play from a deeper position but I feel Cesc has the intelligence, awareness and technique to cause maximum damage from an advanced position. If he stays fit for the whole of next season I can see Fabregas right up there in the World Player of the Year list.
The second major positive in terms of personnel was the signing of Vermaelen. I’m a big fan of King Kolo but TV5 takes us one step higher. I think he can be lethal moving forward from defence and if he works on his technique he could even develop into a set-piece specialist. The Belgian also looks like a future captain and a leader on the pitch. Wonder if Arsene can repeat the trick this year!?
Finally, in terms of personnel, I’d say Song has come leaps and bounds this season and established himself among the world’s foremost DM’s. The best part about the Cameroonian is that he seems to be improving with each game and we can be sure there is a lot more to come from him.
In general, there has been an improvement in our squad and young players. The losses in the last month have frustrated all of us but overall we’ve coped with injuries much better. If we’d seen the same number of injuries last season I doubt we’d have qualified for the Champions League.
I think Ramsey, Wilshere, Eastmond, and Gibbs have developed really well. Players like Eboue and Bendtner have turned it around after receiving some strong criticism from the fans and Sol Campbell has been a revelation.
I wouldn’t say the new formation has been an unqualified success but it has certainly helped us get the best out of Fabregas, and RvP. If Arshavin can improve his form next season then this trio will be unstoppable next year. This formation also helps us get the best from other central midfielders, especially Song.
This system allows us a good balance of attack down the middle and from the flanks. I do feel we need a little more flexibility and defensive solidity and organization in the formation we play but this was the first time and I have a feeling Arsene didn’t want to tinker with it as we were constantly struggling with fitness issues.
These are complex issues. If we just look at the last few games then it’s easy to question the mentality and the attitude of the players but I don’t think it would be fair. Once the title hopes were gone, third place pretty much secure, and with more than half the first team missing we shouldn’t really be analyzing these aspects. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done better but we cannot let these feelings cloud our judgment of the rest of the season.
Over the season I thought the players fought hard. We’d been written off more than once and we kept coming back. A number of our wins were from late goals and the one at Stoke was truly special. The difference between the squad two years ago and right now was best highlighted by the response against the Thugs of Pulis.
I don’t think we’re perfect in terms of our mentality and attitude there has been a distinct improvement over the last couple of seasons. The departure of Adebayor has also improved the spirit within the squad. Let’s hope we maintain the upward curve next year and each player turns up with the right amount of confidence and attitude every time he gets on the pitch. The fans can certainly do their bit by keeping the negative vibes away from the stadium.
The season wasn’t a perfect one and there is no denying that we need to do better. Trust me, the section on our problems and areas of improvements is going to be much bigger than the one on positives.
Having said that, we also need to acknowledge the genuine improvements and take a measured approach while analyzing the whole season.
I feel there are many small changes that can lead to a big impact next year. We need a couple of new parts and some cleaning, servicing, and fine tuning in order to win in the races. Don’t be fooled by those who want to overhaul a brilliant machine and change the driver.