Arsenal mid-term report card (Part 1)

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Another international week is upon us and that means little to no Arsenal news. As such, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take some time and reflect on the first half of the season. Today’s post will look at the goalkeepers and defenders in the Arsenal squad and their overall contribution to the club’s excellent performances thus far.

Almunia has become the undisputed number one in my eyesGoalkeepers

Manuel Almunia
Has taken the chance given to him by Lehmann’s early-season errors with open arms. Looks calm, mentally strong and has made very few errors. A great season so far from a personal perspective. (A-)

Jens Lehmann
The German’s season is likely to be remembered for two early gaffes against Fulham and Blackburn. Did not display the right attitude after being displaced by Almunia, bickering and complaining to anyone and everyone. Has shown admirable courage to remain with the club but is unlikely to feature much more this season. (D+)

Lukasz Fabianski
Has only played in the Carling Cup games, but nevertheless shown a lot of promise. Looks strong in the air and a confident shot-stopper. Will only improve with experience. (B)

Looking forward…
Almunia is the undisputed number one in my eyes and should remain in that position for the remainder of the season. With Fabianski showing good signs in the Carling Cup and Lehmann arguably the best number two in the Premiership there’s no real reason why Arsene Wenger needs to worry about reinforcing this position in the off-season, given the German remains with the club.

Clichy’s energy is exhilaratingDefenders

Gael Clichy
In a word, exhilarating. The French left-back has built on a solid campaign last time around and become one of the most important players in the squad. Full of energy, loves to get forward and crucially has improved defensively. Has rightly been rewarded with a spot in the French national team and has been one of the players of the season. (A)

Bacary Sagna
Arguably the best buy in the Premiership this season. Slotted into right back like he’d been there for years and has impressed with his speed, tackling and all-round quality on the ball. Has been less spectacular than opposite full-back Clichy but equally as effective. (A-)

William Gallas
Since being named captain Gallas has lifted his game. Has been an intimidating presence at the back and has rarely put a foot wrong. The Frenchman has also contributed with big goals in crucial matches and already looks a more influential captain than Thierry Henry ever was. (A-)

Kolo Toure
Has maintained the consistent standard that he has set in previous seasons. Toure has been a little overshadowed by the emergence of Gallas’ strong performances but like his defensive partner, rarely makes mistakes. The only criticism that could be made is that he occasionally lets his emotions get the better of him in the heat of battle. (B+)

Alexandre Song
Suprisingly effective during the Carling Cup run as a central-defender. Remains composed with the ball at his feet and has improved since returning from his loan spell with Charlton to become a useful squad player. (B)

Djourou’s opportunities at Arsenal have been limited this seasonJustin Hoyte
Has not had many chances this season, but has done reasonably well primarily at right-back. Still lacks the confidence and pace to bomb forward like Clichy or Sagna but has improved since last season. (B-)

Philippe Senderos
Woeful early on, but has lifted in recent weeks. Senderos’ distribution and lack of pace are still his biggest weaknesses but the last few games have shown he may finally be moving in the right direction. (C+)

Armand Traore
A little disappointing so far. Still exceptionally young but has not improved on his promising showings in last season’s Carling Cup. Undoubtedly possesses the attributes to become a world-class left-back but still looks undercooked. (C+)

Johan Djourou
Has only played 45 minutes thus far and looked a little shabby after returning from his loan spell at Birmingham. In my opinion is still a better overall player than Senderos but looks unlikely to get another decent chance this season. (N/A)

Looking forward…
Once Toure returns from international duty he should regain his place alongside Gallas in the centre of the defence. If Clichy and Sagna continue their excellent form and the central pair pick up where they left of then the defence have the quality to take Arsenal to the title.

So there you have it. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the midfielders and forwards but in the meantime, I encourage you to let me know what you think.

Have your say on the goalkeepers and defenders ratings by leaving a comment.


36 thoughts on “Arsenal mid-term report card (Part 1)

  1. Spot on. On current form I’d rate Sendi over Hoyte but if you add in the performances from the beginning of the season that drops him no doubt.

    I too have been impressed by the few performances of Song and would be intrigued to see him get some Premiership time if God preventing we face injury.

    As for Traore the lad’s still quite young and has all the time in the world to improve.

  2. I think i would give Clichy an A+ save for last weekends blunder but that doesnt take away that + since he has been inmproving week in week out.

  3. Snowball – A+ means perfect and that would mean he’s been the best player for Arsenal this season. There may be someone else in tomorrow’s post who gets that accolade 😉

  4. Why is Senderos so low? We have lost once in the Prem this season, but he wasn’t playing.

    I’d love to see some stats on the defenders, Senderos in particular, to back up your rating. We have let in very few goals while he has been playing, from memory.

    He is still 22, an international, he deserves a better rating than Hoyte, Traore and Song, so B+.

  5. I think Senderos deserves a bigger rap definately a B- in my book. Senderos is a player who needs games to get into his stride and recent games has shown that when he gets a decent run in the team he plays well…

  6. I think you have a point about the number of goals being let in while Senderos has been on the field but in the early part of the season I felt that was despite him rather than because of him. If he hadn’t been playing in recent weeks I seriously would have given him a rating as low as a ‘D’ but because he’s played solidly I lifted him to a C+. I think a B+ is a little generous, especially considering that’s what I gave Toure.

  7. Why does Lehmann get a D+. Yes he did make those two gaffes but has he really been that woeful?

    And why does Big Phil get a C?

  8. This season we have seen the real Gallas who was the best defender in his time at Chelski.And i would say Sagna is on a par with Clichy.As an attacker Sanga”s final ball is better than Clichy. I am still worried about Senderos against top class opposition.Look how bad he was v Seville away.

  9. We need to reinforce the defense.If Clichy gets injured,that would be big trouble.Troare is not good enough yet (imagine him in crunch matches against ManU or Chelsea!)and if Gallas gets shifted to left,that would make the central defense weak.

  10. I would agree with the 2 points above who rate Sagna and Clichy as the same. Clichy might look more impressive but if you go on effectiveness alone then maybe sagna just edges it. Sagna has a more reliable cross of the two. Both should get an A.
    I agree with your rating on sendy because he was poor earlier on. had he played like he is now all season then yes B but he didn’t.
    also agree with lehmann D+, not only was he woeful but also he had a bad attitude towards Manuel in the press. Ok he trained hard but he only stayed because he didn’t want to leave his wife along in London – hardly the right reason to stay.

  11. Great comments –

    I would have to grade Sagna the same as Clichy – both of them have set up some good goals from pin point crosses on either side.

    Senderos – yes he is getting better, but I still feel he rides his luck when he hooooooofs the ball, could go anywhere!!

    Gallas – Cant give this man enough praise, he has shown a totally new attitude to our club, leads by example – solid defender and good captain,

    Toure – sorry, but I rate him as good as Gallas – how many times has his pace and last ditch tackle prevented a goal scoring opportunity for the oppo.

    Song – I think he will be turned into a CH by our boss – he has shown how confident he is in that postion in the CC, and should Toure or Galls get injured when they all return, dont be suprised to see him be ahead of Senderos etc.

    Hoyte – came in as CH in the second half of first leg against S!!!S – he did well and I would put him ahead of Senderos, Johan etc

    Traore – a long way to go, but plenty of time, he will get there

    Now – Keepers

    This for me has been where the big change has been made and the real reason for our better defence.

    Almunia – Doesnt flap, whinge at the defence, moan and shout, stamp of the oppos feet, shove the oppos in the back…. and on and on – Because of this, and the confidence he gives out from himself, the defence have more trust, know where he is going to be. They have been able to get on with their own jobs, and not worry to much about the keeper.

    Jens – well he does all that Almunia doesnt, sadly I will be glad to back of him. Dreadful attitude towards Almunia, slagging him off to all who will listen…….. I would much prefer to see Fabianski be our number two, or one of the reserves


  12. well i personally think Toure is slightly better dan Gallas. Although all other attributes r same, Toure has a bit more speed to track down strikers. he is also better at anticipation. But gallas does a great job as the skipper.So they should be rated equally.

    And for lehmann, i would rate him D+ at the start of d season. But for the whole of the 1st half of season, he should be a little higher(C-).
    And i too think sagna and clichy are of d same level.

  13. The Senderos stats are (in the Prem)

    Played 9 games, 6 goals conceded (0.67 goals/game), 4 points dropped (0.44 ponts dropped per game)

    Didn’t play 16 games, 12 goals conceded (0.75 goals/game), 11 points dropped (0.69 points dropped per game).

    To get a better view you’d have to rate the games for difficulty, however he deserves a higher rating.

  14. Excellent post, i think most of the ratings are accurate, however as much as i love clichy, I think Sagna shades it. He is unbelievabely good in the air for his size, and is just as good in the tackle. I think he poses as much threat going forward, as what he stops the oppositions threat! I also agree that almunia wins his battle with lemon, but i do feel that he doesnt come of his line quick enough, that is where lemon is better, but other than that id pick Almunia, another great wenger buy! I think Senderos is a good player, just needs to get the consistency going, but i do feel with every game he plays he’s getting back into the groove. Anyway i know this post is about individual scores, but i do feel everyone plays their role in the team, and that without EVERY PLAYERS input we wouldnt be where we are now. Come on the Gunners, lets make it a treble this year!

  15. Sagna is a true star in the making — it’s hardly believable that this is his first season in the Premier League. Big Phil doesn’t have what it takes in my opinion. He consistently misplaces five yard passes when under no pressure whatsoever and he has an unerring knack of giving the ball away to the opposition when he’s asked to do anything more challenging. He makes Cygan look a class act. Or Stepanovs for that matter.

  16. Clichy is good but Sagna is better.
    Forget about the mistake last week. Clichy is a good defender, almost impossible to dribble past and excellent at intercepting and bringing the ball forward. He’s very close in quality to Evra but the Utd player is a little more confident in and around the opposition penalty area. Clichy is the most mobile full back I’ve ever seen, and he is still improving.
    Sagna has the confidence going forward. He could easily play right midfield as well as right back. He does all the basics consistently well in defense and he sort of reminds me of Ray Parlour. Same hair. Same facial expression.
    Great teams have outstanding full backs. Clichy v Evra is a good contest. Sagna v Wes Brown is no contest.
    Belletti and Ferrera are better than Brown but not as good as Sagna.
    Cole and Bridge aren’t as good as Clichy and Evra but they might improve under Capello.

  17. Reidish – look at the Senderos stats earlier. I agree that he sometimes mucks up passes but this is only once or twice a game tops and hasn’t affected results.

    We’ve been more successful with him than without, he is hard done by.

  18. great article, i think for it just being his first season at the club i think sagna just edges ahead of clichy this man has everything that a full back requires first and foremost he can defend, pace,excellent in the air, positional sense good, temprement looks spot on too and on top of that tough as nails.

    i agree with you djourou is a better player than senderos but he seems injury prone (falls into the category with van persie and rosicky) senderos although he’s been ok the last few games hasn’t been really tested top strikers will always give him problems.

  19. I agree with the grade for Hoyte, but to say he lacks the pace of Clichy and Sagna may be a bit off the mark. I think you are right that he lacks their confidence, but as far as pace goes, he is one of the fleetest players in the entire squad.

  20. Im not sure if anyone agrees, but i think sagna is the main reason that we are performing better collectively as a defence. How many times has he been the one clearing the crosses coming in, he is amazingly strong in the air, probably better than senderos. The only criticism i can have of our defence, is we sometimes get caught out with the call in behind, we’ve got to be espicially wary as we havent got toure’s pace if we get caught out! On a good note, i think every player has improved this season, there is only 1 player i think that played better last season than this one, and that is Rosicky, but im sure that will be a discussion when we get the report card for the midfield!!

  21. Clichy has been a dark horse candidate for MVP this season and I love him. He’s one the most improved players in the squad and getting better all the time. The most exciting thing for Arsenal fans is that he is improving all the time and at 22, still has signficant upside. But an “A” should be reserved for top drawer… around the league. I dont mean to criticise him but I think he’s A- or B+ at best… then again, no one on our defense deserves an A.

    Hopefully, in 2-3 year’s time, he will develop his “final ball” and truly take his place amongst the world’s best. Too often, his blistering forays into the opposition defense amount to nothing because his crosses tend to balloon and he often makes the wrong pass when he plays it along the ground. He’s a great dribbler and he has the ability to penetrate the box but rarely cuts inside toward the box.

    The good news is that he is clearly improving. In the last month or so, his crosses have been better. He hit Ade in the Fulham match and delivered a good ball for Ade again versus Man City (which was subsequently nodded back for Dudu’s goal). He has also gotten off a few shots recently that have tested the keeper.

    When you watch guys like Evra or Danny Alves (on the other side) attack, you can see that Gael is just 1 or 2 years from being truly world class. But in fairness to Gael, I think he’s a better 1 v 1 defender than either of those 2.

  22. I personally thought Traore has been dreadful enough to deserve a D, but that’s probably just me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a bad player, but this season he’s played like he’s never heard of Arsenal.

  23. Sagna ahead of Clichy? No way. Look at the stats. Clichy is the best full back in the Premiership. At one point he even had a 96% success rate in tackling. That’s fucking excellent.

    But Sagna is good, and it’s true that he’s the reason we’re better defensively this season. He’s solid and consistent.

  24. spanish fry: I don’t think sagna deserves A- I will give him A+ cause he is the most consistent player this season, has not put a foot wrong for whole season. He is the reason we are getting lots of clean sheets and defence improved than last season. Also he is better going forward even than Clichy. Clichy has improved of late but he was really bad for first 3 months of the season.

  25. Wow, what a great response. I can’t wait to see what happens after Part 2 tomorrow. I’ll respond to a few of the queries that people have come up with a bit later today. Cheers everyone.

  26. I rate Toure and Gallas the same and Clichy higher than Sagna but to be really honest they are the best back 4 I have seen in a very ling time. Sagna is superb (defo best buy) but I believe Clichy edges him out. Gallas has stepped his game up and is probably better but only the tiniest bit.

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