Today is the fourth in a series of posts reviewing Arsenal’s 2008/09 season. Last week I reviewed the performances of our goalkeepers and defenders and on Tuesday it was the midfielders. Today it’s the attackers.
It’s been a season of good progress for Carlos Vela. Despite having limited opportunities he scored a memorable hat-trick in the Carling Cup game against Sheffield and opened his Premier League account with a fine goal against Portsmouth. The Mexican’s major attributes have been his pace and a rare ability to finish with calmness and confidence. He has made the chipped finish his trademark and one would expect it’s only going to get better next season.
Season 08/09 can be considered a success for Eduardo for the simple reason that he was able to play again. Since breaking his leg against Birmingham in the last campaign there were fears that he would struggle to return as the same player, but two goals and a very tidy performance against Cardiff in his first game back showed a player who looks every bit as good as he has been in the past.
Very expectedly – at least by the manager – Eduardo suffered from a number of minor tweaks that minimized his impact after that thrilling return against Cardiff. However, his performances were strong when he was able to play and with the chance to participate in full pre-season to fine-tune those problems I feel he is set for a big impact in 09/10. Should Emmanuel Adebayor depart (more on him in a second) then it’s possible that Eduardo could start as first-choice next season alongside Robin van Persie.
He may have been the butt of many jokes in the Arsenal community but a goal tally of 15 from 27 shows it hasn’t been a bad year for Nicklas Bendtner. The difficult thing about the Dane’s style of play is that, at this stage of his career, the negative aspects of his game are far more noticeable than his positives. It’s easy to mock his awkward/clumsy movement and criticize his tendency to finish erratically but that downplays the obvious trouble he causes opposing defenders and effort he is putting in to get in the right positions in the first place.
In the earlier part of the season when the team was struggling Bendtner was hugely criticised by the Arsenal supporters for a number of abject performances and I think it says a great deal about his character that he was able to fight back. Although he was used too often on the wing by the manager this season Bendtner has taken some big steps forward and developed into a very capable back-up striker.
Robin van Persie
This is the first season that Robin van Persie has got through without missing a huge chunk of it through injury and it showed. He may have only scored 9 league goals (18 in all competitions) but van Persie was responsible for a huge number of assists and showed his class by bagging two excellent goals to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Despite enjoying a strong season it must be said that he was far from perfect. Too often van Persie drifted out of games and a lack of pace in attack was evident when he was not paired with Adebayor. Meanwhile it wouldn’t hurt if the coach had a word with him about his finishing because numerous opportunities were wasted by his persistence to choose power over precision.
I think it’s fair to say that next season is a huge one in the career of van Persie. He has developed into one of the leaders in the squad and given the likelihood that Adebayor will leave I feel it’s vital that he takes his game to the next level. His propensity to sustain injury remains a worry but van Persie needs to improve on his consistency and finishing if he is to become a top, top striker next season.
The less said about him the better, but as this is a season review it would negligent to look past the contribution made by Emmanuel Adebayor this season. The Togolese striker won a lot of fans last season with in excess of 30 goals and a series of gut-busting all-action displays, but this time around things were markedly different. From the moment he was involved in a messy contract dispute with the club and threatened to go to AC Milan or Barcelona, Adebayor lost a lot of the fans he had previously won over and his performances on the pitch deteriorated as well.
It would be incorrect to say Adebayor had a poor season because he simply didn’t. He had some good moments, particularly that amazing goal against Villarreal and was very strong in the early part of the campaign. However, after demanding that he be ‘paid like Henry’ he fell well short of the level required and – absolutely inexcusably – his general effort tailed off near the end of the season. At times it seemed like he had simply given up trying and his recent interview on BBC’s Football Focus backed up that opinion.
There is a very real possibility that Adebayor will be sold in the summer and as much as it would be a shame to see him go it’s reached the point where it would probably be best both the player and the club. On his day he can trouble the best defenders in the world with his pace and power but as the two legs against United showed, when he’s not up for it he can be lazy and anonymous. If he does stay on then the manager has a job to do getting him motivated and playing for the team again because another season like the one just gone would be unacceptable.
Regardless of whether Adebayor goes, I feel we have enough strength up front. There is some merit in the suggestion that Adebayor should be replaced but I would much rather see the money from his sale go towards two quality additions in midfield or defence than splashed on another striker.
Van Persie has shown he can make it through a season without sustaining injury while Bendtner has improved significantly and is ready to step into Adebayor’s shoes. Add to that Eduardo – who will be absolutely raring to go and could have a massive impact next season – and Andrey Arshavin – who could well be moved to the support striker role – and we have at four players who can be trusted to get the job done.
Anyway, that’s pretty much it for today’s post aside from some spiffy photos of Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott wearing the new Arsenal away kit. Personally I really like it, but I think I’m in the minority. What do you think?
Have your say on Part 4 of the Arsenal Season Review or the new away kit by leaving a comment.