Half season player ratings – Part 3

WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan (Site editor)

Half the season has gone by and Arsenal find themselves fighting for that crucial fourth spot with Chelsea and Liverpool. It has been a remarkable turnaround from a team that went as low as 17th in the table before Arsene Wenger and his boys responded under immense pressure with admirable steel and mental strength. Led by the inspirational Van Persie, several players have caught the imagination of the fans while others have floundered big time. With a 10 day break before Arsenal’s next league game as they focus on the FA Cup, we will be analysing the performances of each and every Arsenal player this season in the coming days.

On the third day today, we look into how the heart of our defense has fared so far this season.

Thomas Vermaelen:

His presence in the heart of Arsenal’s defense brings such a sense of calm and assurance that it is difficult to put that in words. His presence was sorely missed last season as we fell at the final hurdle and his ankle injury early in the season did influence the shambolic performance of our defense.

His organizational skills have been immense and he has also contributed a lot in attack as his aerial ability and ability to break forward from defense have been useful in set pieces and also in open play. He scored a embarrassing own goal against Fulham at the Emirates but showed tremendous mental strength to pop up with a late equalizer at the other end. His fitness and form will be very important if Arsenal want to finish in the top four.

Rating: 8/10

Laurent Koscielny:

Some of you might disagree, but he has been Arsenal’s defender of the season. He could do very little about the mauling at Old Trafford as the full backs and Johan Djourou were completely outrun by the United frontline. His only poor game was the 3-4 loss to Blackburn but since then, he has hardly put a foot wrong the entire season. His commitment has come to the fore as he has partnered five different players in central defense and also played quite a few matches at right back without too much fuss.

Considering his difficulties in adapting to the Premier League last season and where he is now, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Wenger and his scouts for finding such fantastic players. He is absolutely one among the top five centre backs in the league and looks all set to be a mainstay in Arsenal’s defense for years to come.

Rating: 8.5/10

Per Mertasacker:

He certainly is an upgrade to Squillaci but he is yet to reproduce his dominant performances for Germany in the red and white of Arsenal. His lack of pace has been brutally exposed at times but he has also shown that he can read the game well and that particular aspect has served him well so far.

He has also failed to show the dominance in the air that he is so renowned for but overall, his presence means that the current Arsenal defense looks the best in over four years.

Rating: 7/10

Sebastian Squillaci:

He is nowhere close to the first team and he’s been getting some action only due to our injuries. He is likely to leave the Emirates soon as he has failed to deliver the assured performances of an experienced defender. Yet, his performance against Manchester City in the League Cup was interesting as he produced a good display that kept City’s expensive frontline at bay for almost 85 minutes. Apart from that, he has only been a liability for the club and the wages he is drawing could be used purposefully elsewhere.

Rating: 5.5/10

Alex Song:

Though a midfielder, he is a vital cog in Arsenal’s defense. One of the surprise packages in the Premier League, Song has impressed everyone with his all action displays this season.

He did score a few goals last season but largely played deep in the midfield, patrolling Arsenal’s shaky defense. This season though, he has been involved a lot in attack but that hasn’t diminished his role of protecting the backline. This I suppose is due to the presence of Vermaelen and Mertasacker, experienced defenders both, and the improved performances of Koscielny. His all round ability and consistent performances have led many to consider him the best defensive midfielder in the league.

Arsenal have been at their best with this man on fire and his recent quiet performances have clearly affected the team’s effectiveness on the pitch. A moment of brilliance against Dortmund deserves special mention.

Rating: 8/10

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