Is the current Arsenal squad better than the Gunners of 2010/11? A comparison

Today I am delighted to welcome Awolowo Olumide to Gunners Town as
a Global Gooner guest blogger. Awolowo is 23 and from the Arsenal mad hotbed of
Nigeria. He is a freelance journo/analyst.

Involved
in one or two sports shows on air. Known to many I am sure on social media and
particularly twitter as @kinghenrythefif I have been debating on Arsenal related
matters with Awolowo for two years, so am chuffed he is writing for this site.
@GoonerDave66

The 2010/2011 season saw Arsenal
challenge for the Premier League title for 7-8 months before falling at the
last hurdle, courtesy of quite a number of factors, with the Wembley shocker in
February ’11 regarded as the catalyst to the club’s poor run towards the end of
the season.

But while our failure to beat Birmingham in
the Carling Cup final was a fatal blow, I believe we also didn’t have the team
spirit and depth to take us over the line, after such a huge disappointment in
Wembley. I also feel we weren’t convincing enough in defence. We conceded a
massive 23 goals from set pieces that season, and 43 in general, which was very
poor.

However, there has been significant improvements on most of our shortcomings of
2010/2011, as Arsenal possess better depth (yes) in 2013/2014, have a better
team spirit and conceded much fewer goals last term. I’m pretty sure you raised
eyebrows at the mention of a better depth, but be patient as I’ll prove it to you
with my findings/observations.

Goalkeepers

In 10/11, our goalkeeping options were: Szczesny, Fabianski and Almunia, with
the latter being dropped few games into the season. In 13/14, we have Szczesny,
Viviano and Fabianski. A lot haven’t watched Viviano and are concerned about
his striking resemblance with Almunia, but Emiliano is the much better GK, imo.
I believe he’s a very good shot stopper. I watched Fiorentina a couple of times
last season, where he was on loan for the 12/13 campaign and I must say, he
didn’t disappoint. According to Squawka, he made 32 appearances, and kept 12
clean sheets, with an average goals conceded ratio of 1.06. I’m certain he’ll
push Mr Woj all the way. Fabianski is also well in the mix, considering the way
he ended last season, and his pre-season performances. 

Verdict: This is an area that we’ve not
been consistent at in recent years, but with the acquisition of a largely
dependable goalie along with the recent form of Shezzer, I firmly believe we’re
stronger in this department than we were in 2010/2011. Competition at last eh? 

Defence

Our defensive options in 10/11 were largely
inconsistent. At right back, we had Sagna and Eboue. Bac was always a solid and
reliable option, whereas despite being a fan favourite, Eboue let us down that
season. He was sold shortly after the 10/11 curtains closed and in came Carl
Jenkinson. Despite a shaky and unconvincing start to his Arsenal career, he has
endeared his name among the Gooner faithful, possibly because he’s a proper Gooner
himself and knows what it means to put on the Arsenal shirt. In the last 12
months, he has put on very impressive performances in a couple of BIG games.
You can see traces of Sagna in his fighting spirit and positive mentality. He’s
definitely not the finished article yet, but his career development is on the
right path. 

Verdict: The depth in this department isn’t
as experienced as the one in 10/11,
but it certainly is more enthusiastic and courageous.

At centre-back in 10/11, we had Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Johan
Djourou and Seb Squillaci. TV5 was injured for most parts of the season, so we
were left with Kos, JD and Seb. JD became very reliable in mid-season and
formed a solid partnership with Kos but they got found out later in the season,
with set-pieces constantly being their Achilles heel. Seb started the season
decently, but he became a joke ever since, and remained a joke till the end of
his unpleasant stint at AFC.

However, we’ve moved on since then to get
our BFG in Per Mertesacker, and after an extremely slow start to his EPL
adventure, he’s grown in leaps and bounds and now wears the arm band very
often, these days. He’s one of the most intelligent defenders in the league,
due to his ability to communicate and calculate. He and Kos have built a
formidable partnership and the rest of the back four follow their lead. They
conceded only a single goal in open play and two from set-pieces in the games
they played together last term, and we looked so strong in the last two months
of the season. Aside the opening day nightmare, Kos-Per have once again started
impressively and I’m really looking forward to seeing both maintain their
strong chemistry throughout the season. You won’t find so many better
centre-half pairings in 2013/2014. Sagna has also shown his versatility by
providing cover in centre-half, and I fully understand Arsene’s reluctance to
bring in another CB, ’cause he may not have really improved us in that
department. Thomas Vermaelen is also back to the fold after a lengthy absence
and despite falling out of favour with Arsene at the tail end of last season;
I’m convinced he’ll push our 1st choice CB options to an almost impeccable
point, which can only strengthen us more.

Verdict: We didn’t have a completely
reliable CB in 10/11 and most times, didn’t know what to expect from them. Now,
we’ve managed to build a strong CB partnership that complement each other
admirably. Can’t see anything other than an improvement on 10/11 in this
department. 

At left back, we had Gael Clichy as 1st
choice and Gibbs as 2nd choice in 10/11. Clichy had a fantastic engine and an
ever pumping adrenaline, but he often didn’t have the best positioning, and
went to sleep in key moments, which always proved costly. He also had a thing
for rash challenges. Gibbs was largely injury prone at the time, so had to
settle for a back-up role. But after Clichy departed for the blue side of
Manchester in June 2011, Gibbs stepped up to the plate and Arsene opted to get
a back-up LB in Andre Santos. He looked stable for a while, but the rigours and
the pace of the EPL caught up with his excessive weight and it went downwards
for him since then. It didn’t change in his 2nd season, and in January this
year, the excellent Gibbs suffered an injury that would keep him out of
contention for the better part of 6 weeks. We had to bring someone in, and he
had to be much better than Santos, so we snapped up Nacho Monreal from Malaga
on deadline day of the winter transfer window. The Spaniard looked a little
misguided in his 1st few weeks but he picked up since we started combining Per
with Kos. Santos has since been paid off to leave N5, and we now boast of a
competitive and balanced left back depth. 

Verdict: Certainly an upgrade in my
opinion, as Gibbs has grown in leaps and bounds while Nacho’s doggedness means
the future England left back can’t afford to slip-up.

Midfield

In the midfield pivot role, Song and
Wilshere were the two starters for majority of the 2010/2011 campaign, with
Denilson and Diaby as back-up, while Ramsey continued his rehabilitation
exercise for his broken leg. This season, we have Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta,
Flamini & Diaby as midfield options, but not everyone is entirely sure
about who’s 1st choice, which shows how competitive we are in that department.
Despite the media’s claims that we look light weight, we’ve shown that we
aren’t scared to get stuck in, and Flamini’s performance in the NLD buttresses
my point. It’s quite possible Rambo and Jack will be the 1st choice options for
now, but you can bet Flamini will keep both British men on their toes. When
Arteta returns, we’re going to look even more secure in midfield, and it’ll be
interesting to see how Arsene decides to rotate his squad. 

Verdict: Again, I believe we’ve got better
depth here than in 10/11, when you consider the 4 solid options at our
disposal. It means key players like Arteta and Ramsey can be rested from time
to time. Same couldn’t be said about Song and Jack 2 years ago.

In attacking midfield, Theo, Cesc, Rosicky,
Nasri and Arshavin were our options for the three creators behind the striker
and we constantly blew teams away, with Nasri stealing the show in the 1st half
of the season. This season, for the same roles we’ve got Theo, Chamberlain,
Ozil, Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski, Miyaichi and Gnabry as our options for the
“3” behind the striker. But Chamberlain, Podolski and Cazorla are out
for the foreseeable future, so we’re left with Walcott, Ozil, Rosicky, Miyaichi
and Gnabry at least for the 1st half of the season. Ozil and Cazorla are going
to perform similar roles to Nasri and Fabregas, with Rosicky also a concrete
option. Theo has improved since 2011 and looks more consistent with his final
ball. It’s unfair and unreasonable to compare Miyaichi with Arshavin right now,
as the Japanese is nowhere near creative or fit enough to provide solid cover,
but injuries to Ox and Poldi means Ryo and possibly, Gnabry will be used from
time to time. 

Verdict: Once again, I see nothing but an
improvement from the squad we had 3 years ago, considering we have 6 dependable
options when everyone is fit.

Attack

Attack seems to be the only area where we
looked stronger in the 2010/2011 season, compared to this current campaign. Our
options upfront were RVP, Chamakh and Bendtner. This year, we’ve got Giroud,
Bendtner and Sanogo as the proper CFs, with Theo and Podolski also options in
extreme cases. Giroud to me is a massive upgrade on Chamakh, with his huge
build and ability to hold up play. What he does better than the Moroccan is
shooting from distance, and I believe every ambitious striker should have that
in his locker. OG is not on RVP’s level, and neither is Sanogo as developed as
Chamakh, so I wouldn’t kid myself to believe that we’re stronger in this
department than in 10/11. But our superiority in midfield and the outside
options of Theo and Podolski makes me feel the goal scoring options we have at
our disposal are capable of matching the number of times our CF options found
the net three years ago. RVP, Marouane, Nick and Theo scored 51 goals between
them, and in the 2012/2013 campaign, Giroud (17); Theo (22) and Podolski (16)
got a combined tally of 55 strikes. It’s clear that this team is beginning to
evenly share the goal scoring responsibilities, and with Bendtner set to be
involved in the 1st team at least till January, it’s almost certain we’ll get
to the 60 goal mark in attack this term.

Verdict: RVP was the only Arsenal player
who got 20+ goals in 10/11 which seemed quite strange. This year, Giroud, Theo
and Poldi are arguably all capable of achieving that feat, especially with a
level headed Ozil, Ramsey, Santi and Jack behind them. Dynamism bails us out
this time.

Summary

We had a largely enjoyable time for most
parts of the 2010/2011 and also had a crack at the title. The team spirit we
possessed that year is well below what we’ve got in this bunch and Arsene
confirmed that at the tail end of last season. The foundation we’ve got is
solid, which is a big reason why we’ve started playing some beautiful football
once again. We’ve scored a couple of goals that have been brilliantly worked
right from the excellent Mertesacker down to the feet of Podolski and Giroud to
apply the finishing touches, which shows how confident the players are. The way
we’ve come back from the Villa setback further shows how far we’ve come since
10/11 and with Ozil now in the mix, the self-belief of the squad is only going
to increase. More so, no one is worried we’ll lose our best player at the end
of the season, so everyone is focused on delivering success to Arsene and the
fans, who have stuck behind this team through thick and thin. It feels good to
finally move one step ahead

Awolowo
Olumide


One Response to Is the current Arsenal squad better than the Gunners of 2010/11? A comparison

  1. Don McMahon September 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Excellent and very thorough analysis…..I did a similar one on UA but for our Invincibles squad, and our 2007-8 squad as compared to this season’s. My conclusions were similar, we are no where near the Invincible’s level but have matched and maybe even surpassed the 2007-8 team. I believe Bendtner, can make good If he takes Wenger’s offer seriously. Miyachi is a work in progress like Walcott was in the day, and so is Gnabry and Sanogo but once Podolski,Cazorla, Diaby, and the Ox return to full form, we will be in great shape.

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