One to watch (Part 2/4): 'Point to prove'In our four part series we ask our panel of writers and guests to discuss which players they foresee having a greater impact / role next season. Our panel will be considering player potential, rate of development as well as squad issues including: partnerships, competition for places, and team balance – summarising with a round up of expected appearances, impact etc.The panel:
We welcome David Faber (@TheGoonerholic) from Goonerholic.com, and newly appointed History Editor, returning AL writers Neil Payne (@NeilPayne) & Lenny Antonelli (@lennyantonelli), as well as featuring the best reply from our forum.
In part 2 – Point to prove we’re asking our panel to discuss to identity which of the current first team players has most to prove through the season.David Faber
The player has most to prove this season I would have to say, briefly, Wojciech Szczesny
. The talk of a move for an experienced goalkeeper in the summer, albeit though it hasn’t happened as I type, was a direct result of the young Pole’s inconsistency last season. The key word there was young. Goalkeepers, like most other players, learn by their mistakes, which are usually only too visible. I’m backing Wojciech to go on improving, but he could do with sterner competition for his place.Lenny Antonelli
If we're to have any chance of challenging for silverware, we need three top quality centre-halfs. We have to be able to let Koscielny or Mertesacker have a rest without worrying the defence will fall to pieces. Likewise if either of those gets injured, we need the defensive unit to remain tight. So for me Thomas Vermaelen's
form will be crucial to how successful the season is. He seems to be made of stern stuff, so I think he's up to the task. I just hope he spends less time making those eye-catching runs forward and focuses more on getting back to the defensive basics.Neil Payne
As Wenger it seems has decided against strengthening the goalkeeping area, with an out an out proven number 1, yet again this summer much responsibility falls on the still young shoulders of Wojciech Szczesny.
Whilst this is admirable faith from the manager there are still huge questions marks over the Pole. His natural ability and self-belief is not in doubt, but he has much to prove this season. That inherent confidence ebbed away after some pretty basic mistakes last season eventually resulting in the return of his countryman, Fabianski. He is keen to dominate and take responsibility wherever possible in the penalty area, but he really needs to improve his decision making, particularly when deciding on leaving the penalty-box to sweep up potential issues for the defence. It would also be good to see more understanding and togetherness as a unit with his back four. For the best part last season there seemed an obvious lack of communication with his defenders. I think the back four lost confidence in him as a result which probably contributed to his loss of form. A massive season for the Pole. I would not expect Wenger to show indefinite faith. He has to deliver.
Forum member dannyg
As much as I love him, I'm going to have to say Jack Wilshere. I am absolutely convinced that we have a future world star on our hands but now is the time that a) He establishes exactly what role he is going to occupy within the team, and b) starts having a tangible impact on games, ie goals and assists. Personally, I think he's wasted as an Arteta-type holding midfielder but arguably doesn't suit the number 10 role. I see him as a box-to-box player, contributing goals, assists and tackles, but for this to work we have to have a dedicated holding midfielder behind him. Obviously injuries have hampered his development but this season he really needs to step up and become the player we all hope he will be and I think he will, he’s the future of AFC.
It’s no great surprise that two spinal players have been identified and both would also have been my picks. The stats will suggest that Arsenal had the joint second best defence in the league but acceptance of this fact alone would be somewhat mask the early season problems where the back four looked anything but a unit. Vermaelen has struggled to replicate his first season form. We’ve not seen the ‘Verminator’ for some time and I would say that is true in terms of technical and mental performance.
Vermealen for me retained his place in the team for too long, given the teams struggles at the back and also the previous season form of Laurent Koscielny. I guess the manager went for stability in the team as Wenger looked to find some collective unity, the captaincy status also probably afforded him more time too. Fortunately Koscielny and Mertesacker remained fit for the rest of the season, as Vermealen continued to struggle for fitness before being ruled out long term.
Sagna has proven he’s no slouch covering this term but it’s clear Arsenal cannot rely on only two real first choice options – at some stage Arsenal will surely need their captain back and back to his best if Arsenal are to add consistency to their newly found solidity at the back.
Szczesny is a different story. He’s a young player. He’s unfortunate in a way as mistakes in his position are highlighted much more than midfielders for example where even long term dip in form is deemed somehow more acceptable. He has for sure had dips last term and his decision making must improve to avoid unnecessary charging out of the box but there can be no doubting he has the reflexes to win Arsenal matches as we've seen against Fenerbache most recently.
I liked that he was able to regroup towards the end of last season when the pressure for clean sheets, as Arsenal dug out a series of tight 1-0 wins, was enormous. With the signing of Viviano on loan I feel Wenger has edged his bets – I’ve no problem with that for the reason that experience can solve the decision making side of his game - it's a good risk for one season but it's now time for Szczesny to erase any doubts.
In part 3 – 'Stepping up' We discuss which of the squad players can now cement a long-term place in a team.Miss our previous article in this series?
Part 1 – 'Breaking through'
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@thegoonerholic – David Faber
@NeilPayne – Neil Payne
@lennyantonelli – Lenny Antonelli