This is part of a continuing series of articles on Arsenal in the new season: position by position. Today, we move to the left hand side of the attack.
Last season, the player that played most of the games on that position was our then new signing Gervinho. Joining us after winning the double in France, he came at 24 years old.
Gervinho had 19 starts in his first season and he scored 4 goals. And if you look at some missed chances, this should have been more. That is something he has to improve on. He gave 6 assists in the PL from which other team mates could score. I also would urge him to raise that number this season.
As it was his first season, we can forgive him of a few things. Well, at least I can. I thought he started alright in the first games. He made a few great runs but the end product was not always there. That was a bit disappointing. Sometimes it looked as if his team mates didn’t know what they could expect. I hope they work on that a bit. I think the longer the season went on the better he became. And when he left for the ANC, he looked good.
But back came another Gervinho. After missing the ultimate penalty kick for his country, his confidence was broken. And it took him very long to recover from that.
Another player that was involved at the left side of attack was Andrey Arshavin. He mostly sat on the bench at the start of the season. When he came on, it didn’t work for him. When he started, it also didn’t work for him. Only 1 goal, but also only 8 starts.
The lowest point came when some part of the fans started booing when he came on against Manchester United. I think that signalled the end of Arshavin. I do think that he, as a Russian, didn’t accept to be treated like that. At whom the booing was aimed doesn’t matter. I had the impression he felt it was aimed at him and that was very unfair for any Arsenal player to come on to the field and have to start with hear some fans booing. He was then loaned to his former club and won the league with them.
Another player starting on the left flank on occasion was Oxlade-Chamberlain. “What? £15M for a kid?” was shouted by those who know better. Halfway in the season, they booed when the manager felt he had to be replace to save his legs and his future. 6 starts for Oxlade-Chamberlain and 2 goals for him in the league.
So in total, those 3 players had 34 starts and only 7 goals. I feel this is not enough for the left side of attack. So this has to improve. I’m sure that if Oxlade-Chamberlain gets more starts, he will score a lot of goals in the future and most of all, will give a lot of assists also. He is still very young and in future, he will become an even better version of Theo Walcott. Not the same speed maybe, but much better skills. So sit back and enjoy watching him grow. I will anyway.
But it might be that Oxlade-Chamberlain will not play on the wing anymore. And I think Gervinho will have a lot of trouble to keep his place over there. Because watch out for Prinz Poldi aka Lukas Podolski.
The youngest ever European football player to reach 100 caps for his country and not for some obscure country like Letland but for Germany, one of the top teams in Europe and the world in the past decade. He can play in a few positions but he mainly plays as the deepest striker or for Germany on the left hand side.
Some supporters are already out with their knifes to stick in his back at the first occasion. Some seem a bit too eager to point at the fact that he “failed” at Bayern Munich. I think if that is a fear, he has chosen the right manager and the right club to put that straight. Henry was a big failure at Juventus, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp were even bigger failures at Inter.
So I’m not that bothered that he “failed” at Bayern Munich. Maybe the system didn’t suit him, maybe he had a problem with the manager or with a team mate. All the more because he kept on producing magic for the German national team, even while being a “failure”.
So if Wenger wants to play him on the left hand side, he will do his job. He will score and most of all: he is one of the best defending attackers you can get. A big (German) engine that keeps on running. He is not the one to let a team mate do the job on his own and I have seen him come back to help the defence on many occasions. So maybe, he will not just bring something to the attack but also bring something to the balance in the team. The balance between attacking and defending.
I think a possible battle for the left hand side in attack between Gervinho and Podolski will bring the best from both of them. They will know that they will have to produce. Gervinho with his dazzling runs or Podolski with the German efficiency. Two different types of players but I’m glad they are wearing the Arsenal shirt.
Published with permission from Untold Arsenal: Arsenal News. Supporting the Lord Wenger; coach of the decade.