Arsenal's 2015-16 season review and player ratings
Despite finishing second it was a gloomy season for the Gunners, without much to cheer for apart from Mesut Ozil.
Following their Community Shield triumph over Chelsea, Arsenal were tipped to be serious contenders for the English Premier League title.
9 months and 13 days later, a 4-0 triumph over Aston Villa in their final match of the season helped the Gunners leapfrog perennial rivals Tottenham Hotspur to finish at second place in the English Premier League season.
From Premier League contenders to finishing 2nd in the league, is not as disgraceful a fall as the Arsenal faithful endured during the season - despite it being their best finish since the 2004-05 campaign.
Without taking anything away from the enchanting season that Leicester City and their fans just witnessed and are probably still reeling from, it was Arsenal’s season to lose and they allowed to let Claudio Ranieri’s side romp to the title, without much resistance or effort.
On April 17, the 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace at home officially brought an end to the title challenge of Arsene Wenger’s side, but they were out of the reckoning way before that.
Detractors would argue that Arsenal’s seasonal injury crisis coupled with the hostile atmosphere at the Emirates did not help the team, but that would be just a facile argument, masking the real issue – Wenger’s aversion to evolve and his vacillation over accepting and rectifying the deficiencies in his squad.
Coming on the back of two successive FA Cup triumphs, the Gunners were expected to achieve great things – or so we thought. The fans would heave a sigh of relief after finishing above Tottenham for the 20th year straight, when this was the season when Wenger’s proud record looked most likely to be halted.
If Wenger does acknowledge and make the required additions to the squad, next year could be a bright year for the Gunners. But it would not be easy, especially with the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and the imminent appointment of Jose Mourinho at the helm of things at Old Trafford.
Here we take a look at how the Arsenal players fared during the 2015/16 season:
Petr Cech – 7.5/10
Cech endured a debut to forget at the Emirates as he let in two cheap goals against West Ham in the season opener. Although he finished the season as the Golden Glove winner, the Czech Republic international was often found vulnerable whenever tested from distance.
Hector Bellerin – 8/10
After impressing last season filling in for Mathieu Debuchy, the young Spaniard made the right-back position his own and put in some brilliant performances. Bellerin was one of the bright spots in Arsenal’s dismal campaign.
Laurent Koscielny – 7/10
The Frenchman was a rock at the back, putting in crunching tackles and using his speed to good effect in minimizing the impact of pacy strikers on the game. His partnership with Gabriel is the likely way forward for Arsenal’s defence, unless a quality centre-back arrives in the summer.
Gabriel – 6.5/10
The Brazilian started the season as the third-choice defender, but usurped Per Mertesacker in the pecking order as the season progressed. The Brazilian still has to improve his positioning, while he also needs to work on his decision making.
Nacho Monreal – 7/10
He was Arsenal’s most consistent player during the campaign, and his performances have cast doubts over the future of Kieran Gibbs.
Francis Coquelin – 6/10
Big things were expected from the Frenchman after his impressive breakthrough last season. Coquelin was impressive before his injury, but following his return, the French youngster hasn’t been able to assert himself on the opposition like he used to.
Santi Cazorla – 7/10
It was no coincidence that Arsenal’s bad patch of form happened during Cazorla’s absence, as the Spaniard’s creativity and his ability to dance out of tricky situations were dearly missed by Wenger’s side.
Aaron Ramsey – 5.5/10
The Welshman seems to be his own worst enemy, and being played on the right-wing by Wenger hasn’t helped boost his morale with Ramsey being found guilty of overcomplicating on a number occasions. He has a panache of doing things in the most exquisite way, but that has let him down more often than not this season.
Alexis Sanchez – 7/10
17 goals and 11 assists probably make for a good reading for a winger, but the Chilean was disappointing for most parts of the season. The injury, probably due to overplaying, didn’t help him as he took months to get back into his stride.
Mesut Ozil – 9/10
Arsenal’s player of the season was a joy to watch. The German enjoyed a record-breaking year at the Emirates claiming 19 assists and if not for the profligacy of his teammates, Ozil would have easily shattered Thierry Henry’s Premier League record of 20. Apart from this, he also created 146 chances in the 35 league matches he played, which is the highest ever in the English top flight.
Olivier Giroud – 5.5/10
After a relatively bright start to the campaign, the Frenchman faded away akin to Arsenal’s title chances. Giroud endured a 15-game goal drought in the second part of the campaign, which might finally force Wenger to in another striker to the Emirates stadium.
Mikel Arteta – 5/10
The Arsenal captain has announced retirement from football and despite not making much impact in the final season of his career, the Spaniard would always be cherished by the Arsenal fans. Arteta was one of Arsenal’s most under-rated players and it is a shame that he never played a game for the Spanish national team.
Danny Welbeck – 6.5/10
It is a shame that the striker has been ruled out for another 9 months, having just returned from a long-term injury. The stoppage time winner on his return against eventual champions, Leicester City, was his moment of the season.
David Ospina – 6/10
The Colombian improved as the season progressed, having suffered a nightmare of a game against Olympiakos, which finally meant he was axed from the team that played in the Champions League. While he is arguably the best second-choice shot-stopper in the league, t is highly unlikely that he will stay at the Emirates next season.
Calum Chambers – 6/10
The outside of the boot curler against Burnley in the FA Cup was the highlight of his season. However, apart from that the ex-Southampton lad played a bit-part role in the side, filling in when one of the other two centre-backs were injured or unavailable. The Englishman would be hoping to be more central to Arsene Wenger’s plans next season.
Per Mertesacker – 6.5/10
His lack of speed has finally caught up with him and was rightly axed from the side in favour of Gabriel – a more agile defender. However, the German’s impressive reading of the game was missed by Arsenal at times during the season.
Kieran Gibbs – 5/10
The Englishman hardly played a prominent role in Arsenal’s season, having being relegated to the bench for the majority of the season.
Jack Wilshere – N/A
Three appearances in a season is not what any football fan would want from the Englishman. He has reached a crucial juncture in his career and the next season could prove pivotal in how the world remembers Jack Wilshere when he hangs his boots.
Mohammed Elneny – 6.5/10
The January signing has settled in well in the line-up and has put in decent performances. But the Egyptian would need to work on improving his communication skills.
Tomas Rosicky – N/A
Injuries prevented ‘The Mozart’ from enchanting the Emirates crowd on more occasions this season, which happens to be his last having been a loyal servant to the club for the past 10 years. His energy and enthusiasm would put 18-year-olds to shame and he will be dearly missed.
Theo Walcott – 3/10
The Englishman has been Arsenal’s most disappointing player during the recently concluded campaign. The knee injury picked up against Tottenham Hotspur has shattered his confidence and his movement off the ball has also suffered as a result.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 4.5/10
Big things were expected of the former Southampton man following his winner against Chelsea in the Community Shield. It was supposed to be the season when ‘The Ox’ was finally unleashed on the world, However, to the disappointment of many, the 22-year-old has flattered to deceive all season long.
Alex Iwobi – 7/10
Another bright spot from Arsenal’s campaign would be the emergence of Iwobi. The Nigerian has impressed with his passing and movement and could play a key role in Wenger’s side next season.
Joel Campbell – 7/10
The Costa Rican winger resurrected his Arsenal career when it all looked over for him at the Emirates. Campbell was impressive whenever he played and it was a crime that he was so under-utilized in the latter part of the season.
Mathieu Flamini – 5.5/10
The Gunners faithful would be glad that Flamini would not play for Arsenal next season. The brace against Tottenham Hotspur was the crowning achievement of his second spell with the North London outfit.