With the end of the season now comes a couple of months of self analysis. But before we get too far into the never ending debate of who Arsenal should sign, and having given Monsieur Wenger a bit of a bashing last week, I thought it would only be fair to try and put some positive spin on next season. So here are my three top reasons to be positive for next season:
1. Andrei Arshavin - What an amazing player he is. Its a long time since I saw a new signing and immediately said "wow". Possibly Reyes made a big impact in his first couple of games, but then faded. You probably have to go back to Vieira in 1996 for the last time someone looked this good straightaway. Arshavin just got better and better through February, March and to the end of the season. Wenger should build next years' side around Arshavin.
2. Alex Song - The beating this man took from most blogs until January was terrible. Not here though, since we've been banging this drum since day one. A powerful force in midfield and extremely adept at centre-back, Song is a real Wenger product of total football (although not great for 45 mins at right back against Everton). Alex Song is a terrific player and should play a major role next year.
3. A new system 4-3-3. Unless Wenger does something dramatic over the summer, then the chances of us playing 4-4-2 next year look remote. In fact, I don't remember the last time Wenger played a proper 4-4-2, and the 4-5-1 experiment has been a disaster. But something seemed different in the way Wenger lined the team up against Stoke - Diaby, Denilson and Fabregas were pretty tight in midfield, Arshavin given the freedom of the park on the left, Walcott on the right, RVP up top. It was pretty close to 4-3-3 and produced the first half blitz that we have not seen for years. With players like Walcott, Arshavin, Vela and Nasri at the club, we have the ideal candidates to play 4-3-3. RVP seems to excel playing right side for Holland's 4-3-3.
Its a bit thin really, but there you go. A fit Eduardo and Rosicky would help as well, but then an Arsenal season without a couple of major injuries is about as likely as Wenger signing Essien for £40m over the summer. Its just not going to happen. And so, swiftly moving on, where do we all stand on the player of the season? Its the blog-vote and the moment, but its worth some banter as well. The short-list is pitiful. Alex Song deserves a big mention, so does Kieran Gibbs, but no-one stands out at all. I can't point at a single player who regularly impressed the fans with their hard work, determination and desire to win, which are really the attributes fans usually recognise in player of the year awards. I have also decided that players signed in January do not contend for player of the season awards - sorry Andrei!
So my motley collection of awards go as follows:
The Lazarus Award - Emmanuel Eboue
Back from the dead with a vengeance. No-one does it quite like Eboue. He is the biggest cheating diver, possibly our greatest hacker, definitely one of the best crossers, best right-back worst midfielder at the Club. I have no idea what he will do next year, or even next game, but I am kind of looking forward to it.
The Try Hard Award - Denilson
Along with Alex Song, I have been saying all season that Denilson is not as bad as everyone says. Its just a shame that his name is not Claude Makele. Denilson had a bad patch in the New Year and played badly against Roma. But for the first half of the season, I thought the young Brazilian was carrying Fabregas through a lot of the games. And was making a half decent go of it. I am not going to predict great things for Denilson next season, but if his workrate and physical game continue to improve, he could be a very useful squad player for us. An unsung hero for the future.
Player of the Season - Manuel Almunia
There actually was no choice in the end. Almunia has also had some critics, but then some people are total idiots. Almunia has been the only Arsenal player to perform consistently well throughout the entire season. Although he wins the award by default, it should not be forgotten that he is one of the best keepers in the league. We all hurt a great deal when Ronaldo scored the second goal at the Emirates in the Champions League semi-final. The only reason we were still in the game is that Almunia had put in the performance of a lifetime at Old Trafford. If the gutter press has any sense, it will welcome Almunia in the England team without a second thought. He is England's No.1.
Let the banter commence.