The first half of the 2014/15 season was marred by plenty of frustrations. Draws to Spurs, Hull City were damaging while losses to Chelsea, Manchester United and Stoke City in particular cast serious doubt over Arsene Wenger’s future. The second stage of the campaign has certainly been more of a cause for optimism, with big wins over Manchester City, United and Liverpool proving the Gunners have what it takes to challenge with England’s elite.
Our form has coincided with a number of big surprises in the New Year, with these select three players now firmly first choice in their position – something we would not have guessed during the summer last year.
The Spanish wizard has made the box-to-box role his own of late, playing a lot deeper than usual but with the necessary aggression and physicality the position demands. At the start of the campaign it was difficult to see Santi retaining his position with calls for Mesut Ozil to be played centrally and Wenger’s insistence to squeeze Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey into the lineup.
The Manchester City win in January was certainly a turning point for Cazorla when he proved he could boss it against the big dogs. His ability to swiftly squeeze out of difficult situations with his tricky ambidextrous feet enables us to have a reliable ball player in the middle of the park.
He still contributes going forward, but one of the many positives of Cazorla lying deeper is Mesut Ozil playing in his favoured No.10 position that has seen the German rediscover his spark. Having Francis Coquelin begin to add the combative edge, Wenger stumbled upon a promising a midfield trio combination with Cazorla at the heart of it.
Aaron Ramsey, who is looking sharper and sharper, is certainly the long term option in Arsenal’s midfield but Santi has been undroppable during 2015 and has been integral to our surge up the table.
The La Masia Academy graduate is now firmly our first choice right back with Mathieu Debuchy crocked once more. The 20-year-old was essentially fourth in the pecking order for his favoured position last summer but the departure of Carl Jenkinson on loan and several injuries to Debuchy opened the door wide open for Bellerin.
Calum Chambers started the campaign as Wenger’s backup right back but the Englishman’s form dropped off in the New Year which opened the door for the exciting Spaniard. As a result we’ve hardly seen the promising Englishman since however he is likely to develop into a class centre back or defensive midfielder.
Bellerin was cut apart in the horrific Champions League loss to Borussia Dortmund in October but has since come on in leaps and bounds. Now firmly in the managers thinking, it’s difficult to see how Carl Jenkinson gets back into the squad let alone the lineup.
Still, Bellerin has a lot to learn and his inexperience let’s him down on occasion. But the signs are positive, especially with the attacking part of his game. That beauty against Liverpool is a demonstration of how the young defender can certainly contribute going forward.
Le Coq is the favourite for the ‘story of the season’. His Arsenal career seemed all but over after several disappointing loan spells in France and Germany and his struggle to earn Arsene Wenger’s backing in his preferred defensive midfield position.
There were some positive signs for the Frenchman this season however. He was arguably our best player in the Capital One Cup loss to Southampton – impressing at left back to again demonstrate his versatility. But his inability to push ahead of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini forced him out of the club on loan once more – this time more locally with Charlton Athletic. Some strong performances and regular playing time enabled Coquelin to regain some confidence before he was recalled earlier than anticipated.
Naturally the former U21 French international was not particularly chuffed with the early recall with injuries forcing Wenger’s hand. Coquelin became indispensable after a strong showing at West Ham United on Boxing Day and grew in stature from there.
His all action displays have finally injected the combative edge Arsenal have been craving. Someone who sits deep and does the dirty work, but is also a ball player and comfortable in possession. Coquelin has easily surpassed Arteta and Flamini, and looks to have nailed down an integral role at the club. He’ll fancy his chances of retaining the defensive midfield position regardless of what happens in the transfer market – such has been his transformation in 2015.
It’s certainly a tough decision to make although there is one player who I believe stands out above the rest. I leave it up to you Gooners. Cast your vote below, don’t forget to share this article with your friends. Results to follow.