Our individual performance of the season

by .


Morning girls and boys – it’s been a while since we last spoke – please accept my apologies.

Below is a piece I wrote for the official Arsenal magazine, for which I was posed the question: “Which player gave the best individual performance this season – and in which game?”. The answer is below…

“It’s been a difficult season following Arsenal, with the all too familiar feeling of being over-powered by a European giant in the Champions League knockout stages, coupled with the far less familiar sensation of finishing outside of the top four in the league. Nonetheless, it was a season punctuated by a heroic cup final victory at Wembley in May – which for the record is one of the best days I’ve had as an Arsenal supporter for many years. Pure euphoria is a rare commodity, but that game certainly hit the heights.

One constant throughout my memory of following the club is, regardless of final league position, there are always a smattering of virtuoso performances during a campaign, and 2016/17 proved to be no exception. When considering the best individual performance of the season, Mesut Ozil’s hat-trick and assist combo against Ludogorets at home, Alexis’ unerring hat-trick at West Ham, the former pair’s demolition of Chelsea at the Emirates and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Wembley in the semi-final against City all came to mind.

When I was given this brief though, there really only ever was one winner, and it came in Arsenal’s season ending exclamation mark. It can only be Per.

Everyone has favourite players, who aren’t your favourite because they’re the best, but because they embody something you can admire or identify with as a supporter, and our BFG falls into that category. As an ageing centre-back myself with ever diminishing speed (which was never really there to lose), his ability to perform at the very highest level in spite of his ‘leisurely’ stride puts him in cult hero territory immediately, and that’s without mentioning the genuine affection he seems to hold for the club.

His totemic showing in May’s showpiece against Chelsea solidified his position as cult-hero in-chief, which he produced against all of the odds. Some of the pre-match coverage verged on the disrespectful, with some making out Arsenal would be starting with a ringer at centre-half, and not the World Cup winning, 100-German-caps earning defender.
However, his preparation was hardly ideal, having not started a game in 13 months and with only 37 first-team minutes under his belt (not to mention playing in an unfamiliar back three) whilst facing the league champions.

We need not have worried though. Per’s performance was astoundingly good. His dominance over Diego Costa and organisation of the defence was staggering and, most satisfyingly perhaps, it was a performance borne out of experience, know-how and an oversized football brain.

To borrow the cliché (as our manager did after the game), his performance was a genuine exemplar of intelligent defending and draws one to think of the other football cliché about the first yard being in your head – on this basis, our captain is a zephyr-like flier.

Anyhow, pace is overrated – give me intelligence all day long. And intelligence is something Per Mertesaker possesses in abundance.”

Follow me @BeardofPires

323 Responses to “Our individual performance of the season”

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  1. Up 4 grabs now

    3-5-2 for me, If Alexis is going?
    Have been banging the drum for two years now to switch to two strikers.
    If we don’t buy anyone else starting eleven can be this.


    Holding, Mustafi, koz

    Bellerin, xhaka, Ramsey, kolasinec

    Giroud, Lacazette

    Has pace and height up top and both can hold the ball up for ozil and Ramsay to run on. Obviously lacazette brings the pace!

    Playing two strikers stretches defences and leaves gaps, for midfielders to run into.

    All those teams that come to the Emirates and packout the defence would have 2-3 players to deal with not just one lone striker.
    Three at the back gives stability and the fullbacks are pacy enough to get forward and back.
    With xhaka patrolling in front of defence it’s not bad.



  2. raptora

    Biggest problem is that we lack a manager who can get the most of his players. To motivate them and make them fight in every single game. The so called not good enough midfield pair literally ATE the Chelsea pair so hard that I’m sure they had some problems in their sleep. Xhaka, Ramsey, AOC, Welbeck were literally like possessed and gave huge fight for every single ball which gave absolutely zero space for the Chelsea players to play their game. If our players can give the same fight, desire, determination to give their everything every single time our team is good enough to compete especially with the acquisitions of Sead and Lacazette so far this summer. Ofc we can always upgrade on our players but our main issue is that we are not ready to make that extra inch nearly often enough. If we could replicate our willingness to give all in not even 100% but just in a 3/4 of the big, big games vs the top table teams it would make a huge difference. So for me it’s not a matter of personnel but of lack of motivation and top desire.

  3. Bamford10


    No offense, but a front three of Ozil, Giroud and Lacazette is very underwhelming. That won’t bother anyone.

  4. raptora

    “Sky sources: Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette is at Arsenal’s training ground having his medical. Once the medical is complete, Lacazette is expected to sign a five-year deal.

    Arsenal have agreed a deal with Lyon which is worth a club-record £52m.”


  5. China

    Up 4 grabs now what worries me most is that subs bench

    There are only a couple of players on there worthy of making the squad, let alone the bench!

  6. Park Chu-young's left testicle

    Up 4 grabs now

    …and that subs bench is underwhelming – but I suppose that’s where we’re at.

  7. China

    Great mind and all!

    But yeah he did say if we don’t sign anyone else

    And I’m sure ufgn would much rather we did considerable more work on other signings, he’s just going with a realistic option that wenger will probably leave us with

  8. Park Chu-young's left testicle

    If we were to play to up front I’d rather Lucas and Lacazette or even Walcott and Lacazette. The oppositions defence would need to keep on there toes and wouldn’t be able to play a high line.

  9. China

    Sign laca, mahrez and lemar. Keep giroud

    Assuming we sell sanchez, keep ozil and the rest stays at the same at least we’d be a better attacking unit next season

  10. Carts


    What you’re essentially hoping for is that our players do something that they haven’t been able to do in 14 seasons. Do you know how unlikely that is to ever happen under Wenger’s reign, while he continues in the fashion that he has.

    Don’t let a couple of good results lull you into a false sense of security. We beat Chelsea when it mattered, but what really matters is winning the league. I remember Wenger saying something like “we did our job, the other teams didn’t” when Leicester won the league, cos we took 6 point off of them Like, do you how how pathetic that sounds..

    I’m not, for one moment, suggesting that signing 3 x £50m players will win us the league or get us past the last 16 of the CL. That isn’t a given due to the caveat that is Wenger! The same way having 5’11> players covering every position isn’t going to win you the league. Even basketball teams know this.

    However, looking at it from an almost logical perspective tells me that Wenger’s approach to personnel doesn’t exactly stack the odds in our favour. Let alone motivating the players to repeat Chelsea-style performances when we need them.

    How many times have you read or heard someone say something like “what Arsenal really need is someone who has xxxx and can do xxxx”. Only for Wenger to serve up the opposite?

  11. Carts

    Welcome Lacazette (when I see him holding the jersey).

    Losing Sanchez and signing Lacazette is a sideways move. We really should be ADDING Lacazette to the fold.

    This is what happens when you have a manager who far too reactive!

  12. China

    If Sanchez does see out his contract then at least let’s get laca and one serious new winger

    Personally I think it’s a mistake for sanchez to see out his contract

    He’s not a spring chicken and he’ll be a year older. Who knows if he’ll pick up a big injury or have an unusually bad season

    He’s been pushing his body way too hard for a decade now. Burnout of some sort or a major muscle injury is very possible

    as well the world of football changes so quickly. Maybe the team he wants to join (city?) will be after a younger model by this time next year.

    As well he’s literally wasting another precious year of his career staying under wenger

    That’s my take on it – but from an Arsenal footballing perspective, it does mean we’d only need to sign one winger this summer rather than two which is nice in the short term

  13. China

    Actually considering the ridiculous price inflation every summer, maybe we should just kick him out the door for what we can get and sign his replacement now regardless of if he wants to see out this year

    Next summer we’d need a new elite winger and without a transfer fee from sanchez and including inflation it’s probably 50+m minimum.

    We could sign lemar and mahrez combined this summer for probably 65 and recoup the best part of 50 back from Alexis

    Surely that makes the most sense

  14. Cesc Appeal



    If Sanchez is clearly indicating he has no intention of signing on and will walk in the summer for massive wages elsewhere on a free then sell him this summer. Can get anywhere between £50-70 Million for him depending on how much City want him and how well we play the negotiations. Use that to prise Lemar away from Monaco.

    As you say, with the market the way it is Lemar could end up being a £60 Million plus player by next summer off the bat or unattainable because another club bought him this summer.

    If there is a serious chance Sanchez might sign on again, fair enough. But it sure does not sound like it.

    Losing him is a blow, but we can recover from it by being ambitious and clever in the market. Keeping a player who seemingly wants to leave anyway just seems like a lazy, short sighted move to me. Unless, as I say, he is making serious noises that his mind may change.

  15. Wallace

    If we can afford to bid 100m for M’Bappe we can afford to eat a fee for Alexis. I’d be delighted if he gives us next season.