Season reviews for players will be something of a regular feature around here for the next three weeks or so. The idea is to try to give a reasonable, fair assessment of what each player brought to the table and what they left to be desired (i.e. not to troll the crud out of these guys) from a team standpoint, topped off with a little emoticon (an idea gleefully stolen from Graham MacAree at We Ain't Got No History). Beltrans and I will trade off writing the blurbs. As always, please feel free to comment with your thoughts below.
We'll start with the goalkeepers, and that means first up is Manuel Almunia, below the fold (the story, not Almunia).
Manuel Almunia made eight Premier League appearances this season for Arsenal along with four FA Cup appearances and two in Europe (one as a substitute at the Camp Nou). It was not a season covered in glory for the Navarran, as he slipped further away from his best form in 2007-08 by most accounts. Still a wonderful shot stopper, Almunia's decision-making led to problems this season, most notably against West Brom in a 3-2 loss at the Emirates where he was out of position for Jerome Thomas' winner and brought down Peter Odemwingie outside of the penalty area. Similarly, in the 2-2 reverse at the Hawthorns, a miscommunication between Almunia and Sebastien Squillaci saw them both well out of position as Odemwingie rolled home from 18 yards into the empty net.
Still, at times, Almunia showed why he was Arsenal's first choice for so long. Coming on at the Camp Nou for an injured Wojciech Szczesny, he made a series of fantastic saves that harkened back to his Emirates performance last season against the Catalans, which kept Arsenal within range as they nearly squeaked through into the semifinals. On his day, Almunia can be an excellent goalkeeper, but he seemed to struggle to communicate with the back four at times this year, and injury caused him to lose his place to Jens Lehmann in April. Overall, the emergence of Sczcesny this year probably means that Almunia's days as a number one at Arsenal are over, and nobody would be shocked if the 34-year old moved on this summer to a new club for a last run. It would be a shame to end his Arsenal career with a season below his normal standards, but there will be wonderful saves to remember.
Season grade: :/
Or "C", I guess. That's the face I make when I think about him, though.
Grade from BeltransMole: "I might give a D+, but I think I'm harsher".