Given our struggles this season, the award for Player of the Season appears harder than ever to award. But when considered closer, we can actually credit those that have performed positively in a negative and at times toxic atmosphere, as more deserving than winners from previous seasons. Below charts the candidates with supporting rationale:
#5. Ainsley Maitland-Niles: A lack of appearances is the against argument here but ratio of high-quality performances versus games played puts him back in the mix. Predominantly playing at full back has provided a good showcase of his one vs on defending proficiency, pace, stamina and attacking quality. Given his lack of appears it is plausible in other seasons that he wouldn’t have been shortlisted but in the context of this season and looking around the other playing personnel, it is difficult to find candidates more consistent with less costly errors.
#4. Jack Wilshere: Subconscious bias has to be considered given one’s desire for Jack to return to world-class form, inherit the Arsenal captaincy and sign a long-term contract but even being objective, Jack’s consistency since December has shown more exceptional than poor performances typified by an exquisite performance at Crystal Palace. Jack’s uniqueness is about controlling games and driving from midfield (born from quick feet, exceptional technique and decent acceleration) consequently pushing the team forwards in a way not evident when he is absent. It is therefore important not to judge his contribution only by comparing numbers with his counterparts.
#3. Aaron Ramsey: A judge’s nightmare given his innate ability to go from talismanic figure (scoring vital goals as part of big-game performances) one week to ineffective, sloppy and invisible the next. Aaron is included based on a higher level of consistency this season, backed up by a good return of assists and goals especially in big games. Arsenal need to sign Aaron on a long-term contract given his emergence as not only a big game player but also a leader from within the squad.
#2. Mesut Ozil: Arsenal’s most talented squad member and only real candidate for world-class status. Another classy season which at its best has showcased startling technique, touch and creativity combined with a productivity that has seen a fruitful goal and assist return. Mesut is just pipped to the number one spot due to a failure to influence some high-profile fixtures.
#1. Nacho Monreal: Player of the Season does not really need to be debated this year. Nacho won’t be the fashionable choice when compared with our playmakers, goal scorers and midfield dictators but defensively and offensively his consistency cannot be argued with. His defensive performances have been gallant for the bulk of the season with an array of blocks, tackles, headers and interceptions, ready to be consolidated into a highlight reel but equally, he has proven to be industrious offensively, with again an impressive assist and goal contribution.
No performance encapsulates Nacho better than at home to Chelsea in the League Cup with us attempting to protect a lead (something we are not historically good at) under significant pressure, Nacho typified our resilience on the night with a defensively heroic performance which almost certainly influenced the other players around him and the result overall. It is such performances that have seen him emerge as a point of reliability and reassurance when the chips are down.
Football awards will always be subjective with differing levels of importance placed on ability, moments and behaviours but few will argue that consistency is the real defining factor. Consistency in football means positive defensive and offensive contribution on a regular basis with the need to avoid high profile mishaps. Nacho Monreal, a rank outsider in August, is the player this season who has been able to find such a balance.