Most successful football clubs have at least one player who has the ability to lift the team onto his back and carry them to victory. These are the players who consistently score the game winning goal, make the key pass or the key stop. And these are the players who are always mentioned when you are looking for a player of the season.
But on a team of superstars, there is usually someone who serves as the glue. The grinder. The player who does the dirty work or performs the thankless task. Often his role is not one that leads to high praise from the pundits or provides him with impressive statistics
And without that player, the team might slip up - or even fall apart.
Who played that role for Arsenal in the 2013/14 season? We turned to our panel of supporters to find out who they think was the team's unsung hero.
This season, I don'tt think any player put in a more tireless contribution behind the scenes than the smooth operator himself, Mikel Arteta. With few exceptions, he's been instrumental in his deep-lying distribution for the attack and a capable foil for the majority of Arsenal's opponents.
I initially thought the "unsung hero" accolade was a bit of a tossup between the Spaniard and Wojciech Szczesny, but for me the deciding factor was the lack of recognition the player received, and in that respect you'd have to say Arteta has received far fewer plaudits for what has been a generally steady season spent performing a sometimes thankless role.
Arteta has received far fewer plaudits for what has been a generally steady season spent performing a sometimes thankless role.
During the last nine months he's endured a lot of criticism - some of it fair, most of it scapegoating more collective team flaws - while being asked to perform a job that's usually carried out by younger, more energetic players at other clubs. You need only look at performances like Liverpool at home, Tottenham away, and either game against Everton at home - where he had to deal with Ross Barkley almost entirely on his own - to see just how effective a rested Arteta can be at breaking up play.
Add to that his unfailing, metronomic passing and steadied penalty-taking ability, and you're looking at a player who, for me, finished the 2013/14 season as Arsenal's most underappreciated yet most reliable player.
Before the season began, no single position was under threat as much as Szczesny’s between the pipes.
For the past several years, pundits continued to question the Pole, and he continued to produce. Young and confident, Szczesny has the makings of the kind of player that could succeed at Arsenal for a very long time. However, every summer, rumors surface and it feels like one mistake could send Szczesny to the bench.
Unlike any other position on the field, there is only one goalkeeper, and the pressure to succeed or be supplanted is greater than any other. Szczesny deserves a lot of credit for his consistency and performance this campaign.
As Joel points out, Arteta’s contributions this past season both on and off the pitch have been well underappreciated by both fans and the media. However, I also think that our defensive unit has not received as many plaudits as it should have.
The player that’s really stood out to me from the back four is Kieran Gibbs.
I think he is incredibly mature and competent for his young age and just 24 years old, he has plenty of time to continue improving if only the injury gods would spare him. Despite injury troubles this past season, he has shown his worth to the Arsenal side. Although Nacho Monreal would be a capable deputy during his layoffs, Gibbs’ absence would still be felt.
His exclusion from the England squad for the World Cup initially came as a surprise to me but later I thought it was probably a better idea for him to get his fitness in order this summer through proper rest so he could be fresh for the new season.
The best is yet to come for Gibbo.
The views expressed above are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 3 Jun 2014