Hindsight, they say, is always 20/20.
Still, it did not take perfect vision for our panel of supporters to proclaim that Aaron Ramsey was Arsenal's most valuable player during the first half the 2013/14 campaign. The Welshman led the way with 13 goals and was the engine of a very effective midfield. Ramsey was the unanimous – and easy choice.
But what is not an easy task is predicting the future – especially in football. There is still a long way to go in the season and there are plenty of opportunities for someone else to have a Ramsey-like run of form. But there are also plenty of factors that can change a player's season – for good or bad – at the drop of a hat.
So we went back to our panel of prognosticators and asked them which player they felt would step up and lead the way for Arsenal over the next five months.
Question: Who do you think will be Arsenal's MVP in the second half of the 2013/14 campaign?
Cazorla was MVP for Arsenal last season and it's easy to see why: he played more than anyone else (49 matches), was second in overall assists on the team (13), and fourth overall in goals scored (12). And if we drill a bit deeper into his stats in League play, he led Arsenal in chances created (96), shots (115), dribbles, assists, and was second in overall passes. He also didn't shirk his defensive duties, pressing high up the pitch and earning nearly 4 tackles and interceptions per game (combined).
Cazorla's gone off the boil a bit this season at least partly because he needed extra time to recover from his national team duties and when he returned to Arsenal, he found his favored spot in the middle of the park taken over by Arsenal's record signing, Mesut Ozil. Now, with Wenger deploying him more as a wide midfielder, Cazorla is playing both ends of the pitch more than ever and while that might take a bite out of his forward contributions the supporters all love to see an Arsenal forward put in a good tackle.
When Cazorla played for Malaga I was surprised by the amount of defensive work he put in and wondered if he would do that again with Arsenal. This season he's going to get a chance to show us and if he plays the way he did in Spain, where he was similarly deployed wide, I have no doubt that he could be Arsenal's second-half MVP.
If Cazorla plays the way he did in Spain, where he was similarly deployed wide, I have no doubt that he could be Arsenal's second-half MVP.
Walcott was another player I felt could be second-half MVP until his season was cut short by injury. I feel bad for Theo, his career arc is right at the tipping point, he was just gathering a head of steam this season, and then... bam. Now he's not only going to miss Arsenal's title challenge but the World Cup as well. I'm not alone in saying that I'm gutted for the young man and hope he has the speediest of recoveries.
And finally, there are the obvious choices like Ramsey and Ozil but what about Szczesny? When was the last time a keeper earned the most valuable player award? Arsenal's new style means that Szczesny is being worked more than ever in the goal and has come out of this first 20 games looking like one of the best keepers in the League. I know that defense is often attributed to the whole team but Szczesny has made some absolutely crucial saves this season to preserve Arsenal's top form. Szczesny has already made key saves against Crystal Palace, Fulham, WBA, Liverpool, Southampton, and Tottenham all of which rescued points for us.
Could Szczesny be the second half MVP?
I agree with Tim that Walcott would have been one of the favorites to seize MVP in the second half of the season had injury not cruelly ruled him out. Both this season and last he’s made an immense contribution through clinical finishing, chance creation and his ability to pull defenses out of position, so it goes without saying that his 6 month absence will be a huge blow to Arsenal’s offense.
On the other hand, midfield has been the area where a lot of Arsenal’s battles have been won and lost throughout the season -- whether that’s down to offensive creativity or defensive cover -- and it’s because of that that I think we could also see Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey vie for MVP in the second half of the season.
Arteta’s breakup play in front of the back four and distribution and link-up out of Arsenal’s defensive third has been the bedrock for a lot of their success further up the field, Liverpool and Napoli (at home, ahem) being notable examples.
Slightly higher up the pitch, Aaron Ramsey’s goals and assists have so often been the x-factor in what a lot of people in pre-season were saying would be a fairly predictable Arsenal offense. The Welshman’s just gone off the boil a bit in recent games, but if he learns to dial back his game from always attempting the sublime and concentrates more on executing the fundamentals in games where he’s maybe not at his best, I think we could see him regain the kind of confidence and form that has enabled him to shoulder much of the team’s goalscoring and creative weight already this season.
I’m of the strong opinion that Aaron Ramsey is the reason Arsenal are currently joint top of the table with Liverpool on points, and if he can once again find a way to impress himself on Arsenal’s offense, I think we could see him be the key man in helping us stay top of the table in the second half of the season.
I suppose that the first-half MVP this season must be Aaron Ramsey. Without his goalscoring and overall play, I shudder to think where Arsenal would be this season. We've seen him put in a few lackluster performances of late, largely due to him playing virtually every minute of the season thus far. So I think it's unfair and maybe unrealistic to expect a similar contribution from Rambo in the second half.
What I think we're all waiting for is to see the real Mesut Ozil. Our record signing has been influential so far, but has too often appeared to go missing in games. I've heard both Arsène Wenger and Thierry Henry compare Ozil to Robert Pires; the manager seems to think that, like Le Bob, Le Mesut is still adjusting to the physical demands of the Premier League, but that once he does, we'll see him truly at his best.
So once again I'm placing my faith in Mesut Ozil and in Arsène's vision of what he can become, and how that could push this Arsenal team on to even bigger an better things. It's safe to say that we have yet to see the best of Ozil. I think that if things click for him, we will be in for a massive treat.
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 9 Jan 2014