At the end of every season – and at the end of every month actually – fans and pundits alike hand out awards for the most outstanding player over said period of time.
At the end of the 2012/13 season Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta picked up numerous nods for all of their contributions on and off the pitch. Since the start of this season, Aaron Ramsey has picked up just about every award he could get for his incredible performances.
But as we all know, the super stars cannot win games by themselves. In fact, there is almost always a player you may not notice all of the time, but without whom, wins would be fewer and further between.
We turned to our panel of supporters to find out which Arsenal player they feel may have received less credit that he was due over the previous 12 months.
Question: Who was Arsenal's unsung hero in 2013?
We often talk about who the best player is in the Arsenal side, who's on form and who isn't, who is bagging goals and who isn't pulling his weight. Somewhere in there, falling through the cracks in our collective imaginations and performing well while plaudits elude them, is the unsung hero.
This someone has performed admirably over the last 18 months whilst simultaneously being either unfairly vilified or completely ignored by the press and the public at large. And I don't think any Arsenal player or coach fits this dubious bill as well as Per Mertesacker.
The BFG arrived at Arsenal with a great clamor about his lack of pace from pundits who had judged him a failure before ever pulling on an Arsenal shirt. Little as changed in those minds since then, it seems.
Establishing himself as an irreplaceable part of the Arsenal first team last season, Per showed his value in his ability and willingness to organize the Arsenal back line, and has chipped in with with a fair few goals via headers.
Establishing himself as an irreplaceable part of the Arsenal first team last season, Per showed his value in his ability and willingness to organize the Arsenal back line, and has chipped in with with a fair few goals via headers. He's had to form partnerships with no less than two centre-halves (Thomas Vermaelen and, more successfully, Laurent Koscielny), and has performed admirably alongside both. And he has served as the captain in the absence of Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta. All of this while still not receiving the acclaim he is due.
Arsenal fans (apart from the most miserable or obstinate among us) have long since recognized the value that big Per brings to the side (think back to the Vermaelen-Koscielny pairing for comparison). But football pundits have, unsurprisingly, been slow to catch on. So while we watch our Teutonic titan battle opposing strikers, flick on near-post corner kicks, and read the game as well as any defender in England, we are also forced to filter out the white noise from televisions repeating "too slow... too slow..."
If I might break from the question now, I'd just like to send all positive thoughts and best wishes to Pat Rice and his family with his illness. Having met Mr. Rice last year, he was an absolute gentleman in addition to being a fantastic servant to Arsenal Football Club. We fans tend to throw the term "legend" around so much that it loses its meaning. Pat Rice was part of Arsenal as a player, manager and coach for over 40 years. If anyone is deserving of that title, it's Pat Rice. Get well soon, Pat.
First, very classy of Brett to send well wishes to Pat Rice. When I was over last year I did not get the chance to meet up, but many players spoke incredibly highly of the feisty Irishman.
Unsung heros can be a serious and frank discussion - or one filled with humour. I'm going to take the humorous approach to start because we all need a little laugh after some of the officiating in recent games.
My unsung hero is Abou Diaby. Before you all go, WHAT? Think about this, which two players were not getting much playing time while Diaby was playing last season? Rosicky and Ramsey. After Diaby's unfortunate injury, Ramsey and Rosicky made large contributions to a side that narrowly finished in the top four. And this season both players have been fantastic for the Club.
Okay, enough with my little attempt at humour. In all seriousness, the unsung hero is the BFG as Brett has said. Everyone else, and I mean EVERYONE, has received praise from multiple journos and pundits alike. Gibbs has been complimented as essential to the squad, Szczesny is getting praise, and Sagna is back to form that saw him rated as the league's best right back. In the midfield Flamini, Rosicky, Wilshere, Ozil, and of course Ramsey are receiving praise.
But Mertesacker has played more matches than all of them, and he's been fantastic. While it's great to give Per praise, he's been fantastic going under the radar, so maybe that's not such a bad thing...
Brett, not only could I not agree more about Per Mertesacker as the squad’s unsung hero, but I could not echo the sentiments louder for Pat Rice. Wishing all the best to Pat, a true servant of the Arsenal Football Club.
Now to offer a few more names I believe worth of mention:
• Mathieu Flamini – Seen at the time as a minor signing, Flamini has re-established himself as an Arsenal footballer and has played far more crucial minutes than many thought upon his return.
• Tomas Rosicky – Does anyone play with a higher work-rate than Rosicky? With some of the injury woes, he could play a huge part in the second half of the season.
• Wojciech Szczesny – I always feel like the leader of the Szczesny fan club during the Roundtable discussions, but with what he went through both for club and country, Szczesny has been better than he has gotten credit for. He has allowed less than a goal per match and excluding the match at Manchester City, 12 goals in the other 18 matches.
• Arsène Wenger – Sometimes too much credit is given to the players on the field, but the Frenchman deserves bags of credit for what he has done this season. Maybe moreso than anything, his undying belief in his tactics and his players continues to shine through.
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 31 Dec 2013