Player of the Season

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‘How Nacho cultivated his nose for goal’

We were indebted to Nacho Monreal on several occasions last season.

In addition to last-gasp clearances and vital tackles, the Spain defender also added goals to his game and developed a knack of scoring at crucial times.
Such was Monreal’s improvement in front of goal that he scored six times last term - twice as many goals as he had managed in his previous five campaigns - and Arsène Wenger had plenty of praise for the defender.
“Nacho Monreal has had a very good season,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “Age of course, when you’re a defender, is maybe less damaging than when you play in the middle of the park or up front, because you can use your experience.
“Nacho has also turned up to score the goal when it was needed many times this season and that’s why he’s a very important player for us.

“Sometimes when they have that [nose for goal] I ask them, ‘Where did you play in your childhood?’ and most of the time you get the answer, ‘Up front’.
“That’s something that they cultivated at a very young age and then afterwards they have been pushed back because they lack a little bit of pace or short technique, but they have developed that nose and anticipation at a young age.”

Player of the season

Player of the Season: Aaron Ramsey

This week we'll announce our Player of the Season for 2017/18 - as voted for by you, the fans.

Our winner is Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international was in inspired form for much of the campaign and deservedly claims the award for the second time in his Arsenal career.

Rob Kelly gives his verdict on the 27-year-old.

There were three moments in Aaron Ramsey's season that highlight just how important he has become to this Arsenal team - and point to a player once again at the peak of his powers.

The first came in February when he scored his first hat-trick for us, a well-taken treble as we eased past Everton at Emirates Stadium. Here we were seeing a player with a sense of timing and composure in front of goal that is rare in a midfielder.

The second moment came just a few months later, and only served to confirm the impression that he has become one of Europe's premier midfielders, as he soared in the box against CSKA Moscow, flicked out a leg and acrobatically volleyed the ball up and over the goalkeeper and into the net.

It was a goal that brought Emirates Stadium to its feet, and was yet another memorable moment for the Wales international's already bulging highlights reel.

The third however, probably meant more to him than the previous two. It came in Arsene Wenger's last match in charge, when - in what felt like a symbolic move - the manager handed the captain's armband to a player he had brought to the club as a 17-year-old. 

For while the dominant narratives this term have surrounded our struggles on the road and the boss' departure, it should not mask the fact that Ramsey has been personally outstanding for much of a difficult campaign collectively.

Indeed, when you think of Ramsey at his very best you might naturally land on 2013/14 when he was involved in 18 Premier League goals and was hailed as one of the most exciting talents in Europe.

But it says much for how he has performed in 2017/18 that despite the team's form and some injury absences, he has only been involved in three goals less than that stellar season. And it underlines his status that his contribution this term has seen him take his place in our list of top-10 goalscorers under Wenger.

It has been another fine campaign for Ramsey, and with his best years ahead of him it is an exciting thought that he should only get even better.

What they said...

“He makes a huge physical contribution to our play, which everyone knows he’s capable of. When Aaron’s fit, he’s magnificent. He’s been efficient lately and is really coming back to his best."
Per Mertesacker, December 2017

“He’s always had that [self-belief], he’s always had a strong personality. I think the biggest part in the game, at 18 or 19 years of age, is not so much your talent, its more your personality, the belief in your own qualities and he’s always had that.”
Arsene Wenger, April 2018

Best moments

Arsenal 5-1 Everton
Premier League
February 3, 2018

This was Ramsey at his attacking best, as he scored his first hat-trick for the club as we blew Everton away at Emirates Stadium. Coming just days after Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had joined the club, the Wales international stole the show with three well-taken strikes as we eased to a comfortable victory.

Arsenal 4-1 CSKA Moscow
Premier League
April 5, 2018

Ramsey scored twice in this game, and while his first was a well-taken in itself, it was nothing compared to his second. With 27 minutes gone in this Europa League quarter-final first leg, Mesut Ozil chipped the ball over the top of the CSKA defence for Ramsey to run on to. Without breaking stride, the midfielder jumped, flicked out a leg and sent a sensational volley looping up and over Igor Akinfeev and into the net.

Player of the season

Player of the Season: In second place...

This week we'll announce our Player of the Season for 2017/18 - as voted for by you, the fans.

In second place is Nacho Monreal. The Spain international was outstanding at the back once again and was just edged out into second place with 36 per cent of the votes cast.

Rob Kelly gives his verdict on the 32-year-old.

When, at the turn of the year, Arsene Wenger hailed Nacho Monreal as a "silent leader", you somehow understood exactly what he meant.

The Spain international may not be cut from the same cloth as the likes of Mr Arsenal, Tony Adams, but his influence on this team remains unmistakeable.

Monreal is a quiet, unassuming character - albeit one very popular with the squad off the pitch and one with a very handy knack for delivering on it when it matters most.

That was certainly the case this season, when he scored six times - his best return for the club - and on each occasion, his strike was our first goal of the game.

Particularly memorable was his performance against Crystal Palace when, just back from a month out, he scored one and assisted two in just 13 minutes. It was not long before the fans christened him La Cabra, solidifying his place in their affections. 

Then there was his part in our equaliser in the second leg of our Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea when, having gone a goal down, Monreal's header deflected off two players and in. The goal may not have been his officially, but the fans knew how important La Cabra had been again.

But it was not just up front where he made a big impact. It says a lot for Nacho's performance level that in a season where we struggled defensively, he remained one of our best players.

His brilliant goal-line clearance to deny Jay Rodriguez in our victory against West Brom back in September will live long in the memory, but less noteworthy was the way he seamlessly slotted into our back three and didn't put a foot wrong.

Nacho Monreal may never gain the column inches that the likes of Mesut Ozil or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang regularly do, but our silent leader keeps making a big noise on the pitch and that's why Mr Consistency is second in our Player of the Season vote.

What they said...

“He’s doing really well this year. It’s a bit of a change in position for him, but I think it suits him a lot and now that he’s got all the experience he’s got, he’s started scoring goals. He’s just a very cool guy, not like the normal footballer that people think of. A very good professional who takes care of himself a lot and it shows on the pitch."
Hector Bellerin, October 2017

“He is absolutely vital for us because he can play centre back in the three, he can play full-back in the four. It gives me many options to choose the tactics of the way we play, before the game. He is confident, he has good timing and he is an intelligent player and a very professional player."
Arsene Wenger, January 2018

Best moments

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace
Premier League
January 20, 2018

On his first game back after a month out injured, Nacho made an instant impact, scoring one and claiming two assists as we eased to victory against Crystal Palace. The Spain international was at the heart of everything in a blistering opening to the game, heading in from close range after just six minutes and then creating the goals for Alex Iwobi and Laurent Koscielny.

Everton 2-5 Arsenal
Premier League
October 22, 2017

Our away form during 2017/18 was clearly a major issue, and had it not been for a timely intervention from Monreal at Everton we might not have picked up one of our only wins on the road in the Premier League. Trailing 1-0 to Everton at Goodison Park, the Spain international reacted quickest to a loose ball to fire in an equaliser just before the interval. That goal gave was the confidence to take control after the interval, running out comfortable winners.


Player of the Season: In third place...

This week we’re announcing our Player of the Season for 2017/18, as voted for by you, the fans.

In third place, you’ve selected Mesut Ozil. 

Here’s our verdict on our No 11’s season.

Mesut Ozil: the verdict

As has been the case every season since he joined, Mesut Ozil’s creative statistics made for fine reading in 2017/18.

The 29-year-old committed his future to the club in January, signing a long-term contract, and made 115 chances for his team-mates over the course of the campaign. Only three players created more opportunities than Ozil’s 84 in the Premier League, and our German international played fewer minutes than those who finished above him in the charts.

Ozil made 12 goals for his team-mates in all competitions this season, and became the fastest player to reach 50 assists in the Premier League when setting up Shkodran Mustafi’s opener in our 3-0 home win over Watford in March. 

Ozil is associated with setting up goals and some of those he created in 2017/18 were simply excellent, notably his deep cross for Nacho Monreal at Swansea City, his incisive through ball to Aaron Ramsey in the San Siro and his looping pass for the same player in the next round of the Europa League, at home to CSKA Moscow.

Performance-wise, we were treated to some vintage Ozil displays, particularly as 2017 drew to a close. He was exceptional in our 2-0 north London derby win at the Emirates in November, scored a stunning volley to give us a 1-0 win over Newcastle United and followed that up with perhaps his best display of the season in the thrilling 3-3 draw against Liverpool in his next appearance.

Regretfully, a combination of illness and injury saw Ozil miss a number of matches after the turn of the year, but this was still an encouraging campaign from our playmaker-in-chief.



“He makes things easy for you… the players who play around him know that he makes everything so much easier.”

Hector Bellerin was full of praise for Ozil after the north London derby win in November 

“Nobody has to convince you that Ozil is a great player, but he added something that people wanted to see from him as well, against Spurs and tonight, that he can fight and come back and win the ball back. Once people see that they are behind you.”

Arsène Wenger loved Ozil’s display in the draw against Liverpool

Arsène Wenger on Mesut Ozil


Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle United
Premier League
December 16, 2017

Ozil has provided some jaw-dropping moments of brilliance since joining us from Real Madrid in the summer of 2012 - and this goal was one of the very best.
There looked to be little danger when Alexis’ shot was blocked and then headed away. But Ozil reached the loose ball and, while moving backwards, arrowed a powerful left-foot volley into the roof of the net.

Arsenal 4-1 CSKA Moscow
Europa League quarter-final, first leg
April 5, 2018

This was one of Ozil’s standout performances of the season. A scintillating start saw us score four times in the first 35 minutes of this Europa League quarter-final - and the German playmaker was at the heart of almost all of our fine play. He won the penalty that enabled Alexandre Lacazette to put us 2-1 up before setting up goals for Aaron Ramsey and Lacazette to put us in firm control of the tie.


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