do this Half-Term Report type of thing, although it's a little past halfway, I think an honest appraisal of the squad as a whole will show that it's something of a miracle Arsenal can even be considered title contenders at this stage.
Part one... the defenders
Manuel Almunia 4/10
There are not many stand-out keepers in the league. Shay Given is probably the best but even he's got some flaws. But there's not many number ones, in my opinion, who are as suspect as Almunia.
The most damning thing here is the lack of progress. His first breakthrough came in 04/05. Lehmann was still a decent keeper, unfairly dropped to deflect attention from other areas. Almunia was unconvincing in that run, and soon the German returned, but one could have hoped that the Spaniard would develop. He has not done so in any palpable way.
He has decent games but they are rare. Playing for a big team, he is not asked to do much in most matches. Look at Van Der Sar- nobody would call him the most spectacular keeper, but he does a solid, unfussy job. If you look at the goals Arsenal concede, as much as half seem to raise questions about Almunia that he seems ill-equipped to answer.
William Gallas 7/10
Gallas' reaction to losing the captaincy has been admirable. He doesn't strike me as the most likable chap but he's got his head down, returned to something like his best, and that's to his credit. Maybe Kolo didn't suit him. I love Kolo so it's hard to say this, but the months since his departure have confirmed Gallas as the better defender. He's cooler, he uses his pace more cleverly, and with a partner who attacks the ball and thus provides the necessary chemistry, he still looks one of the Premiership's better defenders.
He might remain slightly deficient in the character stakes, still prone to a bit of sulking. It's more of an issue at Arsenal because the squad Wenger has built is low on character generally- being experienced, Gallas with or without the armband is obviously burdened with leadership responsibilities that don't really suit his personality. It's not his fault, but sometimes he could deal with adversity a little better.
Thomas Vermaelen 8/10
Vermaelen has already proved a great signing, and it's a pity this success has not encouraged Wenger to make similar transfers when they are so plainly needed at the moment. It's hard to criticise him. His attitude is always brilliant, he gives us an aerial presence at the back, makes good decisions, has a turn of pace. He's young for a centre back and yet has made very few errors. And then there are the goals, some of which have been pretty important.
Bacary Sagna 7/10
I'm gonna give Sagna a 7 because, at the end of the day, he's a defender. And nobody can deny he does that brilliantly, consistently. But he's specifically a full back. If he was a winger, he'd be a 5. If he was a centre half, he'd be an 8. He does the defensive stuff so well, and yet does not offer enough going forward, as an Arsenal full back has to. He tends to offer good width but his crossing remains erratic at best. Maybe now that he has an actual TARGET, in Bendtner, this aspect of his game will improve.
Gael clichy 5/10
clichy is a frustrating case of a player stuck in a rut. He's the reason nobody was too worried when that cunt Ashley cole left but leave sentiment at the door and you've got to admit that cole remains a far superior player in almost every facet of the game.
Much like Sagna, but more so, clichy's end product is disappointing. His pace and dynamism get him into promising positions in almost every game, but he seems to lack the brain to make the right decision, or even the ability to swing in a passable impression of a cross, on most occasions.
Unlike Sagna, however, clichy has an alarming tendency to fall asleep in defensive situations, something that has dogged him throughout his Arsenal career. He's been on the end of a severe roasting by a few wingers aswell, most recently Ashley Young the other night. While he's a much preferable option to Traore, it's a pity that Gibbs got injured when he did because he looks promising and a bit of serious competition may be what clichy needs.
Mikael Silvestre 2/10
Has looked a liability in every game he's played- THANKFULLY there haven't been too many of them.
Emmanuel Eboue 5/10
While seeming a quite unpleasant man, Eboue has become useful in an annoying sort of way as a utility player who can play anywhere on the right side of the pitch. I suppose he's our version of Kuyt at Liverpool or Jurassic Park at United, lacking in any real talent but will "put in a shift" to reasonable effect. The main difference being that Eboue is a complete bastard.
Gibbs & Traore 5/10 & 5/10
I can't remember how much Gibbs has even played- I know it's not very much- but he does look one for the near future so he gets a 5 despite his lack of games.
The feeling with Traore is that his future lies elsewhere. He did ok for a few games but lately was starting to look exposed. His explolsive pace is useful, and he does know how to cross a ball which is rare at Arsenal, but defensively he looks weak and despite my reservations about clichy's form, it is a good time to have him back.