I was on twitter earlier today and noticed a link to this article from Artekkers. It’s a piece from the Guardian listing the top 100 players in the world and, in a word, it’s terrible.
Now I know everyone has a different opinion and I take this into account when I read things like this – Four Four Two Magazine’s attempt, for example, irritated me somewhat but was at least partially understandable – but this attempt really was appallingly bad from anyone’s perspective. The top 5 and indeed most of the top 10 seem fairly accurate, although I would severely question Cavani’s inclusion in the latter, but the worse thing is the inclusion of players that really shouldn’t be anywhere near the list. At all.
The worst of these are Southampton’s Emmanuel Mayuka, Celtic’s Victor Wanyama and St Etienne’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, in 85th, 81st and 69th place respectively. Those numbers are of course fairly high, it’s not like they’re truly in the same league as Messi and co, but Emmanuel Mayuka 85th in the world? I highly doubt that – he not even a guaranteed starter at Southampton. True, Aubameyang is a decent enough striker but he’s ranked higher than Santi Cazorla, Hamsik, Sneijder, Lewandowski, Javi Martinez, Javier Pastore, Pedro, Modric and Pepe. Even seeing him ahead of lesser players like Kagawa, Dembele and Hulk is baffling.
And Mayuka, I’ve tried to make a list of all the players I can think of that are better than Mayuka. I stopped fairly early on when I realised Wigan’s Shaun Maloney is probably on that list based on this season’s performances. Top 100? You’re having a laugh.
In a way it’s refreshing that such relatively unknown players on the list – too many times the ‘big’ names like Gerrard and Lampard claim places as high as the top 50 or so despite clearly not deserving it – but it feels a bit forced, as if the Guardian writers are trying to be a bit different. The three players I’ve focused on are African players and there’s a touch of needing to meet a quota. There are more obscure players on the list that I can’t really judge, with Corinthians’ Paulinho and Shaktar’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Fernandinho standing out, but that you really can’t justify them being places ahead of more established stars – Jack Wilshere doesn’t even make the list! Another Shaktar player, Willian, also raises debate; he may be a good player and a rising star but 26th in the world? No chance. He’s rated as better than Cazorla and Fabregas among countless others and I really don’t see how you justify it.
To be honest, this has little to nothing to do with Arsenal, I just needed to rant about it and I’m forcing myself to end it there. But it does raise an interesting point – how many Arsenal players are really ‘world class’? It’s hard to categorize this sort of tag – I normally say top 15 or so in your position is world class but that still seems overly generous. It used to be top 10 but in positions like attacking mid there are too many truly quality players not to merit that description.
In this Guardian article, only one Arsenal player – Cazorla – is counted in the top 100 as a ‘world class’ player. In the aforementioned Four Four Two piece three are selected – Cazorla, Wilshere and Vermaelen. I’m biased, naturally, but I’d go even farther than that; if Vermaelen is in the top 100 then surely Koscielny and Mertesacker also merit inclusion? Although if Mayuka is world class you could probably find an excuse to put Gervinho up there, so it’s hard to judge based on other people’s opinions on other players.
In my opinion, we actually have a fair few ‘world class’ players, they’re just in the sort of positions where they don’t get noticed by those outside the club. Cazorla, obviously, is the exception to this – attacking midfielders, especially playmakers, are always given more attention than almost anyone else – but he’s got the ability to justify it and should easily make the top 25 in the world regardless of position. He is, in my opinion, better than David Silva, Oscar and probably even Hazard and Mata and I can only think of the obvious Fabregas/Iniesta that are better than him, I consider him to be on par with Ozil even. Wilshere, too, should be up there with the ‘world class’ tag; he may be young but I still remember him dominating Xavi and Iniesta in the Arsenal/Barca Champions League match a few years back and he really is a complete midfielder. He’s easily top 15, maybe even top 10, in the world in that complete central midfield position and can only get better.
After those two it gets a little more shaky. Vermaelen was
deserving a few years back but his forms been shaky, whilst Mertesacker, although our best centreback this season, cannot be described as world class. Koscielny, however, can, at least in my opinion. I struggle to name many centre backs better than him; Kompany, Thiago Silva, Hummels, Pepe, Pique, maybe Puyol and Vidic although both are injury prone and getting on a bit, and that’s it. The same goes for Sagna as, aside from Lahm, Ramos and maybe Dani Alves there are none anywhere near his quality, making it even more desperate that we tie him down on a new contract as soon as possible.
Arteta, too, must be in for a shout in his position although there are a few problems. Yes, there aren’t many that do his job better than him but you can’t deny there’s a huge chasm between him and the likes of Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and even Busquets – top 10 in the deep-lying playmaker role certainly, top 15 in general defensive mids probably, but world class? Maybe not, it’s hard to say.
Other than that, though, we’re sadly lacking in ‘top, top quality’ as Wenger likes to say. Chamberlain will undoubtedly get there and I’d like to think Gibbs can achieve the same levels as Ashley Cole, minus the, erm, ‘character defects’ shall we say, but other than a mild hope Szczesny will achieve the potential he showed a few seasons back we need to buy to get back to our best – it’s far too early to see if the likes of Gnabry will reach the top level, or even succeed at all.
However, this is less worrying when you realise that, outside of the top two Spanish clubs, barely any team possesses more than two or three truly ‘world class’ options. United have Rooney and Van Persie, whilst Vidic is a possible and De Gea and Jones have potential and Chelsea have Hazard, Oscar and Mata with Ramires on the fringes and Lampard, Terry and Cole finally slipping away from that tag, but only City really have a true ‘star-studded’ team, with Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, Aguero, Tevez and even Nasri all contenders. For the money we’ve spent, though, and if we think optimistically, we really aren’t doing that bad.
Also, as a quick not before I post this and receive gallons of abuse for overvaluing Arsenal players and ignoring world class players from United et al, I’d like to point out that 1) it’s Christmas so give me a break, 2) I’m rushing this a bit because of family commitments and so don’t have time for a full evaluation and 3) I don’t really care if I’m biased towards Arsenal, that’s sort of my job, so stop expecting me to be reasonable.
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