Arsenal recently announced that they would be stripping the captaincy from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to disciplinary issues that occurred recently. Despite some good performances from the team as of late, this is another issue that will cloud some good progress. It is also part of a concerning pattern of issues with players who have won Arsenal’s player of the season award.
Aubameyang has been a great servant of the club, on the pitch at least, having scored at least 10 goals in his previous four years with the team. Due to those performances, Aubameyang was elected captain of the team in 2019 following the disastrous Granit Xhaka captaincy that ended with Xhaka insulting fans after constant jeering. Ultimately Aubameyang would also have his captaincy stripped due to issues ranging since the start of the new year.
With Aubameyang having won Arsenal’s player of the season award over a year ago, this is humiliating for a club that is looking for stability at all levels. This award is meant to celebrate the player who best represents the club both on and off the pitch.
However, once one begins to look at the winners of the award and what happened to those winners, it seems that there is a curse associated with that award. Players who have won this award have seen their careers spiral downwards in the season or seasons following the award. A combination of injuries, failed transfers and diminished performances have cursed the winners of the awards, adding to this curse.
Injuries and Arsenal are sadly often associated with each other, with some horrific injuries zapping years from some players’ careers. Some of those terrible injuries that have ruined careers have occurred to players who have won the award in the time following the win.
Jack Wilshire is sadly the textbook case of the curse ruining careers due to injuries with Wilshire missing the entire following season and affecting him for the rest of his career. The 2010-11 season was Wilshire’s first full season with the first team and in that season, he would prove to be one of the most exciting prospects in all of Europe. His performance against Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League helped propel him to the award, winning it at 19 years old and cementing him as a core piece to both Arsenal and England.
The following season, Wilshire suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game that would take much longer to heal than originally expected and he would miss the whole season. For the rest of his time at Arsenal, he would never play a full season again and that prospect that was highly regarded would never reach the heights of that night against Barcelona. Currently a free agent after a few failed transfers, it’s sad to say but Wilshire’s career is most likely over, a sad ending to one of Arsenal’s most interesting award winners.
Wilshire’s case is the most tragic example of the injury aspect of the curse that is usually totally out of the player’s hands unlike transfers or performances. Arsenal fans, and soccer fans in general, will always see Wilshire as a what if and are forever left wondering how Wilshire would have looked today.
Failed transfers are also a staple of this curse with players having incredible seasons only to be given this award and failing to live up to those expectations at their next club. Aaron Ramsey, Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie being some of the most obvious examples of those affected by this part of the curse.
Fàbregas and van Persie were two of the mainstays of the late 2000s Arsenal teams that had little team success but great individual success. Both would leave Arsenal for more ambitious clubs and would win more at the club level while declining at the individual level. Fàbregas never found his place at Barcelona due to immense competition and this would follow him to Chelsea, while van Persie would initially succeed at Manchester United, it was clear that his best years were behind him.
Ramsey is someone who had struggled with injuries to win this award twice before moving to Juventus on a free transfer in 2019. Despite it being seen as a bargain at the time of the signing, Ramsey would struggle to stay fit and different managers would be reluctant to use him. Juventus has been trying to move him since the summer to little interest and Ramsey is now seen as a reject.
The Arsenal player of the season award curse seemingly continues to affect players when they move to new clubs. Despite some success at the club level, none of the players who moved on could ever replicate their individual success.
Many players who have won the curse have gone on to suffer declining performances in the years following the award. Recently, Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil became the bane of Arsenal fans in the years after their seasons that yielded them their awards.
Sánchez was one of the best signings of Arsène Wegner’s final years at the club and won the award twice with a 30 goal season giving him the award in 2017. After failing to get a transfer following the award, he would struggle to raise his value and would eventually be offloaded to Manchester United. In the years following, Sánchez would never score 10 goals or more and is now little more than a bench option, quite the fall for a once top Premier League player who electrified the league.
Özil remains one of the best signings in recent Arsenal history with his arrival from Real Madrid signaling a new era for the club. Following Wegner’s retirement, Özil would never be fully trusted by subsequent managers due to subpar performances and a lack of a place in different formations. By 2019, Özil was practically frozen out of the first team and would move to Fenerbahçe where he has had mixed results.
The total decline of certain players following their award is another concerning trend of this curse and has hurt the legacies of some of the club’s most exciting players. Sánchez and Özil are little more than casualties to the curse that continues to strike down current Arsenal players.
Arsenal’s player of the season award seems to be cursing players, much like the Madden curse, but is seemingly threatening to the stability of the club. This curse has stricken down promising young players and mainstays of the club, as it doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. Whoever ends up winning this year’s award, seemingly Emile Smith Rowe, will definitely be looking to avoid this curse.
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