21/22 Season Player Review

21/22 Season Player Review

Arsenal’s season is finally over. The ups and downs will be journaled in the team’s likely explosive All or Nothing documentary, but most of what Arsenal fans need to know was there for all to see on the pitch.

Arsenal missed out on Champions League football and were unable to overcome the sheer volume of goals scored by the teams above them, but it’s not too much of a cause for concern for Mikel Arteta and his men.

Many predicted that Arsenal would struggle to crack the top 10, let alone the top 4, so for Arsenal, this season has been a marked improvement, yet it isn’t enough to cover the feeling of anti-climax.

Here, we take a look at each individual performance and assess just how good they were this season.


Mikel Arteta (8/10)
This has been Mikel Arteta’s second full season in charge and third overall. Last season provide to be a bitter disappointment as the team crashed out of the Europa League in the semi-finals and went out with a whimper in the league.

This season, the team faired much better and Arteta has to take both credit as well as blame.

Arsenal looked a decidedly more exciting side this season and the coaching appointments of the likes of Nicolas Jover have improved Arsenal in terms of both defence and attack.

Going forward, Arsenal have been left wanting in terms of finishing, however, their chance creation has improved dramatically, mainly owing to Arteta’s continuing faith in players such as Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka.

The Spaniard has not shied away from the big decisions either. The fallout with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a big call for any manager to make, but despite missing out on the top four, Arteta appears vindicated. The club looks to be in a much healthier place financially, they have a really opportunity to sign forwards who exactly fit what Arteta wants and it also afforded Gabriel Martinelli more chances in the first team.

Arteta is still prone to moments of stubbornness, but overall, Arteta looks far more likely to accept counsel from those around him and has recognised when a new approach is needed.

1.) Bernd Leno (6/10)
Apps: 8
Clean sheets: 3
This season has proven to be a tough one for Bernd Leno. After nearly four years as Arsenal’s de-facto number 1, Leno soon found himself benched by new signing Aaron Ramsdale.

Leno, for his part, doesn’t seem to have done much wrong, but Ramsdale’s command of his penalty area and distribution meant that he was an upgrade on the German.

Leno started Arsenal’s disastrous first three matches but was then relegated to casual appearances in the League Cup and FA Cup.

Many of Arsenal’s squad have suffered as a result of no European football this season, however, Leno has perhaps been the biggest casualty. The team’s exit from the League Cup, coupled with their early failure to progress in the FA Cup, meant that Leno would have to wait until the team’s 0-1 win over Aston Villa before he played again.

Overall, Leno has acquitted himself well. Mikel Arteta’s penchant for Aaron Ramsdale has meant that Leno has largely been left unused, but if this is the German’s final season with the club, which looks increasingly likely, then Leno will be remembered for his consummate professionalism and for a marked improvement over his performances from last season, limited though his game time was.

3.) Kieran Tierney (6/10)
Apps: 25
Goals: 2
Assists: 3
Clean sheets: 17/37
The story of Kieran Tierney is often told by a quick glance at his injury record. While Tierney forms an important and essential member of the team’s back line, he can’t always be relied upon for his availability.

However, when he has been available, he has formed an irreplaceable part of the team. Indeed, Tierney’s performances have highlighted just how light Arsenal are in terms of genuine quality in depth at left-back.

While there was an, albeit brief, period of time in which the Scot was benched by Nuno Tavares, the sheer droop in terms of quality between the two is worrying and will no doubt affect the team’s recruitment this summer.

Tierney has been an asset at the back, although his performances going forward leave something to be desired. Tierney is often guilty of a backwards pass, especially on the halfway line, passes that often kill the momentum of an attack.

Tierney would surely be in line for the captaincy next season, however, his aforementioned injury issues, means it far more likely that Martin Ødegaard inherits the armband, not Tierney.

Mikel Arteta’s fondness of Tierney was further shown at the beginning of the season when he signed fresh terms with the club and Arsenal will be hoping to have more appearances from him for years to come and less time spent in the medical room.

4.) Benjamin White (7/10)
Apps: 37
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Clean sheets: 16
Price tags often dictate how footballers are spoken about. When you cost £50m, people tend to take more notice of you, which is surprising when speaking about Benjamin White as his performances have largely gone unnoticed.

Bought in as a replacement for the departing David Luiz, White has been an ever-present member of the starting XI and his tactically versatility, not to mention positional flexibility, has made him an essential part of the Arsenal side.

White was initially signed because of his calmness on the ball, his ability to play out from the back, his eye for a pass and his ability to bring the ball out from defence.

While his heading has been noted as a weakness, he has rarely been beaten in the air and has formed a formidable connection with defender Gabriel Magalhães.

Arsenal fans may have scratched their heads at his signing in the summer while William Saliba waited in the wings, but few can deny that White has been a very good signing and who will surely challenge Saliba for the position if he remains next season.

Capable of playing at right-back, central defence and in midfield, White is looking to be worth every penny the club spent on him and will likely form part of the spine for the club for many years to come.

5.) Thomas Partey (8/10)
Apps: 26
Goals: 2
Assists: 1
Since his arrival from Atlético Madrid, Arsenal fans have still yet to see the very best from Thomas Partey. The £45m man was a welcome addition to the side last season, however, there was always a feeling that the Ghanian international had not quite lived up to expectations.

This season almost seems to be the inverse of that. Partey has quickly established himself as one of the most important players in the team and is considered to be one of the most underrated players in the league and among the best defensive midfielders in the country.

Partey started out a little shakey at the beginning of the season but sooner earned his place in the side, forming a deadly midfield pivot alongside Granit Xhaka. Partey’s new position has allowed Xhaka to flourish in the “false-8” position that he has taken up this season.

Another welcome sight is the fact that he has added goals to his game. Admittedly, both of his goals have come from set-pieces against teams who have a very poor record with defending from them, nevertheless, his goals have proven crucial and he has been a very real asset in these areas.

His injury issues, coupled with his penchant for his long-range efforts to be a danger to any aircraft in the vicinity of N5 have hampered him this season, however, Partey looks like an essential member of the team and, if the club’s interest in Youri Tielemans flourishes into an actual transfer, he could be the most important player in the team’s midfield next season too.

6.) Gabriel Magalhães (8/10)
Apps: 39
Goals: 5
Assists: 0
Clean sheets: 13
Since arriving from Lille last season, Gabriel Magalhães has quickly established himself as the club’s main choice for centre-back. While Benjamin White and William Saliba will doubtless battle it out for the privilege of a starting position next season, Gabriel has been the de-facto first choice.

And it’s not without reason either. The £26m man has been a stalwart at the back, strong in the challenge and is perhaps the club’s biggest threat from set-pieces, owing to his near-unrivaled abilities in the air.

His aerial dominance has been matched only by his exceptional reading of the game.

The Brazilian defender has not been without his faults though. He is very quick to anger and it has often landed him in trouble, especially in the club’s unfortunate 1-2 loss to Manchester City back in January.

His passion and aggression has been what has endeared him to fans so much and it is near-impossible to doubt his commitment to the club.

It’s of no surprise that Gabriel finds himself subject to interest from a host of clubs, including Italian side Juventus – if his performances this season have been anything to go by, then Arsenal will do well to hold onto him for a little longer.

Rumours are rife that Arsenal would like another left-footed central defender to potentially challenge Gabriel for the position, with Nico Schlotterbeck of interest in January, however, whoever, if anyone, does come in, they will have a hard job ousting the former Lille man.

7.) Bukayo Saka (9/10)
Apps: 43
Goals: 12
Assists: 7
After the traumatic experience he faced in the wake of his decisive penalty miss at the EUROs, Bukayo Saka has acquitted himself expertly this season.

While few would wish the task of such a recovery on their worst enemy, Saka alone seems to have been immune to the slump in form that has affected other members of the England squad, such as Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

Saka has gone from being a high-potential youngster into the first name on the teamsheet. Saka’s performances this season have been exceptional and has been more than deserving of the coveted number 7 shirt.

While an element of drop-off did sink in towards the end of the season, it’s not entirely unexpected, given that he is the only member of the Arsenal squad to have appeared in all 38 league matches this season and 43 overall.

It has been a true season of shine for the England youngster, having been the first Arsenal youngster since Cesc Fàbregas to register 10 goals in a single season as an U23 player, a truly remarkable feat and one that is sure to earn him a place on the plane for Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Qatar World Cup in December.

Saka’s performances have been the shining light in the Arsenal side and will almost certainly have the club scrambling to secure him on new terms.

8.) Martin Ødegaard (9/10)
Apps: 40
Goals: 7
Assists: 5
After a promising loan spell with the club last season, Arsenal looked resigned to being reduced to merely fond memories of Martin Ødegaard. Real Madrid seems unlikely to sell in the summer and seemed to finally want to see their investment pay off. Arsenal, for their part, turned their attentions to Norwich City’s Emiliano Buendía, but were blown out of the water by Aston Villa.

But the situation changed towards the end of the window and Arsenal snapped up the Norweigian for a fee purported to be around the £29m mark.

Whatever niggling doubts their may have been over Ødegaard last season, seemed to have vanished this season, with many regarding the fee the club paid to Real Madrid to not only be an exceptional piece of business, but also a steal.

Though he struggled to find his way in the initial stages of the season, Ødegaard soon established himself as the club’s first-choice number 10. Though Emile Smith Rowe has been able to fill in the position fairly well, he is perhaps better suited out wide, which has allowed Ødegaard to make the position his own.

After the fallout of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mikel Arteta, Ødegaard became one of the surprising choices for Arsenal captain and its easy to see why.

While his performances and silky footwork have earned him good graces with the fans, it is his leadership qualities on and off the field that have shown why he is such a natural choice for the armband.

Ødegaard’s exceptional form and performances have meant that Arsenal now boast a potentially mouth-watering lineup and the prospect of Ødegaard being able to feed goal-hungry strikers next season, will have Arsenal fans foaming at the mouth as he will no doubt have his eyes on breaking Mesut Özil’s Premier League assist tally of 19 and even try to exceed the Premier League record set by Thierry Henry and Kevin De Bruyne.

9.) Alexandre Lacazette (4/10)
Apps: 30
Goals: 6
Assists: 8
The 21/22 season was perhaps not the best way for Alexandre Lacazette to bow out of his Arsenal career. While the Frenchman has proven how much of an asset he is to a team in terms of movement, agility and commitment, he has also proven that he’s not one to rely on in terms of goals.

Lacazette has usually been a little lacking in the goal-scoring department ever since his switch from Lyon back in 2017 and after the swift, sudden departure of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it’s understandable that Lacazette may struggle under the weight of carrying the team’s main goal-scoring threat.

That being said, Lacazette’s return this season has been very worrying. While his ultimate job falls more into the Roberto Firmino-false-9 role for the club more than an out and out striker, 6 goals in all competitions for a striker who started 20 games in the league.

Lacazette’s form was further underlined when Mikel Arteta decided to replace him in the starting XI with Eddie Nketiah.

Lacazette’s attitude and leadership skills should not be overlooked. He did a tremendous job of leading the team when needed and his influence on the young players in the team has been essential, especially in the wake of such a difficult public-relations situation with Aubameyang, but his overall performance this season has left plenty to be desired and he has been outshone by the youngsters in the squad, who seemed more prepared to take the bull by the horns in his absence.

This will almost certainly be Lacazette’s final season with the club, so he should not be remembered poorly. Whatever his faults in front of goal, the Frenchman’s infectious nature and commendable attitude should not be forgotten about quickly.

10.) Emile Smith Rowe (6/10)
Apps: 37
Goals: 11
Assists: 2
Amidst a summer of some truly bizarre transfer offers from Aston Vila, Emile Smith Rowe finally put pen to paper on a brand new deal, which saw him commit his long-term future to the club and inherit the legendary number 10 shirt from the departing Mesut Özil.

Many would crumble under the weight of such an iconic number, but Smith Rowe seems to have taken to his new number like a fish to water.

A dip in form at the end of the season is perhaps explained by the continued form of Gabriel Martinelli, however, Smith Rowe was a lighting rod at the beginning of the season, battling to maintain his place in the side ahead of the likes of Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard.

Goals against Tottenham, Aston Villa and Leicester City were unbelievably important and showed his maturity as well as the very encouraging sign that he’s finally added goals to his game.

While his assist numbers have notably dipped from last season, Smith Rowe’s goal contributions saw him join Bukayo Saka as the first U23 players to score 10 or more goals in a season since Cesc Fàbregas.

Hopefully, Smith Rowe will be able to maintain a level of consistency next season with the club’s Europa League campaign, but it was still a very encouraging season from a very talented player.

14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (0/10)
Apps: 15
Goals: 7
Assists: 2
In terms of a fall from grace, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is perhaps only second to Mesut Özil in terms of how quickly things went south.

The Gabon forward struggled for form last season and was clearly affected by a bout of malaria that kept him out of the team for a few weeks, however, this season felt like the time to turn over a new leaf.

Whatever hopes Mikel Arteta and Arsenal fans had harboured over Aubameyang returning to his free-flowing goal-scoring self, were quickly eradicated.

It became very clear very quickly that Aubameyang’s form from last season was not going to improve and it also became very clear that his suitability as captain was in question.

Following another reported disciplinary breach and running afoul of Mikel Arteta’s famous “non-negotiables”, Aubameyang found himself inexplicably dropped from the starting XI and stripped of the captaincy, a far cry from the happy scene that greeted him when putting pen to paper on a lucrative £350,000-a-week contract at the beginning of last season.

Come January, it was very clear that the relationship between Aubameyang and Arteta hadn’t just eroded, it was completely beyond repair. Arteta made it very clear that Aubameyang would play no further part at the club and the striker was bundled out of the club through the back door as Edu and Arteta terminated his contract, allowing him to join Barcelona for free.

In the few games he did play, Aubameyang was a shadow of his former self. Chances were missed, including two glaring chances against Newcastle United and Everton, the former being a chance that he managed to miss from practically on the goal-line.

It is important to remember the happy-go-lucky and charismatic Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during his time with the club, and never forget the wonderful things he accomplished here, including single-handily winning the team their record-extending 14th FA Cup, because there is precious little from this season that anyone would ever want to be remembered for, especially Aubameyang.

15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles (2/10)
Apps: 11
Goals: 0
Assists: 1
In terms of personal success, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has enjoyed a pretty good season, seeing as how AS Roma lifted the inaugural UEFA Conference League at the end of the season.

However, his time at Arsenal was probably not the best of times for the midfielder.

Given Arsenal’s need for midfielders and fullbacks, it’s perhaps surprising that Mikel Arteta didn’t offer Maitland-Niles more of a role in the team. It does have to be said that Maitland-Niles’ performances this season haven’t exactly inspired confidence.

It feels increasingly like a parting of the ways is due at any moment. Maitland-Niles has had repeated falling outs regarding his position and he seems desperate for more game time, game time that Arsenal will almost certainly be unable to offer him.

While a move to Roma on a permanent basis seems exceedingly unlikely, a move away from the club in the summer seems likely and would probably benefit both parties.

16.) Rob Holding (6/10)
Apps: 21
Goals: 1
Assists: 0
Clean sheets: 9
After nearly 6 years at Arsenal, Rob Holding is at an age where regular football needs to be the priority. Though he eventually managed to establish himself in Arsène Wenger’s side, a lengthy injury during Unai Emery’s tenure kept him out of the squad for a very long time.

Since Mikel Arteta has come in, Holding has enjoyed something of a resurgence and his performances this season have been a clear indication of just how much he has improved.

Given Arsenal’s underperformance up top, the team have often had to consolidate their slender advantages by committing to a back five. A risky move that requires discipline, concentration and exceptional tactical knowledge. In these areas, Rob Holding has been perfect for the club.

The running joke among Arsenal fans is that the game is over when Arteta brings on Holding. Invariably, Holding’s introduction is an indicator that Arsenal plan on shutting up shop and will be conservative with their lead, rather than risk it all on another attacker.

A sending off in the north London derby was a black cloud on what has been a fairly sunny season for Holding, but he will now face competition for a starting spot, not only from Benjamin White, but also from William Saliba.

17.) Cédric Soares (5/10)
Apps: 27
Goals: 1
Assists: 3
Clean sheets: 7
Owing to injuries to Takehiro Tomiyasu, Héctor Bellerín’s loan to Real Betis and Calum Chambers’ sale to Aston Villa, Cédric Soares has found himself in line for more game time than he would have imagined in his wildest dreams.

In fairness to Cédric, he has done a commendable job filling in when Arsenal have needed. Though he isn’t the most astute attacking fullback the club has ever seen, he does offer good overlap for Bukayo Saka and is strong in the tackle.

While Cédric’s unexpected resurgence in the team has been welcome to some degree, there is also a feeling that the former Southampton man is one of many examples of a player not at the required level to be at the club.

While there are plenty of games where Cédric has played well, there are just as many where he hasn’t. Though the proud user of a Lukas Podolski-esque right foot, Cédric’s crosses are often a thing of pure horror and his tracking back often means that Arsenal’s midfield is pulled out of position to cover him as he jogs back at a glacial pace.

It seems unlikely that Arsenal will look to upgrade Cédric unless they absolutely have to, but while there has been a marked improvement in his performances from last season, there is still plenty to be desired.

18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu (7/10)
Apps: 22
Goals: 0
Assists: 1
Clean sheets: 8
Had injuries not taken their toll, it’s fair to assume that Takehiro Tomiyasu would probably have been regarded as Arsenal’s signing of the season.

After a summer of trying to sign Emerson Royal from Barcelona, Arsenal eventually moved onto Tomiyasu, while Tottenham, who spent all summer trying to sign Tomiyasu, signed Emerson.

Since moving to the club, Tomiyasu has been exceptional. While his injuries have largely meant that Cédric Soares has had to fill the gap, the drop-off in quality has been astounding to see.

Tomiyasu has very quickly established himself as the club’s first-choice full-back and has taken the long-dormant mantle of Mr. Dependable from Nacho Monreal.

His ambidexterity, coupled with his positional versatility has meant that Arsenal have found themselves an unassailable bargain at £16m.

If Tomiyasu can sort out his injury problems next year, then the club may just have one of the best fullbacks in the league sorted.

19.) Nicolas Pépé (3/10)
Apps: 23
Goals: 3
Assists: 6
If ever a season felt like a player’s last for a club, this one was probably one where the writing on the wall became a voice screaming through a megaphone for Nicolas Pépé.

Though he usually had respectable appearance figures under Mikel Arteta last season, this year has been a fairly almighty fall from grace for Pépé.

The club-record signing has been on the substitute’s bench nearly every week since the club’s disastrous opening three matches and has been usurped in the pecking order by a resurgent Gabriel Martinelli.

Though Pépé has been a vital asset in the club’s League Cup run, the same cannot be said for his league form. One goal and two assists in the Premier League have not been enough for a player who is capable of so much more.

Granted, many of Pépé’s issues have not been down to poor form, but more down to Mikel Arteta refusing to bring him off the bench – indeed, Pépé endured a run of five matches in a row between the 7th of November and the 6th of December in which he was on the bench but never once used. Even Eddie Nketiah, a striker, was preferred on the wong to Pépé.

Even his absence at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) wasn’t enough of an excuse. Pépé is still yet to start a Premier League game since the team’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

At this point, it seems exceptionally unlikely that Pépé will be with the team next season and not just because he has recently changed agents. Pépé has never fully returned on the promise of his initial transfer and he has quickly fallen in the pecking order to better and hungrier talents. The club will surely make a hefty loss on the initial £72m spent on the player, however, it looks like a split is best for both parties.

20.) Nuno Tavares (4/10)
Apps: 28
Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Clean sheets: 9
The Nuno Tavares Paradox is perhaps one of the more baffling debates for Arsenal fans this season. Is this a very bad player doing better than he has a right to, or a good player doing much worse than he is capable of?

Not since the cult-like figure of Emmanuel Eboué walked the tunnel of the Emirates Stadium have Arsenal had a player like Nuno Tavares.

Joining from Benfica in the summer for a reported fee of £6.5m, Tavares looked to be a decent signing early on. A goal in his first appearance in pre-season was then coupled with a series of promising substitute appearances.

After Kieran Tierney’s annual 12-week injury kicked in, Tavares became the club’s de-facto starting full-back. While Benfica fans had often moaned about Tavares’ poor technique, he seemed to be proving the doubters wrong with a series of impressive performances and even seemed to be keeping Tierney out of the side for a while upon his return from injury.

However, after gifting the ball to Diogo Jota at Anfield during the annual drubbing at the hands of Liverpool, Tavares was dropped. From there, things started to go downhill.

A Sunday League-esque performance in the disastrous FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest was then marred by a series of ill-fated cameos. While Mikel Arteta seemed to want to keep the young fullback out of the firing line for a while, he was forced to play him again when Tierney missed the final run-in.

Tavares is clearly a very enthusiastic and energetic fullback. He has proven himself to be a vital asset going forward (he used to be a winger before bing converted to fullback), but it’s at the back when things get dicey.

Tavares is prone to drift from his man, misplace simple passes, give away stupid fouls or to completely lose track of the ball.

While Tavares is still young and does still show some promise, it would be a good idea for Arsenal sign someone else to cover for Tierney during an injury crisis. Perhaps a loan would do Tavares some good?

21.) Calum Chambers (3/10)
Apps: 5
Goals: 1
Assists: 0
Clean sheets: 3
After Emiliano Martínez departed the club last summer, Calum Chambers became the club’s longest-serving player. A truly remarkable achievement for such an underused player to have bestowed upon them.

Chambers was largely unused this season. Though Mikel Arteta was forced to pick Chambers for the club’s opening three Premier League matches owing to injuries and no new signings in the required positions, his performance in the 5-0 loss to Manchester City, was the indicator that it was time for him to move on.

Depth is never a bad thing and Chambers has been more than happy to deputies when needed over the years, but given the club’s lack of European football and the relatively underwhelming nature of the opponents faced in the club’s League Cup run, Chambers was largely unused throughout the season.

As his contract was up in the summer, Arsenal quickly agreed a deal for Chambers to move to Aston Villa for a nominal fee. Chambers’ contributions to the club will not be forgotten, but it is fair to say that this was not the best of seasons for the player, limited as he was to only 5 appearances for the club.

22.) Pablo Marí (1/10)
Apps: 3
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Clean sheets: 1
Perhaps the Amazon All or Nothing documentary will give us more insight into just what happened behind the scenes with Pablo Marí, because after the team’s 3-0 win over Wimbledon in the League Cup, he was never seen again.

True, two disastrous performances against Brentford and Chelsea at the start of the season hardly helped his case, but after that, Marí was benched for three matches and was then totally absent from the senior squad (at least in the league) until the middle of December.

Marí’s absences have not been a tremendous loss to Arsenal, when all is said and done. Initially signed for his use of the left-foot, he has since been usurped by Gabriel Magalhães in the position and has shown no sign of being able to displace him.

Though Marí has been exceptionally professional and hugely complimentary of Mikel Arteta while on loan at Udinese, it feels inevitable that he will be sold by the club this summer – something that fans, the manager and the player can’t complain about too much.

23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (5/10)
Apps: 24
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Albert Sambi Lokonga’s season has been a series of ups and downs. In terms of performances, he has been fairly hit and miss since his £20m transfer from Anderlecht, but the talent that he possesses is undeniable.

Mattéo Guendouzi was perhaps one of the best long-range passers of the ball for one so young that Arsenal have had in recent seasons, but Lokonga looks to be taking that title from him with ease.

The impeccable passing ability that Lokonga possesses has been mesmeric to watch, but it is somewhat outweighed by a certain lack of agility. Lokonga is rather easy to knock off the ball and doesn’t quite have the positional awareness inherent to a midfielder that Thomas Partey has.

Despite this, there have been encouraging signs from Lokonga. It is clear that the club are grooming Lokonga to be a hybrid of the deep-lying playmaker that Granit Xhaka often adopts and the more defensive-minded mould of Thomas Partey.

The Premier League seems to have been a step-up too soon for Lokonga as he was required to fill in for both Xhaka and Partey during suspensions, injuries or fatigue. Had Arsenal had more frequent forms of reserve football, like the early stages of the UEFA Conference League of the Europa League, perhaps Lokonga would have found his feet more smoothly, but he has been an encouraging if not altogether convincing player so far, plenty to build on and lots to improve next season, but definitely a player to keep an eye on.

25.) Mohamed Elneny (7/10)
Apps: 17
Goals: 0
Assists: 2
For a while, it looked as though Mohamed Elneny was finally on his way out of the club. After several years of occasional sub performances and a moderately successful loan to Beşiktaş, it seemed as though Elneny, who’s contract expired in the summer, was on the way out.

But, after an injury to Thomas Partey in the team’s 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace, Elneny was asked to step in. What followed was a Lazarus-esque resurgence, one that showed Elneny’s tenacity, his commitment and his value.

Elneny’s performances soon became the standard for which others needed to start meeting. Despite several months of barely being involved, the Egyptian soon found himself in the thick of things and desperate to prove himself, following Mikel Arteta’s instructions to a T.

Though the same deficiencies in his style are still there, Elneny has proven, without hesitation, just how valuable he can be to a team in terms of versatility and was richly deserving of his new contract.

26.) Folarian Balogun (2/10)
Apps: 4
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
In fairness to Folarian Balogun, chances have been exceptionally thin on the ground this season. After committing his future to the club in the summer, it was expected that Balogun would likely play a small part in the club’s season, occasionally receiving a run-out in the cups and soaking up experience from the sub’s bench in the league.

However, when the club was struck down with COVID cases at the beginning of the season, Balogun was instructed to lead the line in the club’s opening match against Brentford.

Balogun wasn’t particularly convincing but given the circumstances, few could really blame him for his performances.

Despite this, Balogun was not particularly effective in the League Cup either. A particularly poor performance against Sunderland, in which he picked up an unnecessary yellow card and was then substituted two minutes later was a particular low-point.

Balogun was eventually loaned out to Middlesbrough, where he made 20 appearances in all competitions, scoring 3 goals, including an impressive showing to knock Tottenham out of the FA Cup.

Balogun will likely be on the periphery of the team once again next season, but may find chances in the domestic cups or even some early stages European matches if he is not loaned out prior.

30.) Eddie Nketiah (7/10)
Apps: 27
Goals: 10
Assists: 1
If Mohamed Elneny’s resurgence has been shocking, it is as nothing when compared to Eddie Nketiah’s.

After several months of poor returns up front from Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal were desperate and in need of goals. Nketiah had made the occasional substitute appearance for the club, mainly subbed on as a winger, despite being a striker.

But with goals drying up fast and Nketiah’s impressive League Cup form, Mikel Arteta decided to give the England youngster a chance in the Premier League.

Nketiah’s performances gave Arsenal hope. Goals were coming thick and fast and even if he wasn’t scoring, he was proving an essential asset to the team’s performances. Two goals against Chelsea and two more against Leeds were enough to see Arsenal over the line in tough matches, not to mention an impressive performance over West Ham, in which he managed to wind-up Declan Rice.

Nketiah’s recent bout of form looks to have earned him a new contract too. While it looked for a while that Nketiah would be leaving the club (in fact, he nearly joined Crystal Palace for £12m last summer), he now seems to have changed his mind and is rumoured to be putting pen to paper on a new five-year deal, which could potentially earn him the controversially princely sum of £100,000-a-week!

31.) Sead Kolašinac (1/10)
Apps: 5
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Clean sheets: 3
It feels strange to speak about Sead Kolašinac this season as many may have already forgotten that he was part of the team.

It wasn’t the sort of season one tends to remember very fondly. Last season, Kolašinac was deputized as a lect-central back during the absences of Gabriel Magalhães and Pablo Marí, but this season, Mikel Arteta seemed far less disposed to handing him game time.

Several weeks missing from the matchday squad and no real indicator that he would play much beyond the domestic cups if he were lucky, Kolašinac was eventually released from his deal, joining Marseille in Ligue 1, where he has hardly faired much better.

32.) Aaron Ramsdale (7/10)
Apps: 36
Clean sheets: 14
Aaron Ramsdale has perhaps been the best example of the phrase “never judge a book by its cover”. While on the surface, the reported fee of £24m for a goalkeeper who had already endured relegation several times and was not quite the superstar name that Arsenal fans had been hoping for, such as André Onana, Ramsdale managed to turn around his critics fairly quickly.

What was initially intended to be a season of warming the sub’s bench while Bernd Leno started, soon turned into a season where Ramsdale was the man between the sticks and Leno relegated to the bench.

Ramsdale’s performances may have taken a minor dip towards the end of the season, but over the course of the whole campaign, he has been a solid purchase and one who has inspired confidence in the fanbase.

His courage, command of his box and his exceptional distribution have endeared him to the fanbase far quicker than any could have expected. His personality seems to be as infectious as his performances have been on the defence.

Ramsdale has produced some truly stunning performances, none more so than when he single-handedly kept Leicester City out during the team’s 0-2 win at the end of October, where he produced a stunning, David Seaman-esque save to deny James Maddison from a free-kick. Him joining in and encouraging the Leicester fans as they jeered “You’re shit, ahhhh…” every time he took a goal-kick remains one of the team’s highlights this season.

34.) Granit Xhaka (8/10)
Apps: 30
Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Granit Xhaka too looked to be out the door in the summer window. Unable to strike a deal with Roma, Arsenal instead decided to protect their asset and extended Xhaka’s deal in the summer.

The decision was not popular, but then again, Xhaka has never been an especially popular figure among the fanbase.

However, Xhaka has shown glimpses of his true potential under Mikel Arteta and this season has seen a true improvement on his promising form from last season.

Effectively moulded into the “false-8” role that Arteta himself used to occupy under Arsène Wenger, Xhaka has been irreplaceable in midfield and has formed a formidable pivot with Thomas Partey.

Though ill-discipline can still seep through Xhaka’s performances, he has not held back when discussing what is expected of his teammates. His touching interview with The Player’s Tribune showed that he understands what is expected of him and after the team’s damning 2-0 loss to Newcastle United, he was no different.

Though it seems unlikely that Xhaka could ever become the team’s full-time captain after the incident against Crystal Palace a few years back, he has been a natural leader all season and his spectacular effort against Manchester United will always be a fond memory for all.

Whatever the general opinion of him may be among the fanbase, there is no denying that, if not replaced effectively, Xhaka’s absence would be felt if he does indeed leave this summer.

35.) Gabriel Martinelli (8/10)
Apps: 36
Goals: 6
Assists: 7
For a while, it seemed as though Gabriel Martinelli just couldn’t convince Mikel Arteta. After returning from a long-term injury last season, Arteta seemed increasingly less confident in Martinelli’s undoubted talent and it looked as though the Brazilian may be left to rot on the bench.

This season seems to have been the undisputed breakthrough for Martinelli. After coming on in place of Bukayo Saka against Newcastle United, Martinelli scored a spectacular goal and from then on, seemed irreplaceable in the team.

While Jürgen Klopp has long been an admirer of the talented winger, Martinelli looks tp be improving week-in-week-out. Even after recovering from injury, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unable to unseat him from the lineup and looked resigned to looking on as Martinelli took the league by storm.

Though he has battled out with Emile Smith Rowe over a place on the wing, there is no denying that Martinelli looks to have won the fight.

His performances have been emphatic and he will now move from the squad player #35 to become the club’s new #11 this season, with the club also looking to prolong his stay further, along with Bukayo Saka.


Player of the season: Bukayo Saka
Young player of the season: Bukayo Saka
Top scorer: Bukayo Saka (12)
Most assists: Alexandre Lacazette (8)
Most improved player: Mohamed Elneny
Worst player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Best signing: Martin Ødegaard
Worst signing: Nuno Tavares
Best game: Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Worst game: Manchester City 5-0 Arsenal

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: