As promised here is the traditional end of season players ratings post, which also gives a rating to Unai Emery’s performance as manager. A couple of things.
1 – This is based primarily on Premier League, but of course Europe plays a part. Somebody could become the hero (or villain) in Baku on May 29th which would have an impact on their overall rating. This applies in particular to the manager whose failure to secure Champions League football next season via the top four would be very much much offset by winning a European trophy and getting us back to the top table of European football via that pathway.
2 – This year, I’m using a 1-10 rating system – like in the player ratings on Arseblog News.
3 – Their marks are individual, based on expectations of them and what they’re capable of, rather than comparable with teammates. So don’t say ‘How can you give X this when you gave Y that?’.
And in the end there’s no right or wrong, these are subjective ratings. Don’t get personally offended by them. I don’t hate your favourite player. Feel free to discuss and debate them in the arses. So let’s get on with it, starting with:
Petr Cech: He started the season as number one, he’s ending it with retirement. Lost his place because of an injury, rather than poor form, and despite some issues with the ball at his feet early in the campaign, he was playing well and making lots of saves (a common theme for our goalkeepers this season). Still has the chance to go out as something of a hero as he looks certain to play against Chelsea in the Europa League final. He says it’d be a dream way to end his storied career. Let’s hope so. 7/10
Bernd Leno: Definitely took some time to grow into the season, but he did that very well and once the door opened for him, he didn’t look back. Had a couple of dodgy moments, but in general was solid and reliable – and due to our porous defence he was overworked. A busy keeper can often catch the eye because of how much he has to do, but the German can be very pleased with his first season at the club, and will hope our summer transfer business and investment in some defenders will make next year a bit less hectic. 8.5/10
Emi Martinez: Made one Europa League appearance. Kept a clean sheet, but didn’t play enough to get a rating. An encouraging loan spell at Reading puts him in the frame to replace Cech as back-up to Leno. He’s certainly a cost effective option. N/R
Hector Bellerin: An important part of our attacking strategy – i.e, give it to full-backs in wide areas – was taken from us after his injury. He’d had a solid season until then, contributing 5 assists (3 more than Mesut Ozil despite missing half the season) and had improved defensively too. Hopefully he recovers fully from the cruciate problem, because we’re a better team when he’s in it. 7/10
Stephan Lichtsteiner: Although he was signed as back-up for Bellerin, it would be fair to say it’s been a disappointing year for the Swiss. He looked like a player who’s gone on a season too long in precisely the wrong league to do it in, and found himself marginalised as time went on. The fact he was so at odds with what Emery seemed to want from a player in his position meant his struggles were exacerbated. 4/10
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: The 21 year old added 29 appearances to the 28 he made last season, scored a couple of goals, and did his best in a position which isn’t really the one his most natural one. He had ups and downs, not the least the broken leg in the first game of the season which saw him sidelines for three month, but he’s an Arsenal Academy graduate who has now established himself as a member of the first team squad. It’s been a season of incremental progression, but it does give him something to build on in 2019/20. The big question is where he’s going to play long-term. 6.5/10
Carl Jenkinson: He’s a good lad but at 27 he should be playing regular football somewhere, because he’s not going to get it with us. Didn’t let us down when he did play, but surely his time is up now. 4/10
Shkodran Mustafi: A £35m disaster zone at times this season. He’s a weird player, capable of playing a 9/10 game before he gives you a 0/10 moment which costs you a goal or a penalty or something just as damaging. The frequency of his mistakes, and an inability or unwillingness to correct them as well as other serious flaws in his game, mean he’s going to continue to cause us problems unless we sell him this summer. Which is exactly what we should do. Take whatever we can get. 3/10
Sokratis: He’s been fine, if not particularly spectacular. Has some attitude, which is welcome, but at times it borders on daft. 12 yellow cards are a consequence of that, and his suspensions coupled with some injuries have meant a stop-start kind of season for him. Benefits from not being Mustafi. 6.5/10
Rob Holding: Definitely a player who had made progress under Unai Emery this season, and his injury was a cruel blow for him and for us. He’s still very much in the development phase of his career, but he was having a very positive run of form and seemed to be somebody the manager had real trust in. Like Bellerin, the hope is the injury doesn’t set him back, but he should be fully involved in pre-season and fit for the start of the new campaign. 7/10
Laurent Koscielny: The captain only returned from serious injury in November, and although he was a little rusty to start, quickly illustrated that he’s our best defender. That our best defender is 33, pushing his body to its physical limits after a horrendous Achilles problem, and still suffers from chronic tendonitis tells you a lot about what we need to do this summer when it comes to rebuilding the squad. Will he continue? We’ll see, but he did himself proud and to play as well as he did in such circumstances is to his massive credit. 7/10
Dinos Mavropanos: Injury kept him out of most of the season, and when he did play he looked hesitant and inexperienced. It could just be a year out of the game, but he’s at an age where he needs to play to develop. If there’s enough trust in him, it could be with us, but if not then he needs to be sent on loan next season. No rating as he didn’t play enough. N/R
Nacho Monreal: As someone who has been a really consistent performer, it was a bit sad to see that fall by the wayside a bit this season. He’s 33 now, and at times he’s looked as if the pace of the game is an issue. Never terrible, but fell below the level he’d been at previously. 6/10
Sead Kolasinac: With 9 assists in all competitions this season, he’s been a useful and productive outlet down the left hand side, but perhaps one that Unai Emery has relied on a little too much. There’s not a lot of craft or subtlety, it’s brute force wing-back play that’s great when it works but a lot of the time it doesn’t. Has been better defensively, but he still wouldn’t fill you with a huge amount of confidence when asked to do that part of his job. 6.5/10
Granit Xhaka: He is undoubtedly a player with some quality, his passing range is fantastic and he can hit a decent dead ball. Unfortunately, he’s still liable to make a fantastic pass straight to an opponent, and the errors/moments of stupidity still plague his game. Not exactly our biggest problem, but after three years he’s still the same flawed player that first joined. I’d be ok if he was part of the squad next season, preferably with us not as reliant on him, but at the same time if a good offer came in I’d sell in a heartbeat. 5/10
Aaron Ramsey: There was a long spell this season when he was barely being used, frozen out by Unai Emery as his contract saga rumbled on. Once his future was clear, he was back in the team and he made us better for a short time before another untimely injury ended his campaign and ultimately his Arsenal career. Scored the goal of the season against Fulham. 6.5/10
Lucas Torreira: Eased into action slowly by Emery after his late arrival from the World Cup, but quickly demonstrated he had qualities the Arsenal midfield have missed for a long time. He didn’t manage to keep up that level of performance though, as the team’s form slipped so did his, but overall a pretty positive first season in English football, and let’s hope it sets him up for better next year. 6.5/10
Matteo Guendouzi: Heralded from many quarters as the find of the season early on, the young Frenchman is energetic and enthusiastic, but still quite raw. He’s shown he still has a lot to learn about the game and the way it’s played in England, but for a 19 year old he did well. Not as well as some people said, he didn’t register a Premier League goal or assist, but there’s enough there to suggest he can build on this next season. 6.5/10
Mohamed Elneny: Clearly a player not much fancied by Unai Emery who only used him when he had no real choice. He’s a safe, unexciting player who keeps the ball circulating but such was the dearth of creativity in the team this year, those are not particularly useful qualities. There’s no point expecting him to be something he’s not. Will probably move on this summer. 5/10
Mesut Ozil: Just 2 assists in the Premier League all season, although he did score 5 goals – including a couple of those wonderful chop efforts which are so aesthetically pleasing. Missed spells due to illness, injury and disciplinary issues, but mended fences with Emery to feature heavily in the final months when he played fine but little more than that. For what he’s being paid, for his quality and experience, and for someone who was expected to be the chief creator, Arsenal are not getting anything like value for money from Ozil. Just four assists in the Premier League since signing his new contract in January 2018 suggests a player who is decline, and this was a really disappointing campaign for him. 4/10
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: On his day a useful, productive player, but he only has a few of those days every season. The rest of the time he flits about being somewhere between anonymous and passably functional. Another player whose pay packet does not match the level of performance. 5.5/10
Alex Iwobi: He continues to divide opinion. There was a period of the season when he had made definite progress. Followed by a period of the season where he looked to take a step backwards. With 5 goals and 7 assists (compared to 3 goals and 7 assists in 2017/18), he’s made some progress, but not enough to suggest he’s nailed down a starting place in this team. A useful squad option certainly, but needs to do more to become a certain starter. 6/10
Denis Suarez: We spent a month trying to do a deal with Barcelona, and in the end we paid somewhere in the region of £3.5m to secure his services (loan fee + wages) for the second half of the season. He arrived unfit because he’d barely played all season, left with an injury after six brief substitute appearances, and by all accounts didn’t do a great deal on the training ground to suggest he was particularly enthused with life in North London anyway. The people who made/sanctioned the loan are the ones deserving of most blame, but the player himself was a big disappointment. 2/10
Emile Smith Rowe: He’s such an interesting prospect. Made 6 first team appearances in the Europa League and League Cup, scoring three goals in the process. His loan move to RB Leipzig didn’t really work out because of injury, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens next season. Will he stay there one more year, or come back into the fold at Arsenal? 6/10
Joe Willock: He didn’t play a lot but when he did he showed he’s developing. Scored three first team goals, as well as three in the Checkatrade trophy, and maybe if you’re selling someone like Elneny he’s a candidate to replace him in the squad. 6/10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Our leading scorer with 31 goals (along with 8 assists) and you can’t sniff at that. A defining feature of his season has been a series of glaring misses, which obviously look terrible, but for all that, you can’t suggest a striker who scores that many goals is a problem – especially when you consider what else there is to sort out in this team. Shared the Golden Boot, still very much in his prime. 8.5/10
Alexandre Lacazette: Voted Player of the Season by fans, you can see why. He scored some big goals, looked a stronger, more determined player than in his first season in England, and his partnership with Aubameyang is one of the real positives of this campaign. You get the sense he could score more, and hopefully he does that in 2019/20. Finished the season with 19 goals and 13 assists, making him our second highest scorer and our leading creator. 8/10
Danny Welbeck: He had been having a decent enough season until the injury, and there’s no question he was missed. It placed a heavy burden on Aubameyang and Lacazette, and you wonder how certain results might have gone with another pacy, direct attacker on the pitch. His Arsenal career has been so badly affected by injury, and it was a shame another end saw him unable to play for the club again. 6/10
Eddie Nketiah: The Welbeck injury robbed him of the chance to go out on loan in January as he was insurance for the two main strikers. Ultimately he played very little and he would have benefitted from a spell elsewhere to get more playing time and to develop. Needs that loan move next season, but it seems clear from how little he was used that Emery doesn’t quite think he’s ready. Finished with his first Premier League goal for the club against Burnley. N/R
Manager – Unai Emery
There have been positives, no doubt about it. Perhaps there was an eagerness to embrace anything different and new as an instant success in the first few months. We saw that with some players, and some of the Spaniard’s methods early on. However, he did address a fundamental weakness in our big game performances, and bar the 5-1 at Anfield our record improved and we had thoroughly enjoyable wins over Sp*rs, Chelsea and Man Utd. We’ve also qualified for the final of the Europa League, so potentially he could win us a trophy and thus provide Champions League football next season, which by any measure could be considered a success. Getting us back into the Champions League, however he did it, would have been one of his key targets when he was hired, and there’s still the chance to do that so his final rating depends so much on the game in Baku.
Looming over all this though is a defensive record that doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny, however much you want to place the blame on personnel and injuries, and the fact that we had an incredible chance to finish in the top four. Based on where we were and the games we had left to play, third place was well within our grasp, but that abysmal run of form towards the end of the season saw us fall agonisingly short and it raised serious questions about the manager and his players.
Without the Europa League final, the reaction to that capitulation would have been much more visceral, but right now it’s providing a salve to that particular burn. What happens in Baku will define Emery’s first season. Win it, and he’s had an 8/10 campaign, lose it – on top of letting the top four slip the way we did – and it’s a 5/10.
So, there you go. No doubt plenty to discuss and debate, and you can do that in the arses (our comment system). Have at it!