Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Squad assessment in 140 characters or less (ish) – 2021

I noticed that I didn’t do the traditional squad assessment post last year, I guess because of how we didn’t have a proper season-end. I also didn’t do it in 2019, maybe because of how late the season ended with Baku and all that.

It’s back now though, baby!

I’m using the grading system we have in school where A is the best, obviously; D is a passing grade; and anything below that a fail. I’m trying to combine their performances with their overall influence, and how the season went for them.

Their marks are individual, based on expectations of them, rather than comparable with teammates.

And in the end there’s no right or wrong, these are subjective ratings. Don’t get personally offended by them.

Players who left the club, Mesut Ozil, Shokdran Mustafi, Sokratis etc, are not rated, because we don’t rate players from other clubs and some of them basically didn’t play anyway.

Goalkeepers

Bernd Leno: Probably had his most difficult season, partly because he wasn’t Emi Martinez and partly because he made a couple of high profile errors. I still think he’s a long way from the least of our problems though, and did make good saves. C+.

Alex Runarsson: An emergency signing at the end of the window to provide cover after Martinez left, but there was a very good reason why he was number 2 at Djion, and he failed to cut the mustard with us. I expect him to leave in the summer. F.

Mat Ryan: Didn’t play a lot but did fine when he did. Will be interesting to see if he’s done enough for the club to make his deal permanent, would be a solid number 2. B.

Defenders

Hector Bellerin: It feels like his time has come. In a recent interview he spoke about the physical and mental impact of his injuries, and maybe a fresh start is what he needs. Not as bad as some said, but nowhere near his best. A shame, if he is to go, he didn’t get the kind of send-off his service deserves. D.

Cedric: His versatility was trumpeted as a reason for his arrival, but by the end of the season fell way down the pecking order in both positions. With a smaller, more compact squad needed next season, we should do as much as we can to let him go, he’s just not needed. D.

Calum Chambers: A bit of a surprise package, and he has potentially earned himself a new contract. If we’re in the market for a new right back, he’d be solid back-up as well as centre-half cover. B.

Rob Holding: 30 Premier League appearance this season, his most in any campaign to date, and a new contract. He is a good backs-to-the-wall defender, but questions remain over his distribution and occasional lapses of concentration. C+.

Gabriel: I think his first season in English football went pretty well. There’s still some rawness there, especially when he’s on the ball with too much time to think, but he’s still pretty young for a centre-half and that stuff can be worked on. B.

David Luiz: His passing range is superior to pretty much every other defender we have, but the decision for him to go at the end of the season is the right one. Time waits for no woolly haired man. C+.

Pablo Mari: Calm, assured, has some presence, but I think there are moments when he’s a bit rabbit in headlights, particularly when someone is running straight at the defence. Solid back-up option for me. C+.

Kieran Tierney: Injuries hit him again this season, but given we had no cover to speak of for the entire campaign, you have to wonder if we overworked him. At his best a hugely important part of this team, who brings quality and character in abundance. B+.

Midfielders

Granit Xhaka: He had two moments of extreme dumbness, both of them against Burnley, and both of them were really costly. Aside from that though, probably our most consistent central midfielder who should have stayed in midfield and not been used as a left-back. B-.

Dani Ceballos: I can understand why we did the second season on loan, but it didn’t work out as well as anyone would have hoped. Goes back to Real Madrid with a nice farewell to the fans, but he fell out of the Spain squad for the Euros and probably needs to take stock of where he is and what happens next. D.

Bukayo Saka: At times absolutely brilliant, he helped us out of that dark period of in November/December, and finished with 7 goals and 9 assists. For me our player of the season. He was played all over the park too, and perhaps one of the jobs this summer is to think where exactly he’s going to settle in terms of a position. A.

Martin Odegaard: His loan spell started brightly, and that performance against West Ham was superb. Got an injury on international duty which really had an impact, but finished strongly. I like what I saw though, and I suspect Mikel Arteta will do everything possible to bring him in on a permanent deal. B.

Mohamed Elneny: A very Elneny season, solid and safe for the most part, but with a couple of spectacular goals. The ultimate squad player, and for someone who looked like they had no future at the club, 41 appearances was a healthy return. C+.

Thomas Partey: We saw glimpses of the quality but never consistently. He was beset by injury and, possibly, poor management of those injuries. A frustrating first season for him, but there was enough there to see how it can be much better next time around. C.

Emile Smith Rowe: Made a big contribution for someone who barely played until Christmas because of injury and non-selection at times. His style is just so positive. 100% a building block for the future, get him signed up to a new deal, give him a proper number, and let’s see him develop again next season. B+.

Forwards

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: The captain fell well below his usual standards, for various reasons, and never really looked as sharp as he needed to be. Just 15 goals in total, only 10 in the league, he needs a good summer to refresh ahead of next season. D.

Alexandre Lacazette: Finished as our leading scorer with 17 in all competitions, but that’s about what he’s got in most other seasons. With one year left on his deal, it’s time to cash in on a player who cost £50m and never did any more than Olivier Giroud. Let’s look to the future. B-.

Nicolas Pepe: Got 16 goals in the end, despite not playing as much as he should have in the first part of the season. When you’re being kept out of the team by a player who is contributing nothing, it must be frustrating (perhaps that was part of that Leeds red card), but finished strongly, and also added 5 assists. B+.

Eddie Nketiah: Played a bit during the first half of the season, barely featured in the second. Has had chances to stake a claim to a longer stay but it feels like this summer would be the right time for him to move on – especially given his contractual situation. D+.

Gabriel Martinelli: It’s a hard one to gauge because of injuries, and the sense that Mikel Arteta has, at times, seemed to hold him back this season. Just 2 goals and 2 assists in 23 appearances, but he’s capable of more. Hopefully he’s given more playing time next season. D+.

Willian: Unquestionably the flop of the season. He has been a terrible signing even if he ends with more assists than anyone else. For everyone’s sake, we have to move heaven and earth to shift him somewhere else … anywhere else … during the summer. F.

Reiss Nelson: A wasted season in which he eschewed a summer loan move to fight for a place. Perhaps admirable, but ultimately he’s lost an entire season of development. Barely played, and his place in the pecking order tells us that, at the very least, a loan somewhere next season is what has to happen next. F.

Flo Balogun: No rating, but gets a mention because he scored a couple of goals and signed a new deal, which is promising for the future.

Loan players

I’m not going to rate them, but just a quick few words on their futures.

Joe Willock: His spell at Newcastle could not have gone better, and really gives the club something to think about this summer. Do we want to use his talent a goalscoring midfielder, or cash in when his stock has gone through the roof? Tough one for me.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: Did fine at West Brom, but continued confusion about where he wants to play means his future is uncertain. Now he wants to be a midfielder, not long ago he wanted to be a winger, and I think he genuinely missed a chance to stake a claim to be our right back for years to come. I suspect we’ll sell.

Matteo Guendouzi: Huffed and puffed for a Hertha Berlin side who flirted with relegation. With just one year left on his contract I don’t see an extension being offered, so the only option is sell. Linked heavily with a move to Marseille, so it will be interesting to see who comes in for him, and at what price.

Lucas Torreira: Won La Liga with Atletico Madrid, but really didn’t play as much as you might expect. Experienced traumatic personal issues during the season, and I don’t think London is the place he wants to be. Will leave.

Sead Kolasinac: Relegated with Schalke, and it told you plenty about how he was viewed that he was allowed leave despite being the only cover for Tierney. Sell, sell, sell.

William Saliba: Did well at Nice, there are still parts of his game which need work, but that is true of all 20 year old central defenders. It’s incumbent on the manager and his staff to do that with a £28m asset next season.

Dinos Mavropanos: Despite a good spell at Stuttgart, it looks as he’s surplus to requirements with us (as per Chris Wheatley on the Arsecast last week). Is a bit injury prone, but if it were me and we were selling, I think I’d look for a clause giving us first option just in case he really develops.

Ok, that’s it. Please feel free to use the Arses (the comment system) to discuss and disagree, you can leave your own ratings, tell me I’m deluded and wrong and all the rest.

For now, I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast Extra recorded last night, chatting about the Brighton game, the end of the season, and lots more.

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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL

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