Sunday, April 21, 2024

Squad assessment in 140 characters or less (ish) – 2023

Morning all, it’s time for the end of season squad assessment/player ratings.

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, so if you’re thinking ‘How can you give X that when you gave Y this?!’, that’s why.

And in the end there’s no right or wrong, these are subjective ratings. Don’t get personally offended by them – there’s a lot you could get angry about in this world. This isn’t it.

GOALKEEPERS

Aaron Ramsdale: Took a step forward again this season after a solid first campaign. Yes, there were a couple of moments that weren’t great, but by and large he was very, very good – with hands and feet. Signed a new contract, and it feels like he’s a growing influence in the dressing room. A

Matt Turner: Made 7 appearances in the Europa League and FA Cup combined. Did ok, but lacks the presence of Ramsdale. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the number 1 playing the European games next season. D

DEFENDERS

Ben White: I don’t think anyone had envisaged him claiming the right back position as his own, but he did that superbly. His combinations with Saka and Odegaard were very important during our best time of the season, and his personality is uniquely funny which makes him easy to love (for me anyway!) A

Takehiro Tomiyasu: The focus will be on how another season was cut short by injury, and that’s certainly an issue, but he had been an important element of the team – making 33 appearances in all competitions before he was sidelined. He needs to stay fit, but for me he’s a key player if we want to talk about squad depth, and quality depth, next season. B-

William Saliba: Like Tomiyasu, his season was cut short by injury, leaving us wondering what might have been had he stayed fit. His partnership with Gabriel was the best in the Premier League until he got injured. Let’s hope there’s a new deal to be signed, because he’s only going to get better given his age. A

Gabriel: His consistency and reliability is incredible, and possibly a reason why he gets a bit overlooked. Physically excellent, good in the air, and this season had to modify his game to play with a left back that wasn’t outside him, but in front of him or nowhere near him. A

Rob Holding: Didn’t make a Premier League appearance until Saliba got injured. Did ok for a couple of games, and while it’s no surprise to anyone that there’s a gulf in quality between him and the Frenchman, his limitations were badly exposed the longer he stayed in a team which has, perhaps, evolved beyond him. D-

Kieran Tierney: Did a bit of early season timeshare at left-back because of some injuries to Oleksandr Zinchenko, but as time went on he became more and more peripheral. When you think back to how much he added when he signed in 2019, it’s hard to imagine how it could have ended like this – but it seems his future lies elsewhere. Like Holding, his skillset is designed for a different kind of team. C

Oleksandr Zinchenko: Yes, there were some defensive lapses, and moments when he could/should have done better, but it’s not an exaggeration to say he gave the team a completely new dimension this season. It will be interesting to see how he is used next time around. A

Jakub Kiwior: The sample size is too small, and we’ve yet to see him play in his natural position as a left-side centre-back. One for next season. NG (No Grade).

MIDFIELDERS

Thomas Partey: Excellent for 75% of the season, then fell away badly. There were probably some mitigating circumstances in that Saliba’s absence had a knock-on effect for other players too, but an individual season that was parallel with the collective one. B

Granit Xhaka: Mikel Arteta challenged him to deliver more, and he stepped up. 9 goals and 7 assists across the season were his best ever numbers in an Arsenal shirt, and in what looks like his final campaign in red and white, it was nice to see him go out in such a positive way. A

Mohamed Elneny: A season wracked by injury. He did score a goal against Oxford United in the FA Cup, but just 346 minutes makes it difficult to assess his performances. NG

Martin Odegaard: Finished the season with 15 goals and 8 assists, a big step up on his figures from last time out. He took on the responsibility of captain well, and his craft/quality is so much fun to watch. He would be the first to admit there are things he can improve on, but it’s been another season of improvement from a player who is still just 24.  A

Emile Smith Rowe: It’s impossible to give him a rating, because he has barely played. Despite being fit after surgery from late Jan/early Feb onwards, he just didn’t get minutes. It’s hard not to worry about how he has lost the trust of the manager, but with David Ornstein reporting we have no intention of selling this summer, let’s hope the slate is wiped clean and we can see the real ESR next season. NG

Bukayo Saka: Brilliant again, he plays with the consistency of someone with many more years under their belt. 15 goals and 11 assists is an upgrade on the 12 and 7 he produced last season, and signing a new deal secures his future. A gem but one we also have to protect a little with some solid back-up/competition. A

Jorginho: Like many, I found the idea of signing another 30+ player from Chelsea a hard one to come to terms with, but he has been very good. Didn’t play perhaps as much as he should have – and that’s the best compliment I can pay him. B+

Fabio Vieira: Arsenal invested heavily enough in him, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say we haven’t seen sufficient return yet. He missed pre-season which wasn’t helpful, and it can take some players a while to properly settle in. Gets a passing grade because he ended with 2 goals and 6 assists, but we need to see much more from him next season. D

FORWARDS

Gabriel Jesus: Along with Zinchenko, added something tangible to the way we played – particularly in the first half of the season. Even if he wasn’t scoring as much as we’d like, he was always influential as we topped the table. Clearly a bad injury mid-season is far from ideal, and his post World Cup form wasn’t quite as good, but a season with 11 goals and 8 assists is not to be sniffed at. Can do better, so let’s hope we see that next time. A

Gabriel Martinelli: Like Saka and others, he has made strides this season. His pace and directness on the left gives defences all kinds of problems. He ended with 15 goals and 6 assists, and given his age you’d back him to consolidate that, and even improve again next season. A

Eddie Nketiah: Scored 9 goals in all competitions, including a brace against Man Utd, but didn’t fully grasp the chance he had when Jesus got injured. An injury of his own wasn’t much help, but he’s a player who only really scores when he starts, and that’s not ideal for someone whose place in the squad is essentially as a back-up player. C

Leandro Trossard: We wanted Mykhaylo Mudryk, we got Trossard instead. Based on what both have produced since January, we certainly got the better short-term deal. I do think he suits this team better as a ‘false 9’ than as a traditional wide-man, so it will be interesting to see what we do with him next season. B+

Reiss Nelson: A player who caught the eye. That late winner against Bournemouth will never be forgotten, and his two goal haul against Nottingham Forest when Saka was injured was a big contribution. However, he only played 201 minutes in the Premier League, and just 589 in all competitions – so over the course of the campaign he was peripheral again. C

Loan players

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

Cedric Soares: Went to Fulham in January, barely played – and while there probably won’t be a host of clubs banging our door down for his signature, with just one year left on his contract I suspect an agreement will be found to facilitate the departure of the 31 year old.

Nicolas Pepe: 8 goals and 1 assist for Nice isn’t going to drum up a lot interest in him. If we can recoup any small amount of the £72m we paid for him, we should take it. Like Cedric though, I think this might be a facilitated departure.

Pablo Mari: Set to complete a permanent move to Monza after helping them avoid relegation. £6m in the back bank (oops), thanks Pablo.

Albert Sambi Lokonga: Started just twice in the Premier League before his January loan, and his spell at Crystal Palace really didn’t benefit him or us. He barely featured after Patrick Vieira was fired. Needs to go somewhere and play regularly, suspect we’ll try to sell but another loan wouldn’t be a surprise.

Nuno Tavares: Where he goes, there is chaos. Started brilliantly at Marseille, scored some goals, but then it went the other way. There’s just no place for him a team that is as structured as ours, but we should be able to bring in a transfer fee at least the same as the one we paid (£7m).

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: Has already confirmed he’ll be leaving.

Folarin Balogun: He couldn’t have done much more during his spell at Reims – scoring 21 goals. To put that in context, that’s just under 50% of his side’s total goals for the season. The other context people might use is the fact that Alexandre Lacazette, a player who looked a busted flush for us last season, finished with 27 goals in the same league. Nevertheless, Balogun’s youth means he’ll get opportunities. He has already hinted his future lies elsewhere, so it might be a case of ‘Where?’ and ‘How much?’ unless Mikel Arteta has other plans for him. I guess we’ll find out in due course.

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.

Till tomorrow.

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