GK: Aaron Ramsdale – Despite a shaky start that I’m sure would have left his dad with his heart in his mouth, Ramsdale has been elite so far this season for Arsenal. Always reliable and composed in goal, doesn’t crack under pressure and is very good at playing out from the back. He has made some spectacular saves and is the main man responsible for us doing so well so far, and his ball distribution is incredible and really helps with progression and taking the game to the opposition.
GK: Matt Turner – The American has proven to be a good signing so far. He has been solid in the Europa League, although he didn’t make the best first impression. Turner has definitely improved already this season, as well as proving solid for the USA in the World Cup, where he didn’t concede a single goal from open play in the group stage. There is always room for improvement but he is doing well for the Gunners and hopefully will get more game time as we have the FA Cup just around the corner.
RB: Ben White – White has been arguably one of the best players for Arsenal this season, transitioning beautifully from CB to RB without compromising on his defensive abilities. He fits in well with Arteta’s evolved game plan as he often finds himself playing out wide and isolated. He has been noticeably better in one-on-one situations and has proven himself reliable as he has kept some of the league’s best attacking players quiet, and helping break down the right side of the opposition’s defence.
RB/LB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – Tomiyasu has played strongly in both positions, as Arteta has called upon him in the LB position when Zinchenko was out through injury and Tierney just wasn’t up to playing the full 90 minutes, even managing to keep Mo Salah quiet. He has been effectively replaced by Ben White due to his proneness to injury but has played his typical lockdown defence role. He is definitely no Zinny, but has done a fantastic job covering for him, and he is vital in playing a ‘Rob Holding role’ to help see out a slim victory in the closing stages of a game.
RB: Cedric Soares – Cedric is now firmly the 3rd choice player for the RB position, as he has failed to impress in the 2 hours of match time he has had this season. He has also missed out due to a muscle injury, but even so Arteta seems hesitant to rely on him in big games, but luckily with our squad depth now it doesn’t look like he will have to. He does what it says on the tin, brings a good energy to the dressing room and training facilities, but it looks unlikely that we will see much of him this season.
CB: William Saliba – His loan last season did him the world of good as he has earned the title of a ‘Rolls Royce defender’. He has undeniably risen to become one of the best defenders in the league, only making the occasional misjudgement which reminds you of just how young he is. He finds himself in the 94th percentile for passes completed and 74th for pass progression. He is vital to Arteta’s game plan as once he gets control of the ball, he gets it up the pitch and has even scored himself. It is a pleasure to watch Saliba play as he is so confident on the ball, although he doesn’t get much time with it as Arsenal have been defending so well and maintaining high levels of possession this season.
CB: Gabriel Magalhães – Gabriel has been reliable for as long as I can remember, and this reliability has improved this season as he plays so fluidly with William Saliba, but can also link up well with his former CB partner, Ben White. The CB duo is only rivalled by Manchester City’s defence, in my opinion as they have both been exceptional this season. He has played a vital role in the 7 clean sheets we have kept this season as well as only conceding 11 goals from 14 games. He is assertive and dominant on the ball and was unlucky not to have been chosen for the Brazil squad with the other two Gabi’s. Criminally underrated as he has found himself in Saliba’s shadow this season as the shiny new addition to Arteta’s world class defence.
CB: Rob Holding – Holdini has played his role well this season. He knows he is depended upon by Arteta to help see out a victory in the closing stages of a match and he is incredibly good at it. He is a good quality backup player, past his prime, but his mistakes seem more noticeable this season, perhaps because they haven’t been happening as often, or maybe because he just doesn’t fit into Arteta’s system. He is in the 86th percentile for class completion and about the 90% percentile for aerial duels won, which is exactly what Arteta wants when a desperate opposition are lobbing balls into the box left, right, and centre.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – Zinny has transformed the Arsenal side and demonstrates exactly what Arteta is looking for in a defender; someone who can seamlessly transition into midfield with Partey to get the ball up the pitch, but with enough pace that he can get back and defend when needs be. He has singlehandedly strengthened our left side, which, along with our well established right flank, makes it very difficult to defend against Arsenal attacks as they can come just as strong down both sides of the pitch. He helps to regain possession high up the pitch in dangerous areas, and we saw how vital he was when he was out through a calf injury in the build up to the World Cup, as the left side looked a bit flat and we depended more on the White x Ødegaard x Saka right side to make progress. Not as solid in defence, but the other three members of the back four are strong enough to cover for this and he is so vital further up the pitch that it’s not so noticeable.
LB: Kieran Tierney – One of my personal favourite players seems to have lost some of his spark this season, whether that’s through missing long periods through injury or being replaced in the starting XI by Zinchenko, it is a shame to see. Tierney has been solid when used and he is very good at getting the all into dangerous positions with his threatening crosses into the box, but just not the same as he was, and now third choice LB to Tomiyasu, it really is a shame to see. He brings plenty to the table and would easily be in contention to start for the majority of Premier League clubs. Arsenal fans still love him and the passion he brings to the side as he leaves it all out on the pitch. He is definitely a better traditional defender than Zinchenko and may well be deployed in games which we struggle to dominate. Another factor is ESR’s injury. Tierney and Martinelli don’t seem to have that on pitch chemistry that he shared with Smith Rowe, who prefers to play more centrally as opposed to Martinelli who massively overlaps where Tierney makes his runs in. Let’s not forget the absolute beauty of a goal he scored against FC Zürich in the Europa League, where he has got most of his game time this season, he is still an immense player and I for one hope he has a future at Arsenal.
CM: Thomas Partey – Partey is the key to Arsenal’s system at the base of the midfield. He links up beautifully with Zinchenko to help the ball progress down the pitch while also being very resistant to the press from the opposition. We are a totally different side without Partey and definitely lack a threat. He has a very slim margin for error and it is only on a rare occasion that he makes a mistake. He is definitely a reliable player, the only downside to Partey is how prone to injury he is.
CM: Mohamed Elneny – Elneny has spent much of the season sidelined through injury but he is definitely a part of the furniture at Arsenal as he is firmly established as a backup to Thomas Partey, although they are definitely not interchangeable. He has looked strong in the games he has played, much like Rob Holding he knows his job is to have an effect or the bench, guide the younger players, and play his part in the squad rotation in lower stakes games, such as the Europa League group stage and early rounds of the FA Cup.
CM: Granit Xhaka – My personal favourite player this season, Xhaka has come full circle in his redemption arc as he is now a firm fan favourite, even with his own song now! His form has been outstanding and he performs incredibly well under Arteta’s new system as he has adapted seamlessly to his role as a box-to-box player this season. He is a big personality in the dressing room and Martin Ødegaard seems as though he needs Xhaka as a sort of co-captain. He leads the younger players well and they admire him as he now plays with maturity and leadership, qualities he lacked in the past which cost Arsenal big time. In my opinion, the most improved player this season as he has totally levelled up with his mindset.
AM: Martin Ødegaard – Captain Ø has had an amazing season so far as one of the most threatening players in Europe. He frequently for under the radar but is so vital to this team, especially being our leading goalscorer with 6 goals so far this season. He had a slight wobble at the beginning of the season which had many, myself included, worried about the captain’s curse striking again, but any worry has been put to bed as he captains this youthful side with confidence, definitely a player to look up to for the youth players and essential to this team.
AM: Fábio Vieira – Vieira came to the Emirates with big shoes to fill. He is most comparable in terms of position with Ødegaard, but needs time to mature and improve his confidence on the ball in big games. He is young and his performances have been inconsistent, but he definitely shows promise especially considering his 4 goal contributions already this season. Vieira is one to watch and, in my opinion, will be a vital part of this team in the next few years.
AM: Sambi Lokonga – Sambi has been forced to play at his unnatural position of a 6, with both our natural 6s out through injury, where his performances were questionable. He is still a young player, only finding himself third choice at his preferred number 8 position. It would be a wise move to send him on loan to Ligue 1, as we can see the magic this league has worked on Saliba last season and Balogun this season, and that is exactly what Sambi needs; regularly starting for a strong side to improve his confidence on the ball and to help him progress in terms of maturity. There is no doubt that there’s a player in there, he just needs a chance to breakout and shine.
RW: Bukayo Saka – Despite a lot of criticism for a ‘slow start’ to the season, Saka is already into double digits for G/A this season. His game has improved and he had a very mature footballing head on his shoulders, proving to be a constant threat for defenders. He is another vital component to Arteta’s system, which sees the goals being shared out pretty equally as opposed to just the forwards, and Saka helps make this happen with his threatening crosses into the box.
RW: Marquinhos – Marquinhos was signed with the intention of playing at U21 level to really develop as a player. However, he has broken into the first team on a couple of occasions, including his impressive debut performance against FC Zürich. Arteta and the coaching staff can clearly see a player in him, but he seems to have fallen behind Reiss Nelson in the pecking order. I hope we will see him progress much like Saka, Martinelli and Smith Rowe have to make it into the first team.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – Constantly seen bombing up and down the left flank, Martinelli has a ridiculous pace on him that allows him to get back to help defend when necessary, and get down the pitch, usually as a leader of a breakout. He is immense in playing on the counter and is definitely an elite progressive dribbler, His partnership with Zinchenko makes the left side just as solid as the right and it seems that Arteta has worked his magic with Gabi this season as it was only last season that he simply wasn’t getting enough game time. He already has 5 goals to his name and rarely has a bad match, Mr Reliable up front.
LW/RW: Reiss Nelson – I think many, myself included, thought Nelson would leave Arsenal to get game time at another club, as he was seriously lacking minutes with Arsenal and definitely has a lot of talent. However, an outstanding performance at Nottingham Forest which saw two goals and an assist to his name may have given him a new lease of life at Arsenal, potentially growing in to a role at the club, but could definitely be used to provide a boost from the bench. He is young and hungry, much like Martinelli last season and sometimes this desire to impress leads to mistakes, but there is undoubtedly a player in there and hopefully he has a future at Arsenal
CF: Gabriel Jesus – Our marquee signing of the summer and the totally transformative signing, Jesus is responsible for our incredible start to the season. He is fantastic on and off the ball, will get back defensively if needs be but is outstanding up front with 12 G/A already this season. He will be missed as he is out through injury until mid February at the earliest, especially his elite press ion, chance creation, and top tier dribbling ability. He also brings that winning mentality from Manchester City and has a real desire to win. Despite falling off in the scoring over the last couple of months, he has been vital in creating opportunities for other players and the scoring will undoubtedly return.
CF: Eddie Nketiah – Nketiah has played as Jesus’ understudy so far this season, with Balogun on loan in Ligue 1. He’s scored for the Gunners and his game is definitely improving as he has Jesus to learn from, but he has missed out in the Europa League not putting away chances that he really could have done. He is still young and fully expected to break out into the first team, which he did reliably for us last season and will probably have a role to play at the beginning of 2023 with Jesus injured. He easily would start for the majority of Premier League clubs because he really is a class player, he just needs to enhance his game and work on staying cool under pressure to secure a place in the starting XI and maybe even give Jesus a run for his money.
Written by Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson
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