The last few years at Arsenal have been a difficult watch for a number of reasons. There appears to be an identity crisis at the club, one that has existed since Arsene Wenger departed the club in 2018.
Arsenal’s problems go back much further than that of course. Arsenal haven’t had a reliable player to build a team around since Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona in 2011. Santi Cazorla had injury problems, Aaron Ramsey wasn’t consistent enough and Mesut Özil has been scrutinised for his alleged lack of work ethic time and again. Recently, that player has been Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international played more minutes than any other Arsenal midfielder in the last 3 seasons, showing that 3 different managers have had very high opinions of him.
“I like everything about him. His commitment, I like the way he is, the way he lifts his profession, how focused he is. Every time I am talking, he is listening and is willing to learn.”Mikel Arteta – Jan 1. 2020
Unfortunately, there’s no hiding the fact that Xhaka is nowhere near the player than Fabregas was. He’s a good player, but not the player to build the future around. There are many players at Arsenal, but none of them have quality, consistency and time on their side to make them the perfect fit for a focal point in the team.
The issues don’t stop in midfield either. Despite recent improvements, Arsenal’s defence is a technically gifted group of players who are prone to costly, eccentric moments. Furthermore, the defender with the most minutes played this season is David Luiz. A 33 year old who was deemed not good enough to play for Chelsea – who’ve played Kurt Zouma at centre-back more than anybody else this season. He isn’t the future.
There is a reason to be positive though. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Joe Willock are all under 21 years old and have all played over 1,000 minutes this season, showing plenty of promise. Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson also look like good prospects for their age, and with a good core and setup behind them they could all become excellent players for Arsenal.
Arsenal are in a very clear transitional period at the moment. Their best attacking players are past their peak, there are question marks over all of their defenders and their midfield is nowhere near the level of the other contenders in the league. Arsenal’s most consistent player this season has been the goalkeeper, and the last thing Arsenal fans want is to experience what it felt like to support Man United in the years following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. A rebuild is necessary to make that happen, and that starts at the core.
Photo: Ronnie Macdonald (2018)