David Luiz, Arsenal
Grading every Arsenal player’s (and Arteta’s) season so far

Written by Edward Pitt

November 26, 2020

It has been a very up and down season so far for Arsenal; some players are drastically underperforming, whereas in fairness, some have been playing as well as ever before for Arsenal. Here is every fielded player’s grade for the season so far…

Leno – Grade A: Whether you prefer Martinez or Leno stylistically, no Arsenal fans can say that they aren’t happy with our goalkeeper. Since signing for Arsenal you could argue that he’s been our best player, and that has continued this season. He had a slightly shaky game against Leicester, but apart from that has hardly put a foot wrong and has already rescued us a number of points.

Runarsson – Grade C: Difficult to grade this lad. So far, he only has 1 game under his belt, which in fairness was a clean sheet against Dundalk in the Europa League where he made a couple of decent saves. Looks promising, but unlikely to be a signing to change Arsenal’s season.

Bellerin – Grade A: We are starting to get the old Bellerin back! He has been very reliable in defence and is starting to be a bit more clinical in his final ball. I’ve been really happy with his season so far.

Holding – Grade B: Holding has really kicked on this season, and has shown the kind of form he had prior to his injuries. He is a fairly no -nonsense centre back, but he defends with passion and has really helped sure up our defence.

Gabriel – Grade A*: There is a reason why Arsenal have gone from one of the worst defensive sides in the league to one of the best, and along with Arteta’s more defensive tactics, that reason is Gabriel. He has taken no time at all to settle in and is proving to be one of the best centre backs in the league, and an absolute steal at £22 million.

Tierney – Grade A: Whether at centre back, left back or wing back, Tierney always wears his heart on his sleeve and puts in a solid performance. He is certainly strongest at left back and I am keen to see him play there week in, week out from now on.

Cedric – Grade C: I really like Cedric. Don’t get me wrong, he is nowhere near challenging Bellerin or Maitland-Niles for the first-team, but as a squad player he is really good. Considering our back-up right backs in years gone by have been Carl Jenkinson and Stephan Litchsteiner, we have a very good asset in Cedric: a premier league proven right-back.

Mustafi – Grade C: With the defensive record we have, I don’t think it would be fair to grade any defender less than a passing C grade, even someone who has played as little as Mustafi. Similar to Cedric in that, he is not good enough to start but appears to be reliable enough to call upon when needed. He looks a very different centre back under Arteta compared to his form under Wenger and Emery.

David Luiz – Grade C: For every poor game of big mistake this guy makes, he also has a worldie of a game or a crucial last-ditch challenge to go along with it. 

Kolasinac – Grade D: Maybe I was lying before when I said no defender deserves less than a C grade, or maybe I’m just being unfair. But from where I’m sitting, Kolasinac is timid going forward and clumsy going backwards. I struggle to see any redeeming qualities with this player.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – Grade C: If you had asked me after the community shield what I was going to be grading his season so far in a few months’ time, I would have thought an A grade. But after a promising start to the season, AMN has struggled to make that starting spot his own. He is in that tricky position where, if Arteta wants to play four at the back he’ll naturally choose Tierney, whereas if he wants to operate with wing-backs he’d naturally pick Saka, leaving AMN with little game time this season. Maybe it’s about time we see him in his preferred position as a centre midfield partner to Thomas Partey.

Dani Ceballos – Grade D: He has started to look better in the last few weeks, but overall, he has been a letdown this season. His play has been quite sloppy this season and his struggles correlate with Arsenal’s palpable struggles with creativity so far. 

Granit Xhaka – Grade D: I’m not a typical ‘Xhaka-hater’, but even his most ardent fans couldn’t claim he has been at his best this season. He has lost most of his midfield battles, and frankly seems a bit redundant when compared to someone like Thomas Partey.

Mo Elneny – Grade B: Last season I had completely forgotten about this man. I didn’t care at all whether he stayed at Arsenal or moved to Besiktas permanently. But, like many other players under Arteta, he has undergone a huge transformation. He looks solid, reliable and even quite decent going forward, every time he plays.

Thomas Partey – Grade B: To see the impact of Partey, just look at the game against Leeds where he wasn’t playing. We were dominated by the Leeds midfield and could not get out of our own half at times. We have only seen his quality in glimpses so far, but every fan knows just how could he will be for us over the next few years.

Joe Willock – Grade B: Apart from the game against Leeds where he struggled, he has played well in every game he’s had. The only reason why he hasn’t got a higher grade is that these games have all been against weaker opposition in the Europa League.

Bukayo Saka – Grade A*: In a season largely devoid of any flair and creativity, he has been our one shining light. His confidence, maturity and ability make him arguably the best prospect in the Premier League right now alongside Phil Foden. Some people, even some rival fans, want him to start for England at the Euros. Along with Gabriel, these two have been by far our best players this season.

Reiss Nelson – Grade C: Has had a couple of decent performances in the Europa League. Hopefully, with Pepe out for a few weeks, he will take his chance to prove to Arteta that he can provide the flair that Arsenal are missing right now.

Willian – Grade D: Since his admittedly wonderful debut against Fulham, I can’t remember one half-decent performance from him. In fairness, I did think that he would be a squad player when we signed him, used to aid rotation. Instead, Arteta has relied on him far too often and the Brazilian has really struggled. 

Pepe – Grade B: Some fans would give him an F, but I don’t want to get swayed too heavily from his one moment of madness against Leeds. He and Saka have been our most dangerous players this season. Some fans may assign him blame to fit their agenda or because of his price tag, but if you look at his season objectively, it has been decent. He is far too inconsistent, but when he’s in the mood he has looked like one of the few players who can make something happen for Arsenal out of absolutely nothing. We need to get behind him now. Arteta I’m sure will take the next few weeks to really try and get through to Pepe. Arteta transformed the likes of Sterling and Sane; if he can do the same with Pepe over the next few weeks and months, it could be monumental in changing our form this season.

Nketiah – Grade B: His overall game clearly isn’t on a par with Lacazette or Aubameyang, but you can’t deny how good he is at scoring goals. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and if Lacazette and Aubameyang don’t improve, maybe he deserves a run in the number 9 spot.

Lacazette – Grade C: It’s a shame because he made such a good start to the season, with 3 goals in 3 league games, but ever since he has really struggled. It’s interesting, because everyone is willing to make excuses for Aubameyang but not Lacazette, despite him scoring more league goals from fewer minutes. 

Aubameyang – Grade C: I don’t think it’s fair to say Aubameyang has been any better than Lacazette. They’ve both suffered from the same lack of creativity, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Aubameyang still hasn’t been good enough. To put it simply, Arsenal’s squad right now is better than it was last season and during our FA cup run. He showed us his best last season in scoring goals despite a poor team behind him, he needs to show that this season now. Think of the goal against Liverpool in the community shield or against Fulham. When he gets the ball he knows he wants to dribble past his man and shoot; we need to see that willingness to force something to happen now. 

Arteta – Grade C: I still think that with time, and plenty of investment, Arteta is the man for the job. But this season he seems to be making questionable decisions, in terms of tactics and personnel. For example, why did it take so long to move to a back 4 and why does he continue to rely on someone like Willian. The only reason he hasn’t gotten a D or even lower, is because of how solid we look at the back now.

Photo Credit: Amir Hosseini

 

 

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