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Best and Worst Case Scenarios: Keepers and Defenders

Arsenal will give up the fewest goals in the league. Maybe.

Arsenal Official Welcome To Sydney
The Keeper, the Boss, and the BFG
Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

With Arsenal opening its 2017-18 season today, I thought about what the season-long best- and worst-case scenarios for each player might be.

It turns out that if everyone in the side have their best season, Arsenal will score the most goals, give up the fewest, and cruise to winning the league. If everything goes wrong, Arsenal will finish outside the top 6, maybe even outside the top 10.

I’ve done my best to be realistic. For example, you could say that the best-case scenario for Rob Holding is that he is the second coming of John Terry, but that’s a bit much. Of course, the worst-case scenario for any player is a season-ending injury, but you can’t (and shouldn’t) predict those. Any player could become disgruntled and want to leave. When I thought that could happen, I tried to give a reason.

Let me know in the comments if you agree!

Petr Čech

Best: The 3-4-3 provides more defensive cover than he had last season, and he faces fewer gilt-edged chances as a result. He wins his 5th Premier League Golden Glove, breaking a tie with Joe Hart (!?) for most all-time.

Worst: Last-season’s dip in form continues, and he makes more questionable decisions to come off his line like in the Community Shield. He eventually loses his starting place to David Ospina.

David Ospina

Best: His Cup and Europa League play is so strong that it forces Arsene Wenger to give him more Premier League games. He and Čech make up the best goalkeeping tandem in league.

Worst: His difficulties in commanding his penalty area continue, and supporters cringe every time he comes off his line flapping at a ball. He wants more games in a World Cup year, so he pushes for a January move.

Laurent Koscielny

Best: He maintains the form that has made him a top five centerback in the Premier League for the past few seasons. Alongside Shkodran Mustafi and a third defender, he is part of an Arsenal back three that allows the fewest goals in the league.

Worst: He loses some of the speed that has made him so effective. As a result, he is forced to put in more questionable tackles (like the one for which he is currently serving a suspension) and costs Arsenal a match or two.

Shkodran Mustafi

Best: A second year of strong play in the Premier League gets him the attention and notoriety he deserves. Arsenal regain the form they had when he joined the club at the beginning of last season (18 games unbeaten in all competitions).

Worst: Teams exploit his aggressive play in going for interceptions and tackles. Arsenal struggle to find a player to pair with him and Koscielny, and unable to form a consistent partnership, Arsenal leak goals.

Rob Holding

Best: He grabs hold of the third spot in the back and doesn’t let it go. He moves into consideration for England’s World Cup side. I don’t think he makes the side, but a strong season certainly puts him in the conversation.

Worst: He makes too many costly mistakes on the ball and falls to fourth or even fifth on the centerback depth chart.

Per Mertesacker

Best: He deputizes well for the preferred back three for non-league matches and mentors Arsenal’s younger centerbacks. He rides off into the sunset to develop generations of Arsenal academy talent.

Worst: He is pressed into regular duty and is unable to keep up with the pressure and pace of sides like Liverpool and Tottenham. Analysts and fans pin Arsenal’s defensive struggles on him.


Best: He stays healthy, shows off his strong tackling and athletic ability, and improves his distribution. He challenges for a starting spot in the back three.

Worst: The niggling injuries that have slowed his development since joining Arsenal persist (which seems to be the way we are heading – he is weeks away from fitness). He is sold back to a Spanish side in January or over the summer.

Calum Chambers

Best: He competes for a spot in the back three and sees some playing time as a deep lying midfielder. He cements his place in Arsenal’s future plans.

Worst: He cannot find playing time in a congested and competitive Arsenal back line. He is sold in January or over the summer.

Nacho Monreal

Best: His experience and consistency lock up the third spot in the back three, and he is a solid every week player.

Worst: He finds himself second choice on the outside left and fourth choice at centerback. His value as cover for both of those positions makes Arsene Wenger hesitant to deploy him, and his form suffers.

Héctor Bellerín

Best: The move to a more advanced position in the 3-4-3 allows him to showcase his speed and offensive ability. He returns to playing at a level that two seasons ago made him one of the most talked about young players in Europe.

Worst: Last-season’s dip in form continues, and he loses his spot in the starting XI. Reported links to Barcelona are a distraction all season.

Sead Kolašinac

Best: He is the marauding, intimidating player that we saw in the Community Shield. He runs rampant over opposing teams, striking fear into the hearts of anyone who dares to stand in his way as he powers up the field like a freight train.

Worst: He is the marauding, intimidating player that we saw in the Community Shield. His size, strength, and tackling, while powerful (just ask Victor Moses who was on the wrong end of a Sead Smash™) earn him bookings and sending-offs. He falls out of favor with Wenger a la Granit Xhaka early last year.

Kieran Gibbs

Best: He plays well in Cup matches and as a defensive-minded late-game substitute, earning a few starts in the league.

Worst: He struggles to find his form in extremely limited playing time. He does not sign a new contract and departs the club at the end of the season.

Carl Jenkinson

Best: He sees significant first team minutes…with whatever side he goes out to on loan.

Worst: Arsenal cannot agree to a loan deal, and he is stuck towards the bottom of the depth chart.

Mathieu Debuchy

Best: Arsenal successfully sell him to a League 1 side.

Worst: Arsenal are not able to find a suitable buyer, so he remains a forgotten man at the Emirates.

Aside: I move that henceforth and until sold, he be referred to as “Mathieu Debuchy, yes he still plays for this club.”