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Best and Worst Case Scenarios: Midfielders

Granit Xhaka will have a Vieira-esque season. Or not.

Chelsea v Arsenal - The FA Community Shield
Could this be Arsenal’s preferred midfield pairing?
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

With Arsenal opening its 2017-18 season this weekend, 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!

Granit Xhaka

Best: His disciplinary issues were youthful exuberance that he has outgrown, but he remains a physical presence in the midfield. He fills the void left by Cazorla’s injury (in a different way) and links up play for the Gunners. He adds 3 or 4 goals, including a highlight reel screamer from 35 yards out that challenges for goal of the season.

Worst: He continues to be plagued by disciplinary issues and is sent off in three matches this season (last year it was two). Wenger loses all confidence in him, and his playing time dwindles to near-zero.

Unfortunate bonus fact: Xhaka has been sent off more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues over the past three seasons.

Mohamed Elneny

Best: He maintains the level of play he showed in the Community Shield where he made positive moves with the ball and always seemed to be pressuring. His ability to shoot from distance opens up opposing defenses who can no longer sit back trying to stop Arsenal from passing the ball into the back of the net.

Worst: He frequently picks the wrong pass and is often out of position. He gets lost down Arsenal’s depth chart.

Aaron Ramsey

Best: He stays healthy and returns to his form of three and four seasons ago (10 and 16 goals respectively), banging in 10+ goals again. Playing alongside Granit Xhaka in the center of Arsenal’s midfield gives him the freedom to make penetrating runs forward to create scoring chances.

Worst: He struggles to find a place in Arsenal’s 3-4-3 system: not trusted enough to play in central midfield and not able to outshine Arsenal’s other attacking options.

Francis Coquelin

Best: He plays alongside a creative passer who links up play, letting him do what he does best: win the ball, break-up play, and generally be a nuisance to opposing sides. He plays well in the matches against the bottom half of the table, allowing the first-choice players some much needed rest.

Worst: He is again forced to fill a role to which he is not suited (box-to-box as opposed to more of an out and out defensive midfielder) and is consistently exposed. His discipline issues crop up again and he is dismissed from two matches. The Short Fuse writers’ chat room becomes so inundated with Coquelin banter that it crashes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin

Best: The move to the right side of the 3-4-3 formation gives him the space and freedom to run at defenders and use his speed to wreak havoc on opposing backlines. He notches 10 goals and 10 assists across all competitions.

Worst: The rumors are true, and Arsenal sell him across London to Chelsea. He scores a brace against Arsenal when the Gunners visit Stamford Bridge on September 17th. Everyone wonders why in the world Arsenal sold him.

Jack Wilshere

Best: Healthy and rejuvenated, he realizes he’s on his last chance with Arsenal and rises to the occasion, becoming the player everyone anointed him to be seasons ago. He provides creativity for a terrifying Arsenal attack. Oh, and he learns to get rid of the ball just half a second quicker to avoid having his feet, ankles, and knees clattered into.

Worst: His legs are discovered to actually be made of glass. He sustains yet another injury that forces him to miss a large portion of the season, and his time with Arsenal is remembered for what could have been instead of what was.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide

Best: Whatever prompted Arsene Wenger to say he “didn’t want” JEFF anymore has been resolved, and the youngster continues his development in Ligue 1 on loan.

Worst: The apparent bad blood between him and Wenger is real, and he is sold. In a few years, he blossoms into a star and scores against Arsenal to knock them out of the Champions League.

Santi Cazorla

Best: The little Spaniard recovers from his devastating injury and regains the form that made him an integral part of the Arsenal midfield. His return is “like a new signing” and solidifies a position of questionable depth for the Gunners.

Worst: He is plagued by setback after setback in his recovery and misses most (or all) of the season. He doesn’t play a competitive match for Arsenal again.