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!
Best: He and Lacazette form a fearsome partnership, scoring 45 to 50 goals between the two of them in the league alone. The prospect of reuniting with Lacazette in the Champions League next season (and making more than £300,000 per week) convinces him to sign a new contract with the Gunners, and all is well with the world.
Worst: I think we all know what this looks like.
Best: He is the yin to Alexis’ yang and the two of them terrify backlines from Bournemouth to Budapest (you know, in the Europa League). He provides enough of a goal-scoring threat that Alexis doesn’t have to play 90 minutes of every match for Arsenal to win, and they both ease the other’s workload.
Worst: He struggles to adjust his game to the Premier League, cannot replicate his Ligue 1 scoring record, and loses his spot in the starting XI.
Best: Özil is the maestro for a symphony of attacking beauty in which he repeatedly slips in Alexis and Lacazette with passes that no other person could have imagined let alone pulled off. He leads the Premier League in assists with at least 20.
Worst: The contract extension saga casts a pall over his entire season. Arsenal’s attack suffers. He shines at the World Cup, assisting on the goal that makes Germany the first back-to-back winners since Brazil in ’58 and ’62. He leaves on a free transfer.
Best: He becomes the super-est of super subs, banging in 15 goals in the Premier League. He scores at the death in two different matches to steal valuable points for the Gunners. In his ensuing goal celebrations, he strikes poses so beautiful that he is immediately invited to walk the runway at fashion week.
Worst: In a World Cup year, he becomes increasingly displeased with his lack of playing time, and his discontent is a tabloid favorite. Even with Alexis leaving, he doesn’t want to sit behind Lacazette, so he forces a move away from North London.
Best: A healthy Welbeck provides yet another option in an attack whose potency has rarely been seen in the Premier League. He scores 10-15 goals in all competitions. Unable to coherently articulate their awe at how quickly and ruthlessly Arsenal strikes, Premier League announcers start yelling Ray Hudson-esque that the Arsenal attack is “more beautiful than a Monet painting, faster than Mario Andretti on the autobahn, and deadlier than skydiving without a parachute” before collectively exploding when Welbeck bags the fifth goal in a 5-0 drubbing of Tottenham.
Worst: Another injury derails another season. Supporters are left wondering if he will make it to 30 appearances in the remaining two years of his contract.
Best: He regains his finishing touch, combines it with his electric pace, and challenges for starts in the Premier League. He is one of the first players off the bench when Arsenal need attacking punch. He scores 25 goals in all competitions
Worst: He struggles to find his place in the Arsenal attack because his pace can’t quite make up for being edged out as a finisher by Lacazette and Giroud and being edged out as a dribbler by Alexis and the Ox.
Best: This is the year he makes the big leap forward and blossoms into a star. His superb close control, willingness to take on defenders, and ability to pass in tight areas puts him firmly into Arsenal’s attacking rotation. He scores 10 goals and adds 10 assists in all competitions.
Worst: His decision-making fails to progress with the rest of his game. He takes on defenders and loses the ball, his passes turn into giveaways, and Wenger loses faith in him. He tumbles to sixth or seventh choice among attackers.
Best: He goes out on loan to a side where he will get playing time (he featured in less than half of Brighton & Hove Albion’s matches after his January loan last season).
Worst: He doesn’t get first-team experience, whether at Arsenal or elsewhere, and his development stalls.
Best: He returns from injury and challenges for playing time with his high work rate and speed.
Worst: His recovery takes longer than expected, he doesn’t really feature in an Arsenal shirt this year, and he leaves on a free transfer this summer.
Best: Arsenal are unable to sell him back to a Spanish side. Wenger decides to play him, and he rewards his coach with the precise passing and intelligent movement that had supporters so excited when he joined the club
Worst: Arsenal are unable to sell him back to a Spainish side. He fills the same role as he did last season: on the bench or out of the squad entirely.