When the Premier League season halted, we here at The Short Fuse used the break ranked the Arsenal players based on their performances during the campaign. And as we finish up this series, the league looks set to return on the 17th. Once the 2019-20 season concludes we will provide a quick update of player rankings factoring in how these remaining matches play out.
But first we need to reveal our top five Arsenal players this season. There was a fairly consensus top four, which includes two names not many would have predicted back in August.
5th - Granit Xhaka
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 7.0 (6 / 9)
Xhaka went through the highs and lows this season of being the primary captain, the turmoil under Unai Emery and a decision to stay during the January window to prove the doubters wrong. Granit typically was asked to be the reliable defensive midfielder as his central partner rotated and was playing in front of a backline dealing with injury issues and inconsistency. He led Arsenal in passes completed and tackles, but also passes into the final third and progressive passes, something the Gunners often have a lack of. His ability to drop back to help the backline as fullbacks and other midfielders press forward while also finding long and cross field connections will keep him in a critical role for Arteta next season.
4th - Bukayo Saka
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 4.0 (2 / 5)
The fact that Saka is Arsenal’s 4th best player despite not being on a senior contract says a lot about the team’s roster, season and the young player himself. While Auba’s future needs a decision ASAP, getting Bukayo a new contract should be priority number one. Just 18-years-old, Saka surpassed all expectations this season playing on the left wing and then as the emergency third option for left back. With three goals and nine assists (which led the team), Bukayo has clearly made his case that not only should he get a senior team contract, but he should be a given for the 18 each week due to his versatility.
3rd - Gabriel Martinelli
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 3.33 (3 / 4)
Martinelli falls into the same category as Saka - little expectations heading into the season, thrived when given opportunities, and should be a more prominent building block for Arteta next season. He turns 19 later this month and already looks like wonderful value for the roughly $7.5m Arsenal got him for last summer. He’s already amassed 10 goals and 4 assists this season and is exactly the type of talent the Gunners desperately needed in the pipeline with both Aubameyang and Lacazette likely departing by next summer. His desire to push towards goal, strike quickly, take advantage of chances, and versatility will be perfect for Arteta to create a more fluid attack moving forward.
2nd - Bernd Leno
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 2.33 (2 / 3)
Arsenal invested almost $30m in Leno and he has proven a smart decision that should be the club’s keeper for the next few seasons as the defense is sorted. He had the 3rd best save percentage in the Premier League (77.2%, behind only Allison and Kasper Schmeichel), while facing the third most shots. Leno had to face 136 shots on target, while Allison only saw 56 get past his defense. Leno would have loved to have had a few seasons with Mertesacker and Koscielny in front of him. He is one of Arsenal’s most valuable players at the moment and hopefully can maintain his form over the next few seasons as Arteta hopefully turns the defense around.
1st - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 1.0 (1 / 1)
Was there any question here. Arsenal’s best player since he arrived two and half years ago. 20 goals already this season - double the next highest player. Without him Arsenal are probably lingering around 15th or so. If that wasn’t enough, PEA led the team in passes into the penalty area and completed crosses into the penalty area - you know where he is supposed to be - and where he scored those 20 goals. Sadly, Arsenal find themselves in a difficult, but familiar position. Their star striker, the team’s most productive player, either needs to be sold this summer or risk losing him for nothing the following year. Unless Arsenal manage to climb back into the Champions League places it is hard to see Auba signing what will likely be his final contract to stay with the Gunners. Regardless of how the future plays out, he has been the team’s best player this season and it has been a treat for Arsenal fans to watch play.
So there we have it. When the season paused this is how the staff ranked the Arsenal players. What are your thoughts on the top five and how would your personal ranking differ? Once the season ends, officially, we will do a quick refresher with updated rankings taking into consideration these final matches.