While I’m sure many fans are ready to move on to next season or at least enjoy the summer transfer rumor mill, we need to pause and look back at how the Arsenal squad did individually this year. The results from each competition and Premier League finishing position were far from ideal, but there are a few bright spots moving forward and it was great to have Arsenal to watch during a difficult year.
The Short Fuse staff ranked the top 30 players and we’ve averaged their position into the overall rankings. Today is a quick rundown of the ten who failed to contribute the most or live up to their potential this season.
30th - Alex Runarsson
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 28.50 (27/30)
Runarsson made five starts and six appearances total. Looking back it’s a surprise that he even played that much, could you name those six matches? Arsenal made a panic buy, he didn’t end up being ready for this level yet, and will likely be exiting this summer.
29th - Shkodran Mustafi
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 27.75 (25/29)
9 appearances? That seems like it happened more than a year ago, but that’s the combination of this difficult season and the odd last 18 months of football we’ve had. With his best days probably behind him, the center-back depth currently at Arsenal, and two young options waiting to return (Saliba & Mavropanos), it was the right decision to part ways with Mustafi.
28th - Sead Kolašinac
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 27.75 (26/29)
Kolasinac had his moments in the Arsenal jersey, but both he and the club knew it was best to part ways (although they’ve still got to figure out a permanent solution). It might have been helpful to have Sead for a portion of the second half of the season when Tierney was out, but honestly, I’m not sure he offered that much more than Xhaka or Cedric, which is all we really need to know.
27th - Folarin Balogun
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 25.5 (24/26)
Arsenal’s next great attacking prospect from the academy. Balogun managed two goals and one assist from playing just 82 total minutes all season. But it was signing him to a new, long-term contract that is the real headline. Did the club agree to integrate him more into the first team next season or something along the lines of a one-year loan in the Championship with promises that he is part of the long-term plan once Lacazette and Aubameyang move on? Either way, Balogun offers excitement and hope for the future.
26th - Willian
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 25.0 (19/30)
He tied the top of Arsenal’s assist leader board at 7 alongside Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. Add in his one goal and he was Arsenal’s 6th most productive attacking player. But following uncertainty around the deal made with him last summer, his price tag, and a tough start to the season (besides opening day), the year left many underwhelmed. Can Edu off-load his contract to make way for a new winger or finally utilize Reiss Nelson?
25th - Reiss Nelson
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 24.75 (22/27)
Speaking of Reiss...his potential ‘20-21 season took a U-turn when Arsenal signed Willian. I think many, myself included, were looking forward to seeing how Nelson might develop over the season if given 20-25 matches. Instead, he got 9 appearances, averaged under 60 minutes a match, and tallied one goal and one assist. He is still just 21, but having already done the year in the Bundesliga, next season seems like the inflection point for him at Arsenal. Will he get his chances and take step forward as a Premier League ready player, or if left out of much the first half of the season will he push for a permanent move away by the winter transfer window?
24th - Mat Ryan
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 24.25 (22/25)
Here is the player Arsenal was looking for last summer instead of Runarsson. A solid second goalkeeper with top-flight experience, who is ready to step in for Leno when needed, and adds to the locker room. He made three starts, allowing just two goals. Regardless of what happens with Bernd Leno this summer or long-term, I think the players, fans, and probably Ryan himself would like to see a permanent deal this summer.
23rd - Dani Ceballos
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 24.0 (17 / 29)
37 appearances with two goals and two assists in 2019-20 to just three assists in 40 appearances this year. Add in that the second year of his loan move from Real Madrid took minutes from Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles and you can understand that many are ready for the Ceballos experiment to end. All three of those players may not be at Arsenal next season, but the Gunners’ midfield is definitely ready to move on from the Spaniard.
22nd - Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 21.75 (21/24)
After another half-season of playing in defense and fill-in player, Maitland-Niles got his wish to start consistently in midfield, just not at Arsenal. If he feels validated by that move to West Brom then he has to leave the Emirates, because it’s hard to see him getting minutes in that position for the Gunners. If instead, he wants to be part of the new right-back depth chart/right midfield/wing-back then there could be a future at the club.
21st - Cedric Soares
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 21.50 (13/28)
The second biggest ranking range among the TSF staff (15 places). In his first full season at Arsenal, Cedric entered the season as a backup right-back, but at times became the primary right-back and fill-in left-back. With just two assists this year, he isn’t the starter Arsenal need moving forward, but he is a solid, experienced backup on the right. But so are Chambers and Maitland-Niles. He turns 30 at the start of the season, so it might be tough for the club to find a new home for him. With Bellerin and Maitland-Niles both potentially leaving this summer, he probably sticks around as a squad player for another year (or more).
Give us your thoughts on how the season went for these ten players and what the future might hold for them at Arsenal. Check back soon for the players who finished 20th through 11th for the season, according to the TSF staff rankings.