We’ve reached the best Arsenal had to offer this season. The goal scorers, the assist leaders, the exciting players for the future, the leaders on the pitch, they are all here. There seems to be a fair consensus on who Arsenal’s top four players were during this difficult season, but also a few surprises on where some individuals ended out on average.
How many of these top ten will remain at Arsenal when next season begins? How many have a guaranteed place in your starting XI? If you missed any of the countdown up to this point you can catch up on how The Short Fuse ranked players 11 through 30 below.
Part 1 - Players 30 through 21.
Part 2 - Players 20 through 11.
10th - Gabriel
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 9.75 (7 / 14)
The $28 million arrival at the start of the season, went as Arsenal did this season - decent start, disappointing middle, and strong finish. His three goals placed him 7th on Arsenal’s scoring charts this season, but his performance is best highlighted by the fact the team lost just once in the league over the final two months when Gabriel started. That includes the five-win run to end the season with a scoring difference of 11-to-2. Just 23, he has already improved Arsenal’s defense during this first season in the Premier League; the future looks bright.
9th - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 9.0 (7 / 11)
The captain’s goals dropped to 15 this season, from 31 and 29 over the past two seasons respectively. However, he did have fewer appearances following two minor knocks before contracting malaria in the second half of the season. Not the year Arsenal or our captain would have hoped for, but he has risen to 7th in the all-time goals list. Add in four assists and his total was only bested by two players this season. Now 32, it’s unlikely Auba makes another move among the top leagues in Europe before his career finishes out. So the question becomes how effective can he be over his final two seasons while making sure there is space to develop players like Folarin Balogun and Martinelli.
8th - Alexandre Lacazette
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 9.0 (1 / 17)
Arsenal’s top goalscorer this season with 17, which is right on par with his average since joining the club (16.25 goals per season over four years). Lacazette finished 5th in the Premier League for goals per 90 minutes. A perfect 4-for-4 from the penalty spot, including the winner over Tottenham in March. Often linked with transfers away from the club over the past few years, and now with just one season left on his contract, Lacazette may exit this summer, making room for more minutes for Martinelli, Balogun, or a new face. Or will the club extend his deal by a year and look to move him over the following two transfer windows?
7th - Rob Holding
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 8.00 (5 / 10)
Since joining Arsenal for just over $3 million in 2016, Holding has slowly grown into an integral part of the Gunners’ defense. This season he hit a career-high 39 appearances, leading the team in clearances, 2nd in tackles in the defensive third, and Arsenal was +18 goal difference when he was on the pitch. His partnership with Gabriel closed out the club’s strong finish to the season, which should remain the starting duo in August until either Mari or Saliba can supplant them. 25 and well-liked at the club, Holding should be a mainstay in the defensive depth chart for a long time.
6th - David Luiz
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 7.0 (5 / 11)
His transfer from Chelsea was definitely a stop-gap, and while he made a few glaring errors while at Arsenal, he was a positive force in the dressing room and as Arsenal’s CB depth adjusted (Gabriel & Mari brought in, Sokratis & Mustafi out, and top-flight minutes for Saliba & Mavropanos on loan). Luiz led Arsenal in the percentage of aerial duels won, but has played his last match for Arsenal. It was a season riddled with injuries and absences, however, most will likely look back on Luiz’s time at the club for his leadership on the pitch.
5th - Kieran Tierney
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 5.0 (2 / 9)
After missing half of his debut season with hip and shoulder injuries, Tierney was close to his best form this season. 38 matches, two goals, and five assists, even with 10-15 matches missed due to injury. Arsenal’s left-back for the future, who is thankfully rumored to be in talks to signs a new long-term contract this summer. He led the team in crosses completed (20) and is the perfect combination of attack and defense that Arsenal can build around. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t confident in Tierney, when he remains healthy, but since that’s a reoccurring theme, the club needs to find him a suitable backup this summer so he isn’t overworked next season.
4th - Granit Xhaka
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 4.50 (3 / 6)
Arsenal were better this year when Xhaka was on the pitch. It’s as simple as that. Even if you disagree about his overall level, he was critical to what little success the team managed this season. Granit played the most minutes of an outfield player, led the team in completed passes, was nearly double the stats in moving the ball forward (completed passes into the final third & progressive passes), 1st in tackles, 2nd in interceptions, 1st in recoveries, and had a +31 goal difference while on the pitch. Despite two years left on his contract, there are consistent rumors that he could leave the Emirates this summer. If that is to be the case, this season capped five seasons of over 40 appearances a year, while often being underappreciated.
3rd - Emile Smith Rowe
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 3.50 (2 / 6)
This season’s breakout player, Smith Rowe finally went from promising academy talent to first-team regular. With four goals and seven assists, ESR looks to be an integral piece of rebuilding Arsenal in the coming seasons. His ball movement and vision have been missed since Ozil fell out of favor, and his speed and defensive work rate since Ramsey left the club. With just two seasons left on his current deal, you can expect a new four or five-year contract announcement any day now.
2nd - Nicolas Pépé
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 3.25 (2 / 4)
Slowly Pepe continues to find his footing in the Premier League and drift away from those who wish to forever dwell on his transfer price (that the club agreed to, not him). He led Arsenal in goals+assists with 21 total (16g/5a), doubling his goal tally from last season, and is only bested by his career-best 23 goals at Lille which resulted in his transfer to England. He was second in actions that led to shots and first in actions which led to goals. Pepe was 8th in goals/90 in the Premier League, which was boosted by his strong finish to the season, five goals during his final three matches. If he can continue that progression he could be in store for a career year next season.
1st - Bukayo Saka
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 1.25 (1 / 2)
Was there ever any doubt? Saka went from breakout player to undroppable and an integral part of any effective Arsenal attack. 46 matches, seven goals, and seven assists were career-best numbers despite being played all over the pitch (three times at left-back and ten in the midfield). Along with Pepe, Saka topped Arsenal in creating chances (1st in shots and 2nd in goals). Still just 19, and with three years left on his current deal, Arsenal fans hope for continual progression as a club moving forward in order to witness the best of Saka for the home side rather than seeing another bright talent slip away to a rival club in the years to come.
Note: There is some disagreement on how many assists Saka had, as he has been credited with 10 by Transfermarkt. Either way, the best is still yet to come for Arsenal’s creative spark.
Who were your top Arsenal players this season? Any surprises in TSF’s top ten? Which players will have an even better 2021-22 season? Let us know in the comments below.