The 2021-22 season saw Mikel Arteta lead Arsenal from a second consecutive eighth place finish in the Premier League up to fifth and within a single match of a return to the UEFA Champions League. The club continued it’s multi-year process of rebuilding the squad and we saw the debut of several new key players. As we begin to close the book on this past year it’s time to break down how much of an impact each player had for Arsenal this season.
The setup for this process was that five writers here at The Short Fuse (Aaron, Aidan, Michael, Tony, and myself) ranked the 28 players who made at least one appearance for Arsenal this past season. The following rankings are based on their average score and I’ve included the highest and lowest ranking each player received.
28th - Reiss Nelson
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 27.20 (25/28)
Last place for Nelson does not reflect on his potential future importance for the club, but rather how quickly he exited for his loan at Feyenoord. Reiss only played 20 minutes in one match at Arsenal. But had a good year in the Eredivisie putting up four goals and seven assists playing from both the right and left wing. With rumors of Pepe’s exit this summer, Nelson could be back in the mix under Mikel Arteta next season.
27th - Sead Kolašinac
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 25.80 (22/28)
Five matches and three starts, Kolasinac was a part of that brutal opening stretch of matches this season. From there he was mostly left out of the squad before picking up an ankle injury in November. Sead made the permanent move to Ligue 1 with Olympique Marseille in January.
26th - Charlie Patino
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 25.60 (24/27)
While Patino may have only logged 79 minutes for the first-team this season, his lone goal and future potential has certainty struck home with the Arsenal fan base. The 18-year-old midfielder is an exciting player and one to watch this summer. He’s ready to move on from the U23s, but will that be with Arsenal’s expanded squad next year for European action or out on loan to gain regular starts at the senior level?
25th - Pablo Mari
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 25.20 (24/28)
Much like Kolasinac, Mari started the losses to Brentford and Chelsea at the start of the year. Then besides playing in the 3-0 over AFC Wimbledon in the League Cup in September, he was left out of the squad for the remainder of the first half of the season. Mari went on loan to Udinese in Serie A for the second half. A permanent move back to the Italian club appears to have hit a roadblock, but expect his transfer out of Arsenal this summer.
24th - Folarin Balogun
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 25.00 (21/26)
Four matches, two starts and just 177 minutes. Balogun, like Patino, but farther along on his development path, didn’t get many opportunities to shine at Arsenal this season, but there is growing hope around him. This past year he signed a new multi-year contract before heading out to join Middlesbrough on loan in the Championship. There he scored three times and provided three assists as the team nearly made the playoffs. Can he take the next step at Arsenal next season or will it be another loan?
23rd - Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 23.00 (22/24)
The first reasonable contributor from the ‘21-22 season. During his 11 matches he played as a right wing-back, defensive midfielder and central midfielder, picking up one assist, while trying to secure a place under Mikel Arteta. Ultimately, he slipped back into a role on the bench, at best, and eventually left for Roma in January. There he played more often as a midfielder than a fullback, but it seems unlikely that is his destination next season. While Arsenal need to increase their depth next year, you’d imagine Maitland-Niles wants a starting spot, in a role he perfers, rather than waiting around at Arsenal’s training ground for another season.
22nd - Calum Chambers
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 22.20 (21/25)
After nearly eight years at Arsenal, which saw Chambers climb up into the England national team camp, he like so many in this list found themselves out of the squad and exited the club in January. 122 starts in his time at the Emirates, Chambers left on good terms with the club and fanbase as he moved on a free transfer to Aston Villa. It was nice to see him score in his next to last appeance when Arsenal beat Leeds United in the League Cup.
21st - Bernd Leno
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 21.00 (19/23)
Perhaps no player’s season at Arsenal took a more dramatic turn than Leno’s. While there were rumors of an exit during the summer, he entered the season at the Gunners #1. He started in the three opening losses that saw Arsenal outscored 9-to-0. Enter Aaron Ramsdale and Leno wouldn’t see a non-Cup match except one time for the rest of the season. Now with Matt Turner coming in, it’s expected that Leno will make a move to another club as he looks to regain the #1 spot.
Later this week we will look at the players who ranked 11th through 20th, a group which saw much more disparity in ratings than this set. But for now, let us know in the comments below your thoughts on these players? Were any ranked way off from your personal rankings? Who might have the biggest impact at Arsenal next season between Nelson, Balogun, and Patino? And what about in the long term?