Today in part two of The Short Fuse’s post-season player rankings we find a handful of players you would have expected to land in this range back at the start of the season, two surprise names that note how much Arsenal left on the table, and a player that went from third best at his position to nearly helping the club secure a Champions League’s position.
Part 1: Nelson, Kolašinac, Patino, Mari, Balogun, Maitland-Niles, Chambers & Leno.
20th - Albert Sambi Lokonga
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 20.20 (20/21)
A relative unknown when Arsenal signed him from Anderlecht in the Jupiler Pro League. 21 at the time, he was seen as a project and not someone who would be challenging for the starting XI. While it wasn’t a stellar debut season (no goals and no assists), Lokonga gained experience (24 matches) and even earned his first cap for Belgium. Next season with Arsenal needing a deeper squad for European action and World Cup absences, he should continue to grow into this side.
19th - Nicolas Pépé
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 18.60 (18/19)
After ending the season before on a high note, Pepe failed to continue that momentum at the start of this campaign. On one side he managed three goals and six assists, but he only started eight times and was used sparingly down the stretch as Bukayo Saka continued to develop into Arsenal’s Player of the Season. Reports link him with a full move or a loan away from the club this summer, but there will be plenty of minutes to be picked up by either him or Reiss Nelson next season.
18th - Nuno Tavares
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 17.80 (17/19)
17 starts, 28 appearances, two assists, and one goal. While Tavares certainly needs further development to be a Champions League level left-back, he fits well into Arsenal’s new squad over the outgoing Kolasinac. While Tierney remains the number one, Arteta needs two left-backs capable of starting in the Premier League or the Europa League, especially with Kieran’s injury record. Can Tavares take the next step forward, will the club be hindered in half of the matches or will they look to bring in another option?
17th - Cedric Soares
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 17.80 (14/23)
Sometimes stats really come down to how you want to read into them, or not. His ratings from the TSF staff ranged from 14th to 23rd. This season Cedric played in more matches, made more starts, played more minutes, and had more goals and assists than Takehiro Tomiyasu. But while Cedric filled in adrimably for Arsenal’s primary right-back, he’s performances often didn’t match. Now the question becomes will Arteta try to make it through another season with Cedric rotating in half the matches or can they find someone already at or perhaps even ahead of Tomiyasu’s level?
16th - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 15.60 (15/16)
Auba’s seven goals and two assists seem like a lifetime ago. Perhaps that is because his last goal for Arsenal was back in October. His struggles in front of goal in November and early December ultimately led to his fall out with Arteta, being left out of the squad for the next month and then off to Barcelona as January ended. Aubameyang was a wonderful player at Arsenal, but it was a partnership that went a year too long. He ended with 90 goals and 21 assists from 162 matches. Here’s hoping the next Auba is about to walk in the door this summer.
15th - Mohamed Elneny
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 15.00 (14/16)
Like Cedric, Elneny wasn’t expecting to play as often as he did down the final stretch of matches. But unlike Cedric his performances met or surpassed expectations and there was far less of a drop-off from the usual starter, Thomas Partey. That run of games combined with Arsenal’s need for depth next season (Europa & World Cup) saw Elneny earn a new contract with the Gunners. A great teammate and personality to have around the camp, he will be a solid addition to next year’s squad and as it looks farther ahead to transition away from him and Xhaka in the years to come.
14th - Rob Holding
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 14.60 (13/17)
Holding could have pushed for a move away from Arsenal to seek a starting role in another team farther down the ladder. Instead, he was the realiable CB3 for Mikel Arteta this season. A role he will likely continue next year, but with the added benefit of significant more playing time as the club’s matchload increases. It will be interesting to see how Arteta pairs and rotates Holding next season, with the expected arrival of William Saliba to complete their CB quartet. A player that really seems to enjoy being at the club and connects with the fanbase.
13th - Alexandre Lacazette
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 13.20 (12/14)
If Aubameyang only had an opening third of the season, Lacazette only had the middle. The majority of his goals and assists all came between December 11th and March 13th. That was also Arsenal’s best run of the season with 9 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss in 11 matches. He wouldn’t score again, eventually ceeding way to Eddie Nketiah as Arsenal’s starting #9. In a way that summarized his time at the club. Strong runs mixed with barren stretches. Now he heads back to Lyon, having put up 71 goals and 36 assists during his time at the Emirates.
12th - Eddie Nketiah
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 11.40 (10/12)
The third striker in today’s group and the one who also just had a third of a season. Nketiah spent most of the year on the sidelines outside of lighting up the League Cup for Arsenal. He got his first league start of the season in mid-April and never let go of the role scoring five times and nearly seeing the Gunners back into the Champions League. A player who once looked out the door as the #3 option, could now be set for a new contract at Arsenal and in the mix to be the #2 in the new season.
11th - Kieran Tierney
Average Ranking (High / Low) - 27.20 (9/13)
After playing in 38 matches, scoring twice and providing five assists in the 2019-20 season, Tierney saw all three of those stats drop (25/1/3) as he dealt with two injuries. Knee surgery took him out of the final ten matches of the season, leaving Mikel Arteta and Arsenal fans wondering what might have been had the first-choice left-back been fit for those critical Premier League games. He led the team in completed crosses into the box. If the club can find the right forward this summer and get Kieran back to full fitness for August he could be in for a terrific season.
Who from this group stands out as your most disappointing? Or your biggest surprise? Check back in later this weekend for The Short Fuse’s top ten Arsenal players ranked from the 2021-22 season.