Whereas the goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and attacker preview posts covered every player currently listed on the Arsenal.com first team roster, this post allows me a bit of discretion. I don’t think it really matters what the best case and worst case seasons look like for guys like Cedric Soares. If he ends up having a role that even approaches relevance, Arsenal are in worst case scenario territory as a club.
Obviously, the one of the worst-case scenarios for any player is a serious injury / injury-plagued season, so I try to steer clear of fitness except in cases like Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey, where the player has a documented history of struggling to stay fit.
Best Case: rediscovers the form that had him as one of the best, if not the best, CDM in the Premier League last fall; stays healthy and effective all season, especially the stretch run; improves his shooting accuracy
Worst Case: breaks down physically as the season wears on
*Partey also has the specter of other issues hanging over his season. It felt inappropriate to include those in either category, but they continue to be potentially relevant.
Best Case: integrates seamlessly into the Arsenal formation; adds attacking flair to his expansive repertoire
Worst Case: has trouble adjusting to the left #8 role and / or the additional on-ball demands of players in Mikel Arteta’s system; the record price tag becomes an anchor that gets brought up every time he makes even the smallest mistake
Best Case: effective super sub / change of pace player; gives Partey and Rice rest as needed without Arsenal’s level dropping; chips in with a handful of goals and assists
Worst Case: father time remains undefeated (he turns 32 in December) and his lack of speed, limited range, and defensive weaknesses become a significant issue
Best Case: matches or betters his 15 goal haul and increases his assist total into the double digits; establishes himself as the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League
Worst Case: the goal total was an aberration that craters this season; has trouble playing in the somewhat deeper role from the preseason, limiting his effectiveness
Best Case: scores 5 to 10 goals and adds a similar number of assists; forms an attacking partnership with Gabriel Martinelli that rivals the Ødegaard-Saka connection on the other side; reaches the levels that people thought he might when he moved to Chelsea with significant fanfare; Mikel Arteta and Arsenal unlock his potential
Worst Case: season similar to his last one at Chelsea with low attacking output; doesn’t provide enough without the ball for Mikel Arteta to trust him consistently as a starter;
Emile Smith Rowe
Best Case: forces his way into a regular, rotational role or consistent 30-minute super sub; scores 5-10 goals
Worst Case: struggles to stay fit, can’t find his form, struggles for playing time; doesn’t really fit smoothly into any of the positions in Mikel Arteta’s system because his strengths aren’t really suited to any of them
Best Case: similar to ESR, establishes himself as a regular in the attacking rotation / as a regular second half substitute; scores 3-5 goals and adds as many assists
Worst Case: confirms the not uncommon worry that he’s not big enough or strong enough to make it in the Premier League
Best Case: scores 20 goals to go along with 10+ assists; leaves no doubt that he is a superstar and one of the best players in the Premier League
Worst Case: all the minutes over the last two seasons + Premier League and Champions League finally catch up with him and he slows a half-step or step because of fatigue; gets injured, either because of that fatigue or the hard challenges he suffers every match — I know that’s breaking my own rule because he’s been durable, but with how much he plays and how he gets clattered every game, injury is a real concern
Best Case: same as Saka — 20 goals and 10+ assists; earns recognition as the star player he is on his own, stepping out of Saka’s shadow a bit
Worst Case: has difficulty establishing a connection with Havertz / Rice / whoever plays on the left with him, limiting his effectiveness; defending him gets “solved” — he has a tendency to use the same moves and do the same thing, he needs to add a bit of variety to his attacking repertoire
Best Case: procedure to clean up his knee enables him to return as the dynamic, attacking force he was pre-World Cup; scores 15+ goals and pushes towards double-digit assists
Worst Case: his surgically repaired knee continues to slow him all season; his already low chance conversion rate gets worse
Best Case: registers double digit goals and assists; starts 10-15 Premier League matches and consistently gets 25-35 minutes in the ones he doesn’t start
Worst Case: can’t replicate his attacking output from last season; sees his minutes decrease / go to other guys
Best Case: scores 5-10 goals while filling in for Gabriel Jesus leading the line combined with his 15-20 minutes (or so) per appearance as a regular sub
Worst Case: drops to third on the striker depth chart behind Kai Havertz (or Leandro Trossard); production tails off, making it clear Arsenal need to look to the transfer market for another striker-type player going forward
Best Case: shines as an energy sub, slowly earns himself longer substitute appearances as the season progresses; scores 3-5 goals
Worst Case: doesn’t show enough to establish himself as a viable backup for Bukayo Saka, even for 10-15 minute cameos; hardly plays
Thoughts, comments, suggestions? Did I miss the mark on anybody? Let me know in the comments!