Analysis: Pick your First XI from Wenger’s last squad and Arteta’s present squad

One of the biggest myths I keep hearing when Gooners defend not being in Europe for the first time in quarter of a century, is that Arteta had to clear up the mess left by Mr Wenger, but finally the squad is better than the one the Frenchman left us.

Common sense of course would argue that if that was true and Wenger’s final team so bad, how come Arteta has yet to better their 6th place finish?

How come Unai Emery inherited the same problems but managed to finish 5th, not the consecutive 8th place finishes of the past two seasons?

Some Gooners seem to think if they say things enough times, it must be true.

That if they tell themselves we have great youngsters, their peers will just ignore we have for two years been watching the worse Arsenal team in quarter of a century.

Now, I’m not going to contradict myself.

My opinion is equally just that, an opinion, zero right or wrong.

Yet there are certain stats and data you can’t ignore. Where you finish in the Prem Is a huge measurement of a club’s progress, and you can’t on one hand have an improved squad yet who finish lower than their predecessors managed in 25 years. That doesn’t add up.

Mr Wenger left in the summer of 2018.

How long can people hide behind a manager who left over three years ago?

Did Mr Wenger leave everything perfect at the Emirates?


Yet tell me any new coach who walks into a new job with everything perfect?

If there were zero issues to fix, there wouldn’t be a job vacancy in the first place.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer wasn’t happy with the attitudes he inherited at Old Trafford but still managed to finish 2nd.

Frank Lampard returned to Chelsea, with Eden Hazard leaving for Real Madrid and a transfer embargo. He still qualified for the Champions League.

It appears only Gooners think it takes nearly 4 years to improve a team who finished 6th and that consecutive 8th place finishes are progress, even though ……. that is factually your league finishing position declining.

So I am going to do a comparison between Wenger’s last squad and Arteta’s current one. I’m approaching this article with a fresh mind so feel free to do so in the comments.



17-18 – (Cech and Ospina) Vs 2021-22 (Ramsdale, Leno)

One of the best things Arteta has ever done was realising that Leno was making too making mistakes.

A lot of Gooners questioned why we spent so many millions on Ramsdale, someone with consecutive relegations, while the money could be used to strengthen other areas of the squad.

Nearly every fan who had doubts has admitted they were wrong, with the 23-year-old impressing in every department. His saves, his distribution, interaction with the crowd, the way he speaks, his leadership.

A position where you don’t reach your prime til your thirties, our keeper will only get better.

Remember you’re not comparing him with the Cech at Chelsea.

My preferred choices – Ramsdale and Ospina



17-18 (Mustafi, Koscielny, BFG, Holding, Chambers) Vs 2021-22 (Gabriel, White, Holding, Mari, Chambers)

This is where context is key. When Mr Wenger left North London the majority of his centre backs were past their best.

Koscielny suffered an Achilles injury meaning he would struggle to play two games a week while the BFG retired, admitting that playing now caused him anxiety.

So even if all parties wanted to, those two had no long-term futures at the club.

Arteta has defensively made us harder to play against. Whether he’s focused too much on that and not got the balance correct, that’s another debate.

So, a younger Gabriel and White start ahead of an ageing Koscielny and Mustafi.

Chambers wasn’t trusted by any Gunners boss, hence the two loans and leaving for free.

As I predicted Mari was a chance to bring in a body without paying too much.

I really thought with his reputation at Man City in making individuals better, Holding would have improved under Arteta.

My choices – Gabriel, White, Koscielny, Holding (17-18 version)


Full backs

17-18 (Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Maitland Niles) vs 2021- 2022 (Tierney, Tomiyasu, Cedric, Tavares)

Bellerin had started to suffer the lengthy injuries that robbed him of the pace that made him the player he was.

Again though, Arteta’s strengths were meant to be working with talent 1-1 on the training pitch.

Instead Bellerin, Maitland Niles and Kolasinac would all be loaned out.

Based on their ages, it’s almost unfair to compare an injury plagued Bellerin with Tierney and Tomiyasu.

Where the current team is lacking is depth in the full back positions. Injuries (and Tierney gets a few) to our left or right back means we now rely on a youthful Tavares or Cedric, only ever signed because he was a free agent. Better man management could have seen experienced Monreal and Bellerin acting as competition to their younger peers.

My choices – Tierney, Tomiyasu, Monreal, Bellerin



17-18 (Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey, Wilshere, Willock) Vs 2021-2022 (Xhaka, Partey, Elneny, Lokonga, Maitland- Niles)

The big comparison here is Mr Wenger and Arteta have different outlooks in the shape of their midfield.

Both trust Xhaka (although I can’t say he’s improved over the years).

However, the Spaniard likes to partner with another DM in a two or a three.

The Frenchman would use Xhaka as his holding player, while trusting box to box midfielders to play alongside in either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 (Smith Rowe would play there), then bringing on a DM if needed to protect the lead.

We have never replaced consistently the goal scoring ability of Ramsey.

Wilshere had also played enough games in Mr Wenger’s final season to prove his fitness and earn a pay as you play deal.

I maintain if Mr Wenger had remained both Ramsey and Wilshere would have signed contract extensions.

My choices – Wilshere, Ramsey, Xhaka (2017-18 version), Partey,



17-18 (Iwobi, Ozil, Reiss Nelson, Mkhitaryan) Vs 2021-22 (Saka, Odegaard, Pepe, Smith Rowe)

This could be three behind the striker or on either side of the forward.

Getting 30 million for Iwobi is some of the best business we ever done, Reiss Nelson has been loaned out twice, yet I don’t feel comfortable picking Pepe given he hasn’t started in the League for us in months.

So, Saka gets one spot on the left or right while a Smith Rowe, Aubameyang or Welbeck can play there.

While it’s not fashionable to say anything positive about Ozil, he contributes to 13 goals in Mr Wenger’s final season, enough to sign a contract extension that most gooners were happy about.

Is Odegaard really an upgrade?

My choice – Saka, Smith Rowe and Ozil



17-18 (Aubameyang, Lacazette, Welbeck) Vs 2021-22 (Aubameyang, Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah)

While Arteta has improved us defensively, offensively we are one of the worst we have been in decades.

Even in his last few years, you could always trust an Arsene Wenger team to make chances.

Years since we were consistent title contenders we were still viewed as one of the best teams to watch in the UK.

Now, we go 4 games without scoring and it’s not even newsworthy, it’s accepted.

Whether it’s as a sole striker or on the left, we would obviously rather have the Auba in his first full season for us compared to the current version.

Equally he had an understanding with Lacazette that Arteta has not taken advantage of. Laca is the latest player allowed to run down his contract, something we were promised would never be allowed to happen again.

No one with a straight face can say that Eddie Nketiah gets picked ahead of Aubameyang based on sporting reasons.

Welbeck was a better option off the bench then Eddie because he wasn’t afraid to take on his man. Like Auba he could play anywhere across the front three

My choices – Aubameyang, Lacazette (the 2017-18 versions) and Welbeck



Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney

Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshire


Laca.     Aubameyang






Smith Rowe



2017-18   10 players

2021- 22   8  players


In conclusion Arteta has without doubt improved us defensively, but there is a lack of depth, while he’s sacrificed our quality on the other end of the pitch.

Quite simply defensively we are better then what Mr Wenger left, but offensively not even close.

Let me know your team ……11 and 7 subs

No right or wrong

Be Kind in The Comments

Dan Smith

Tags Arteta Wenger squad


        1. What difference @greco ?
          I don’t understand,you said wengers last years were disastrous,I countered and said still better than Artetas .
          Arsenes last year he got 6th ,Arteta got 8th8th and now sit 6th ,so where I’m sitting wengers last year was better than Artetas first 2-3 .

          1. Did Arsene ever take us out of Europe in 22 years?
            As Arteta broken every negative record that Arsene managed so hard to keep ?
            Did Arsene get backed as much as Arteta did in his first 2 years ?(250million )
            Have we not seen the worst style of football in the last 25 years under Arteta?
            The list goes on and on …….

                1. Wenger gave Arsenal a lot of great memories and some of the best football this country has ever seen.

                  Wenger left a lot of rubbish.

  1. I wouldn’t say it’s because of arteta, but holding has definitely improved. He was very solid last year and certainly wasn’t *better* in 17/18. White is better in many respects, but I wouldn’t have been fussed if holding had kept his place this year.

  2. You’ve changed the formations to leave out wingers – I think to strengthen your point about the attack? And you’ve left out martinelli entirely (who in this formation I’d rather have than welbeck, although it’s debatable as a striker)
    No doubt the attack is weaker now than under wenger, I think our midfield is only slightly worse (as we were defensively awful under wenger), and our defence and goalkeeper options are better now.

  3. I would have put Laurent Koscielny and David Luiz as the CB pairing .
    Partey over Ramsey and Xhaka all day long even though is form as been lacking .
    And like Davi said definitely a space for Martinelli probably in place of laca who for me as been a pretty poor signing overall.

  4. Sky reporting that we have turned down a bid from palace for Eddie (makes no sense )while Auba gets completely frozen out.
    definitely not for football reasons that’s for sure .

    TBH, this whole articles premise is nonsense and not possible in the world of REALITY!
    BY ALL MEANS PICK YOU GREATEST EVER ARSENAL TEAM, if by doing so you get some satisfaction.

    But this article does NOT do that. Instead it attempts to pick the best available team using players who are still here but whose best days were fours years ago.

    In fantasy land, where this article comes from, why not include young players here now but who in four years time will then be far better still than they are now!!

    On THAT basis, you may just as well include Arteta himself and Mertesacker too, as both are still here.

    Its puerile nonsense and meaningless, unless your REAL agenda is to knock and criticise Arteta . Eh DAN!!!

    1. I get your point but the reality you’re missing now is How sure are you this players will make it in four years.

      None of this players has great potential than Wilshere, but did Wilshere last another 2 years.
      Not wishing them bad cos been good is what will make me happy but that is just the reality of life. You just can’t predict the future.
      If we can predict future, Arsenal won’t release Harry Kane and retain Benik Afobe.

      Fabregas was a king here in Arsenal but just a mere subtitle in Barcelona and just a good player at Chelsea.

      This is not shading Arteta but Wenger last season players will shake this current team with creativity.

      Conte’s EPL winning team will destroy this present Chelsea team which our current team has find difficult to beat.

      And do you remember Wenger players beat those Conte’s team Twice?

      That’s how it works, you don’t know how the team will be in 4 years time.

      Gabriel can’t lace Mustafi first season at Arsenal but see what happened to Mustafi after great first season.

      Take Tierney first season as example, can you compare it with his present game?

      Whose says Tomi will be going on like this in four years? His injury has made him regress in his last match. I hope you get my point?

  6. I agreed with the article but not the Line up.

    Agreed because Wenger last year players can produce result better than this Arteta’s team.

    All Arteta team has is potential and who knows what potential will bring in future.

    Wishere, Ramsey, Chambers, Holding, Bellerin are once potentials but look at them now. And even with that, none of our midfielders can be compared to Ramsey then cos he’s better than all.

    And about White, to me, white has never even play close to what Koscielny played during Wenger last year, yes he was injured but that was towards the end of the season. And he was a regular in France team then and only injury deny him a world cup medal.
    White has to do more before he can attain sure.

    And about Kolasinac, he only played one season under Wenger and he was on fire when he came, you can’t compare Emery’s Tierney to this current Tierney, this current Tierney can never compare with 2017/2018 Kolasinac. Go watch that season again.
    Our two left back is all we got covered in 2017/2018. Both Monreal and Kolasinac. So Tierney is not on that team except if we’re talking about Emery’s Tierney.
    Monreal is Mr consistent (remember?)

    My Line up will be

    Tomi. Koscielny. Gabriel. Monreal

    Xhaka(17/18) Ramsey


    Saka. Laca.(17/18) Auba(17/18)

    Bellerin. White. Holding Kolasinac

    Wishere Partey


    Martinelli. Welbeck. The Smith

    But if I’m to chose which Xhaka and Holding I want on the line up, I will prefer 16/17 or 2020 Xhaka and Holding. But I go for 2017/2018 Xhaka and 2022 Holding

    And let not forget Ramsey already left before Arteta, if not he might still be in this team.

    And I put Ozil bcuz 2017/2018 Ozil is better than what we have now. But will never chose 2019 till date Ozil.

    Ramsey was on the first list because he performs better than 2022 Partey even since Partey got here.

    On Leno, Ospina played more game and perform better than 2022 Leno. But I will chose Emery’s Leno

    So there you have my Line up

    On first XI
    Wenger 7
    Arteta. 4

    On second XI
    Wenger 5
    Arteta. 6

    In all

    Wenger 12
    Arteta 10

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