A Year Under Arteta – Each Player Graded by Dan Smith
This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of Mikel Arteta’s first job as the Arsenal manager. It’s a cruel irony that it happened at Everton.
Not just that it is his former club, but it was at Goodison Park 12 months ago where he and Carlo Ancelotti sat in the stands watching the two sides they were inheriting. If you remember the squad’s confidence was so low that day that Freddie Ljungberg was content to play out a 0-0 draw.
Self-esteem is so poor at the moment we would have bitten your hand off for the same result. So things change yet stay the same.
For a long time this year looked a successful one. You only have to go back as recent as September to find some readers on Just Arsenal predicting a title challenge and comparing our manager to Arsene Wenger, even claiming he was better. A lot of that was based on how he won the FA Cup, tactically out thinking both Man City and Chelsea, showing man management skills to get his players to believe in his ethos.
Many assumed, given that he was taught by Pep Guardiola that long term the ethos was to play the free-flowing football we are associated with.
What I wanted to do is rate the players under Arteta. He has been responsible for two halves of campaigns but both need be judged with some context.
Last December, Unai Emery had clearly lost the dressing room, so the current regime are not fully to blame for our worst finish in 25 years. For 3 months of that time football was cancelled due to Covid which means Arteta only had the luxury of 3 months to manage in front of crowds.
So when judging the players, what is a bigger factor to consider, December to August, or August to December (not scoring the summer signings including Elneny)?
Martinez – 9
Arteta’s biggest success story was turning a keeper, who for a decade wasn’t even our third-choice keeper, and making him a Premiership number 1 keeper.
Many gooners worried In July when Leno was ruled out for the season, but his replacement had a presence and calmness (especially in the air) which we haven’t had since.
The club would have benefited by having proper competition for Leno but as usual we prioritised money over ambition.
Not the world class keeper that some make out, but was better under Emery where he had to face more shots. He made mistakes against Chelsea, Everton and Olympiakos and simply hasn’t looked the same since return from injury.
Bellerin – 5
Seems to have lost his pace after a couple of serious injuries, no longer taking on his man. He is becoming a scapegoat to some fans, but others are just as bad.
Maitland-Niles – 6
Showed that he can tactically follow instructions in the FA Cup Semi Final and Final, but those remain his only truly great performances.
Cedric – 5
Going to give him a solid 5 as he hasn’t played enough, but when he had he has been solid if not spectacular. Not even our back up right back so it’s not obvious why we signed him? A place in squad could have gone to someone else.
Could never fault his effort but hasn’t been good enough for a while. Arteta never trusted him as a left back but did try him as a left-sided centre back. That experiment was quickly ended after he gifted Spurs a goal in the NLD .
Kieran was great post-lockdown, showing tactical awareness to play as a centre back then plan when to bomb down the flank.
Constant formation changes mean he hasn’t had consistent run as a left back. At the moment he has been instructed to cross at every opportunity which isn’t working.
Injuries meant that Arteta handed him an opportunity at left back. Unlike other youngsters, he almost immediately showed the personality they lacked to get on the ball and try and make things happen.
Some gooners although need to calm down with the praise and not put too much pressure on him. And he needs to improve his final ball.
Mustafi – 6
One of the first things Arteta did was to bring back Mustafi who had been frozen out by Emery. The German was the best of a bad bunch which suggests he maybe a falling out with management. He was playing every week till he got injured but since his return can’t get back into the team.
Rock bottom was his performance at Etihad but impressed many with how he bounced back. His two best displays were in the semi-Final and Final of FA Cup but should only play in a three though.
Holding – 6
Has been very good but not consistent. For every Old Trafford performance, he follows it up with getting the run around against Aston Villa.
One of the few who is showing some leadership. At age 25, he could become a better player under our current coach but will they have much longer to work with each other?
(Chambers being injured, Mari only played 2 Prem games under Arteta and the few times Sokratis played was as a make-shift full back so it is not fair to score)
Xhaka – 6
Not popular at the moment but go back to the FA Cup Final and everyone was saying how much Arteta had improved the midfielder. Where we needed him to be a leader though, he greatly let us down against Burnley.
Ceballos – 4
Had a great Cup Final but that’s about it. It was only after lockdown that Arteta started Ceballos, dropping him deeper in midfield but he hasn’t done enough to earn a permanent move.
If this was judging him purely on the Europa League, he would get a higher score but, in the Premiership, still needs to prove he belongs at this level. He runs with the ball but has zero end product.
Unlike a Saka, Joe plays like he’s grateful to be playing for the team he loves and is scared to make a mistake
Reiss Nelson -3
Apart from against Liverpool when they already had won the League, name me another great game he has had? He is yet to show the bravery needed for this level, always playing the simple pass.
Ozil – 4
So I can only judge him on the games he played. From Jan – March he played every League Fixture where we didn’t lose. I have written plenty of times my theory on why he can’t get into our squad, but in terms of proving we could cope creatively without him; it couldn’t have gone worse.
Best display for us was FA Cup Final where he was fantastic at holding up the ball. It was strange that he started the season on the bench given how he played at Wembley.
With a year to settle into English Football many assumed he would this campaign prove why we spent all that money on him. He is yet to show he has the mentality to be one of our main leaders when we really need someone.
Started the year with a goal drought but was finding his scoring touch before the first lockdown. Started the season with 3 goals in consecutive matches but seems to have lost his smile.
Whatever the level of confidence you can never fault his work rate. You can’t say that about all of his peers.
Aubameyang – 7
It is very hard to score our captain. Fantastic in the second half of last season with Arteta admitting he doubted the strikers ability to press and defend from the front but he showed great tactical awareness to plan when to time his runs from the left side into the middle.
He hasn’t been the leader we needed this season. Not just has he lost his scoring touch but he’s not working as hard as he used too.
Eddie – 4
Scored against lesser teams in the cups but contribution in the League consists of coming off the bench, running into a defender and diving to the ground.
At the start of 2020 became one of our main leaders. While more senior players were going through the motions, Martinelli wasn’t scared to get on the ball and try and take the initiative. Let’s hope he can do it again.
Another piece of irony of course is this is the same time frame Carlo Ancelotti has had to work with Everton. If you were rating how many of the Toffees squad have improved under their new manager, I think they would be getting higher scores?
Let me know which Arsenal players you think have improved or declined having worked with Arteta for a year.
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