Arsenal Player Ratings – Full season 2019/20 Dan Smith
So, I promised myself last week that whatever happened in the FA Cup Final, I wouldn’t let it cloud my judgement for the playing ratings for the whole season. I’ll be honest …. I’m so buzzing about the weekend I’m finding it hard.
In many ways Arsenal are quite a hard team to review as there are two versions of the Gunners. The one before the Pandemic and the one post Lockdown. Because of the 3 month break the first half of this season might feel a long time ago because ….it was. It started In August 2019 and officially it’s still going on in terms of European Competition.
So, if you want to put your player ratings in the comments try to look at the whole Pie not just a piece of it. As much as we want to celebrate what happened at Wembley, try to factor in the dark days of November/December as well…
So here are my player ratings for each Arsenal squad member…
Leno – 8
Let me stress, I think he’s had a good season. I just don’t agree with this perception that he’s one of the best in the League. One day he could be, but it might shock some to learn the German is near the top of a list for errors leading to goals. I should clarify though under Emery he was having to deal with like 20 shots a game. I still haven’t forgiven him for Olympiakos. If he had just a kicked a ball straight instead of out for a corner, we be playing Wolves this week in Europe
If you had said when Leno got injured at Brighton that he would be training in Cup Final Week, I would have said play him even if only 70 per cent fit. In the end you could tell me that he was 100 per cent ready, I wouldn’t have selected him given Martinez’s form. He made some world class saves against Liverpool and Watford, but also has outstanding presence in terms of taking charge of his area, claiming crosses – which calms down your defence.
If he hadn’t already won the hearts of gooners he did with his post-match interview at the weekend.
Growing up in poverty, he promised his parents that one day he would return to Argentina with a winners medal. A promise he has now fulfilled. Someone in South America has to make a movie of this.
Bellerin – 6
I have taken into consideration the length and seriousness of his injury, which some gooners were guilty of not doing. He was in danger of becoming the next scapegoat within our fan base, the most ridiculous comment I heard was he was the reason Pepe wasn’t playing well, just because the winger happened to cross a decent ball when the Spaniard happened to not be playing. Pepe did okay at the weekend even though Bellerin was our right back?
I was worried that he had lost his pace or the confidence to take on his man and get to the bar line, but technically his burst of pace made our winner in the Cup Final.
Kolasinac – 3
I said it for years if you have to play a back 5 because you don’t trust him defensively, he shouldn’t be a defender for a club at this level. It’s not like we sacrificed his defensive limitations because his final ball is great in the attacking third. Arteta had a vision that maybe he would be more suited as one of three centre backs but while you could never question his effort, he seems to get his feet muddled up and is not confident on the ball. Of course he does deserve credit for his bravery in fighting off those cowardly carjackers back in August.
Tierney – 8
I didn’t know if he had played enough to get this high score due to injuries, meaning it was post lockdown until, he got a proper run in the side. Based on the games he has played, he has been brilliant and crucial to Arteta’s new system.
His manager trusts him to be in the back 3 when we are out of possession but having the intelligence to know when to switch to a wing back and join in with attacks. He can defend, get forward and has a quality delivery. If he stays fit will be a future captain.
First choice under Emery but frozen out by Arteta, who has reportedly told the defender he doesn’t tactically do what he wants from his centre backs. You can’t fault his attitude but just because you roar to the crowd and bang your chest doesn’t make you great at what you do. You can trust him to defend a lead in the last 10 minutes, getting his head to things, blocking shots, etc but not good on the ball. The big Greek could be the latest player who we struggle to sell due to his wage.
Best of a bad bunch? One of the first things Arteta did was bring him back in from the cold, not understanding why he wasn’t considered just as good as the competition. He is still not immune to mistakes but at the moment he is the most consistent out of our centre backs. It was harsh that he missed another Cup Final due to injury as it would have been a great story, given the verbal abuse from trolls he got in pre-season. At the very least has won the respect of gooners again.
Luiz – 4
The Brazilian’s two best performances for us were the FA Cup Semi Final and Final which kind of sums up David Luiz’s career. Unfortunately though, I have to judge him over the whole season, and given this was the man who replaced Koscielny, you have to say he’s made our defence worse overall. He conceded more penalties and red cards in one campaign at the Emirates compared to his whole time at Stamford Bridge. But he seems a nice chap who is popular in the dressing room, but is that a reason to reward someone with a new extended contract? I’m friendly and assume I’m popular…. where’s my 100,000 pounds a week?
Another defender who one week can be great and then the next week be sloppy. I put that down to his injury problems. If he stays fit, he’s young enough for Arteta to improve. He has put on some muscle and performances in big games fills me with confidence for the future.
Chambers – 6
Calum spent the first half of the season as our first choice right back, popping up with the odd goal from set pieces. The cruel irony is that in Arteta’s home debut he picked Chambers to start in his preferred central position for the first time this campaign only for the defender to get injured. He has showed enough quality on the ball to suggest he could fit into Arteta’s ethos
He may have rescued his Arsenal career with his performances in the FA Cup Semi Final and Final, proving to Arteta he can follow the tactical instructions set to him. It’s worth remembering though in the first half of the season he wasn’t even trusted to be our stand-in right back with Chambers preferred to replace Bellerin. The story goes that under Emery and then under Arteta the youngster spoke his way out of the team, by vocally complaining that he wanted to play in his favoured positions of midfield. Has he just done enough for Arteta to give him a bit longer to impress?
Considering his age has shown great bravery and mentality. Even when we were really struggling under Emery he demanded the ball and wasn’t scared to try things where others played it safe . Injuries at left back meant he got a run in the side with a back 3 playing to his strengths. When in the attacking 3 has assisted others although he needs to work on his finishing. That will come the older he gets as well as putting on some more muscle.
The next stage is dealing with the pressure and expectations of being so good so young. He will need the right people around him who make sure that comparisons with a Sterling or Sancho don’t get to his head. In that sense, in the long term it will help him that he was dropped for the Cup Final
Torreira – 4
Whether it’s the niggling injuries or the home sickness his agent talks about every Transfer Window, the Uruguayan seems to lack the enthusiasm and confidence he had when he first joined us. Even when Emery was playing him out of position, he seemed to have more energy, since then it’s like he’s been going through the motions. He is a player we can bring on to protect a lead but not disciplined in the role. In a market where we might have to sell to raise funds, he’s an obvious talent we can cash in on.
Guendouzi – 6
I’m judging him on what he did on the pitch not off it, and for example, you can’t say a Torreira has been better? In the first part of the season was our best player (think back to his performance in the NLD). He showed his youthful side by at times being raw. Would put in great effort but not always disciplined, running round like a headless chicken. If you believe reports it is also that he is not receptive towards advice from his peers but he thinks he’s better than he is. His comments after the Brighton game showed us a mentality not likeable. That we lost to Brighton and his first thought was to boast about his salary tells you about his mindset.
At the end of October, it was assumed Xhaka had played his last game for us after swearing back to fans and throwing down the arm band when subbed against Crystal Palace. Arteta has since admitted having to talk the player into not leaving in January. While we don’t always notice what he does when he’s in the team, we certainly notice what he does when he’s not in the team. He brings balance to our midfield and controls the tempo of our game, whereas other midfielders who play deeper are too similar. If I was him after the Cup Final, there are some fans I would have to make a point towards. The sad part is, those who wished his baby would get cancer and would break his wife’s legs probably were cheering when he was making Chelsea go down to 10 men?
Ceballos – 5
Perhaps sums up the pre/post lockdown Arsenal better than anyone else. Gooners got over excited by his home debut, a performance he wouldn’t repeat again in 2019. One of Arteta’s best tactical tweaks was to drop him deeper where he could play the ‘Pirlo’ role. In the final 10 games we saw his partnership with Xhaka develop, but we need to see a bit more of it until I decide if I would want the club to sign him permanently. Another loan would be sensible for all parties in my opinion.
What I like about Willock is he’s not scared to want the ball, or drive at the defence. For a rookie in a team that hasn’t always been the most confident that’s impressive. Unfortunately, this doesn’t normally count for much with his final ball and decision-making poor. Will that improve the older he gets? Time will tell…
Reiss Nelson – 2
The irony being the most anticipated member of our academy graduates has probably been the least impressive. Granted he’s had injuries but, apart from Liverpool, name a game where he really impressed? Even his goal against the Champions was more to do with the high press of the whole team. With youngsters you want to know if they have the right mentality and where Willock wants the ball and at least tries to make things happen, Nelson seems to play it safe and lets the opportunity pass him by.
No, I’m not going to judge him on his salary or because Stan Kroenke wants to slash the wage bill. Without opening up the debate again, we lost more games without Ozil then we did with him. From January to March when we were unbeaten, he played every game. From March to August when he was dropped, we lost to City, Brighton, Spurs and Villa with us fans often moaning about a lack of creativity. So, I have given him a low score but was he worse than Nelson, Willock, etc ….no way
Even when he has periods where the goals dried up (and some gooners gave him a hard time for it) you can never fault his work rate, sacrificing his own game to help the team. In November and December when we really needed our established players to step up he went missing. Yet in hindsight his body language and demeanour now, compared to then, suggests Emery had lost the dressing room.
While he’s always scored goals the accusation of Auba will be that’s all he did (which isn’t a bad quality) but under Arteta he’s added other elements to his game. He defends from the front, tracks back … things he normally wouldn’t do under Emery.
It’s been such a long season it’s worth remembering back at Xmas he was getting criticised for not being the best captain. He wouldn’t hide his frustration if a youngster misplaced a pass, and his body language was fairly negative. On reflection though, that’s another indicator of how toxic the atmosphere had become under the previous regime. You would never see Auba act like that under Arteta. The one accusation was he never quite did it in big games. He proved that theory wrong in FA Cup Semi Final and Final.
It was clear that the idea wasn’t for him to develop so quickly. He used the Cup competitions to make an impression. While he has obvious talent, the most impressive aspect is his mentality. In November to January he became one of our main leaders, quite embarrassing to the rest considering his age . It felt like he was the only one who wanted the ball and wasn’t scared of failing or getting something wrong. If he stays fit he could be one to watch next season.
He is a gaol poacher but are there other aspects of the game he has to learn? His decision making at times has let him down, but again he’s young so time will tell if he belongs at this level. Apart from his celebration I want to see a bit more swagger. Sometimes I feel like he plays in awe that he’s playing at the Emirates, like he doesn’t believe he belongs. I’m yet to see the ruthlessness I saw at Leeds. Still a Championship and FA Cup winners medal is not bad for a 21-year-old.
For 75 million you should be making a difference in the big games. Fans have pointed to his number of assists in all competitions but do they protest a bit too much. He’s got some tricks and holds up the ball brilliantly, but can be rash with his final ball. Many gooners give him the benefit of the doubt, pointing out that the likes of Pires needed a season to adjust to English Football. But he seriously needs to.do a lot better.
Do you agree with my ratings?
Be kind in the comments please….