Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that William Saliba will not be included in the list. Although he has been very impressive for Saint-Étienne yet again this season, he is still yet to feature for Arsenal in any capacity, so the circumstances are not necessarily comparable to the other players in the ranking. Similarly, Pablo Marí and Cédric Soares will not be included due to a lack of minutes.
Secondly, this list is certainly not solely representative of the ability of the players included. For example, I believe that Kieran Tierney has the potential to be a key player for the club in the years to come, but he hasn’t featured enough to warrant a place in the upper half of the list.
Finally, the list will take the player’s entire spell at the club into account, rather than simply this season’s performances.
11. Denis Suárez. Denis Suárez was somewhat unlucky with his move. Although he didn’t set the world alight during his time at the club, chances were at an absolute minimum due to recurring injuries. The deal had a rumoured option to buy, which Arsenal opted against activating in the summer of 2019. The Spaniard returned to his parent club following sporadic cameos in London. Although I feel for him in that regard, it is impossible to place him any higher on the list.
10. Stephan Lichtsteiner. One of Unai Emery’s first signings in charge was that of Swiss captain Stephan Lichtsteiner. Although everybody knew that the former Juventus defender was past his best, many believed that he could add a much needed winning mentality to the dressing room whilst also pushing Héctor Bellerín to perform to the best of his ability. I think it is safe to say that this signing didn’t work out as we had all planned. Only the squad members and staff will have insight into his impact on the dressing room but, on the pitch, we can all agree that he was sub-par. Although he was predominantly played against lesser opposition, he consistently struggled. Upon his inclusion in domestic fixtures, this struggle was only enhanced, with performances at Anfield and The Etihad springing to mind in particular. Thankfully, his contract was only one year long in duration, and the club opted against extending his deal.
9. Kieran Tierney. Ninth place for Kieran Tierney is a false position. Personally, I am a huge fan of the Scottish international, and feel like he will be one of the club’s leaders in the future. However, he arrived following a hernia operation and didn’t feature until our Carabao Cup game against Nottingham Forest in late-September. Upon returning to full fitness, he was snubbed in favour of Sead Kolašinac by Unai Emery - this was one of many decisions which left fans scratching their heads at the time. In early December, Freddie Ljungberg selected him in our team to face West Ham at The London Stadium. Unfortunately, Tierney picked up a shoulder injury in the first half, which has ruled him out up until the present. Thankfully, a return to the pitch seems imminent. His performances have largely been impressive whenever he has been involved, particularly in the Europa League and League Cup. By this time next year, I feel like he will be much higher on this ranking, and I can’t wait to see him given a proper chance at the club. However, for now, his restricted opportunities have limited him to 9th place on my list.
8. Dani Ceballos. Dani Ceballos is yet another player whose potential Arsenal career has been hindered by injury. The Spaniard arrived at the club following a very successful set of displays at the U21 European Championship. The midfielder had a reputation for being talented, but struggled to break into the Real Madrid midfield on a weekly basis. With Euro 2020 taking place this summer, he wanted to play regularly in an attempt to maximise his chances of selection. He made a phenomenal start to life at Arsenal with a sublime display against Burnley at The Emirates Stadium on his full debut for the club. Unfortunately, he struggled to sustain this level of performance, and his form dipped significantly in the months that followed. He picked up an injury against Vitória in the Europa League, and faced a relatively lengthy spell on the sideline thereafter. Upon his return to action, his role was altered by newly appointed head coach, Mikel Arteta. He is now playing in a pivot, as opposed to the number ten position - which was the norm under Mikel’s predecessor. This has reduced our reliance on the Spaniard for creativity, and it allows him to dictate games more effectively while maintaining his position. Since returning, he has been very impressive, and I would imagine that the Arsenal hierarchy are potentially exploring the possibility of making the signing permanent. Whether he will become an Arsenal player or not remains to be seen, but hopefully he can propel us to a top four/five finish between now and the end of the season. He places higher than Tierney on my list purely because he has featured more often.
7. Sokratis Papastathopoulos. In the latter years of Arsène Wenger’s reign, Arsenal were renowned for having offensive quality, but being very weak at the back. The centre back position played a key role in this perception. In an attempt to counteract this, Sokratis Papastathopoulos was signed in the summer of 2018. Realistically, fans were fully aware that this was a short-term fix. Most people who watched the Greek on a weekly basis felt like his best days were behind him. In my opinion, he has been solid at times, but has had numerous games to forget. The poor defensive set-up of Unai Emery certainly didn’t help him, and often left him exposed. Nonetheless, his leadership qualities have been a good addition to the dressing room. Also, he played an important part in our route to Baku, regardless of how that ended, and he has made a respectable start to life under Arteta - particularly when you consider that the majority of games have been at right-back. He isn’t perfect, and I don’t feel like he has the quality to be a starter in the years to come, but he has certainly had a positive impact at times.
6. David Luiz. David Luiz is a similar scenario to Sokratis. With the 2019/20 season close to commencing, Arsenal were very short of options in the centre-back position. Laurent Koscielny had departed. Nacho Monreal, who played as a centre half on numerous occasions, looked like he would follow our former captain. Shkodran Mustafi was up for sale. Rob Holding was injured, as was Dinos Mavropanos. William Saliba was set to spend the season on loan in France. Questions still remained regarding Calum Chambers - both in terms of his quality and his best position. On deadline day, Luiz signed from London rivals Chelsea. As mentioned regarding Sokratis, it was more of a short-term fix than a long-term option. The signing certainly raised some eyebrows, but it has proven to be successful in some regards. Although he struggled during Unai Emery’s tenure - as did almost every defender who was selected - he has added a real presence to the dressing room. Not only is he a leader, he is also a winner. He has won league titles in both England and France, as well as both major European competitions. This attitude was much needed in our camp. He has also helped youngsters such as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka settle to life with the first team. Since Arteta has arrived, the Brazilian has been very impressive. A system which is more possession-based suits his ball-playing qualities, and the added support of Granit Xhaka as a makeshift left-sided centre back has kept his one-v-one defending to a minimum. Everyone has always known that he is more than capable when in possession, but the same could not be said for some of his defensive work. Thankfully, this transition to life under Arteta has brought the best out of the 32-year old, at least for now. Personally, I am not convinced that he will be a starter in the 2020/21 campaign. Presumably, Saliba will come into the first XI, and we appear to be in the market for a new addition in that position. Nonetheless, for the ~£9m fee, David Luiz has proven to be a smart short-term stop gap if nothing else. Hopefully he can sustain his recent form for the foreseeable future.
5. Nicolas Pépé. In July of 2019, we smashed our transfer record in order to acquire the services of Ivorian winger Nicolas Pépé from LOSC Lille. Expectations were high, and his somewhat slow start to life in England saw him come under scrutiny on numerous occasions. However, he has not been nearly as bad as rival fans would like you to believe. As mentioned in previous articles, there were numerous factors which influenced his barren start to life in London. Among these are Unai Emery, the African Cup of Nations and the language barrier with his teammates. Nonetheless, despite these issues, he has slowly but surely improved as the season has progressed - particularly since Mikel Arteta’s arrival. As it stands, he has managed six goals and eight assists. I am not claiming that this return is world class, far from it. We all know that he is capable of producing much better numbers - as both Mikel and the player himself have acknowledged. However, players such as Leroy Sané and Heung Min Son has similar returns in their first season’s in England. These are among the best wingers in the league nowadays. Pépé has shown moments of absolute brilliance that very few others can replicate, and I firmly believe that the best is still to come from him. Mikel’s added trust, when coupled with Nicolas’ ever-improving understanding with his teammates, has seen a dramatic upturn in his performances since the turn of the year, so hopefully this improvement can continue into the future.
4. Mattéo Guendouzi. Our final signing of Unai Emery’s first window in charge saw the arrival of French teenager Mattéo Guendouzi from Ligue 2 side Lorient. The fee was minimal and the player was largely unknown outside of France. Due to the late arrival of Lucas Torreira following the 2018 World Cup, Guendouzi was included in the XI for our opening Premier League fixture of the season against Manchester City. Although we lost the game in question, the Frenchman was a standout performer and retained his place for the following weekend - an away fixture against Chelsea. Although Torreira did come into the side shortly afterwards, Guendouzi still featured for over 3,000 minutes during his first season in England. This included a particularly impressive spell during the festive period. Mattéo made an extremely strong start to the following campaign aswell. In a run which saw many of his colleagues underperforming, he seemed to be one of the few team members who was pulling his weight. This resulted in numerous call-ups to the French senior team. However, since the dismissal of Unai Emery, things haven’t gone to plan regarding his development. His performances have dropped significantly, and he finds himself behind Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos in the pecking order. As well as this, there have been whispers of a fallout with Mikel Arteta during our training camp in Dubai. While this is undeniably concerning, it is important to acknowledge that he is still only 20-years old. Due to the fact that he hit the ground running, we expect a lot from him. Also, the presence of both Saka and Martinelli have altered our perception of what youth talents should be offering to the side. Arsène Wenger once said that including a young player in your team may cost you points in the short-run, but it has the potential to reap rewards later in the individual’s career. I sincerely hope that Guendouzi can put his head down between now and May. We all know what he is capable of, even if he hasn’t always demonstrated it in recent weeks. Hopefully it will just be a blip in a long and fruitful Arsenal career.
3. Lucas Torreira. During the 2018 World Cup, the eyes of most Arsenal fans were focused on Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira. Throughout the entire tournament, as well as beforehand, reports claimed that Arsenal were very interested in the defensive midfielder, and discussions with Sampdoria were already underway. Most publications echoed that a deal was agreed, and that an announcement would follow once Uruguay’s time at the tournament came to an end. Their impressive run was ended by the eventual winners - France - and the reports regarding Torreira’s future were proven to be correct. Lucas didn’t participate in a full pre-season due to his involvement for La Celeste but, upon his introduction to the side, he was very impressive indeed. Up until Christmas, he was essentially faultless, with notable displays against Spurs at home and Manchester United away. His form dipped slightly during the festive period, as he was accustomed to a winter break in Italy, but he slowly returned to form as the season progressed, without ever reaching the heights of his first few months at the club. The opposite has been visible this season. He had a slow start due to the tactics and preferences of Unai Emery, but has improved significantly as time has progressed. During Freddie Ljungberg’s short spell in charge, Lucas was reintroduced to the side in his preferred role and he reminded us of just how effective he can be. He won our Player or the Month award for December and continued this form upon Mikel Arteta’s arrival. In fact, he found a new level entirely. A partnership alongside Granit Xhaka brought out the best in the Uruguayan, and he was making great strides up until his recent injury. Similarly to Guendouzi, it is easy to forget the fact that Lucas is still very young in comparison to the so-called traditional prime years of most players in his position. Hopefully he can make a speedy return to fitness and continue to kick on under the guidance of Mikel.
2. Gabriel Martinelli. The first arrival of the 2019 summer transfer window was that of Gabriel Martinelli. The 18-year old was completely unknown outside of Brazil. Recruited from fourth division side Ituano, he appeared to be a prospect for the future, as opposed to an immediate first team regular. Less than a year on, he certainly remains an unknown no longer. Ten goals and five assists despite limited opportunities have quickly made him one of the most exciting prospects in European football. His seemingly endless energy levels, along with his quick feet and eye for goal have caught the eye of many fans. In fact, his performances have been so impressive that both the Brazilian and Italian senior national teams are interested in acquiring his services. Following our match at Stamford Bridge in January, Italian international Jorginho allegedly had a lengthy conversation with the teenager, in which he attempted to convince him to opt for Italy at senior international level. Over the past few weeks, he has been used more sporadically, but one thing is for sure - he has bags of potential. Whether or not he will manage to fulfil it remains to be seen, but it will certainly be interesting to monitor his development in the years to come.
1. Bernd Leno. Since the exit of Jens Lehmann, the goalkeeper position has always been one which has caused us issues. From Almunia to Szczesny, from Ospina to Čech, problems have remained constant. In the summer of 2018, Bernd Leno arrived with the intention of changing this. Although he initially had to wait for his domestic opportunities due to the presence of veteran Petr Čech, he made sure to seize the chance when it came his way. Have there been mistakes along the way? Absolutely. However, you probably couldn’t find a goalkeeper in world football who doesn’t have an occasional lapse in concentration. Not only are these errors much more infrequent than those of his predecessors, he also more than makes up for them with numerous top saves. This season has been one to forget for many players, but Leno most certainly is not one of them. The lack of defensive solidarity under Unai Emery in particular has resulted in an influx of opposition chances, and the German has risen to the challenge. He has saved us points on countless occasions and, currently, only Martin Dubravka has made more Premier League saves than our number one this season. For the first time in many years, I truly feel safe with Bernd between the sticks. He is still only 28, which is very young for a goalkeeper. Many of the greats have not peaked until they reached their thirties, so hopefully that trend can continue in this case too. His performances from this campaign will undoubtedly attract interest from elsewhere, and some media outlets have claimed that Bayern Munich could pursue him as a successor to Manuel Neuer. Regardless of whether we are short of funds or not, we simply must keep hold of him. Selling key players in order to generate revenue to reinvest into problematic positions may prove to be a viable option this summer - but Leno simply cannot be one of those considered. He has the potential to be our first choice for many years to come. For me, he has been our best signing post-Wenger.
This concludes my ranking of our post-Wenger signings. If you have any additional thoughts or differing opinions, then feel free to let me know in the comments section below. I will try my best to get back to all of you. Thank you as always for reading.