Arsenal 2020/21 player ratings as Saka and Tierney shine but Willian and Aubameyang disappoint

It’s difficult to put your finger exactly on the mood around the Arsenal camp after the 2020/21 season.

There is the obvious disappointment of failing to qualify for European football for the first time in 25 years mixed in with the relief of having avoided the Europa Conference League and the positivity of the fact that if the Premier League had started 23 matches ago then the Gunners would have come second.

One thing that can be agreed upon though is that Mikel Arteta’s squad will look vastly different come the start of next season.

With fewer competitions to compete in and plenty of players coming towards the end of their contracts, this summer is set to be a very busy one at the Emirates.

With the season now having come to an end after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brighton, Arteta has admitted it is time for a period of deep reflection and self-criticism before working out exactly how best to attack the next campaign.

With that in mind here football.london takes a look back over how the Arsenal players got on individually across the season in our player ratings for 2020/21.

Emiliano Martinez: It’s easy to forget as it seems so long ago, but Arsenal actually began the season with Emi Martinez in goal. The Argentinian stopper helped the Gunners claim victory in a penalty shootout over Liverpool to secure the Community Shield before moving on to Aston Villa. n/a.

Runar Alex Runarsson: Considering Willian is on this list it speaks to how poor the Icelandic goalkeeper was after coming in from Dijon that he is in the conversation for worst signing of the season. Runarsson’s errors in Europa League and Carabao Cup games were so egregious that Arsenal were forced into the market again in January to loan Mat Ryan. 3.

Mat Ryan: Only played three times but the Australian was solid on each occasion. A boyhood Arsenal fan and positive influence on the training ground, many would like to see his loan move from Brighton made permanent this summer. 6.

Bernd Leno: The pressure was always going on to be on Bernd Leno after he won the battle between him and Emi Martinez. At times this season individual errors from the German have led many to question if Arsenal made the right choice. But some top class saves in big games including one against Villarreal in the Europa League semi final first leg, Leno has shown that he is a solid enough option between the sticks. 6.



Arsenal shot-stopper Bernd Leno. (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images).
Arsenal shot-stopper Bernd Leno. (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images).

Hector Bellerin: The season actually started pretty well for Hector Bellerin as he earned his first Spain call up in four years. Since then though he has struggled to maintain his levels of performance. The 25-year-old has been nowhere near as bad as some of the noise on social media would suggest, but it’s come to a point where it’s perhaps best for both parties if he heads for a new challenge this summer. 5.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: Big things were expected of Maitland-Niles after his strong finish to the last campaign. Again he failed to establish himself in any position and his desire to play midfield took him on loan to West Brom in January. He did OK at the Hawthorns but nothing to suggest he deserved to be a regular in Mikel Arteta’s side. Based on the high hopes it’s been a really disappointing season for the 23-year-old. 4.

Cedric: The Portuguese international was developing into something of a nifty squad player capable of playing either at left or right back and putting in consistently decent performances in both positions. However, he has not featured at all since early April and has fallen completely down the pecking order despite Kieran Tierney’s injury problems. 6.

Calum Chambers: Most people had written Calum Chambers off after his ACL injury just as Mikel Arteta took over last season. From nowhere though he has emerged to finish the season now as Arsenal’s first choice right back with a string of fine displays in his less preferred position. 7.

David Luiz: The Brazilian’s eventful two year stay in north London has come to an end and on the balance of this season it was probably the right choice. When he played Luiz put in some good displays and demonstrated his important leadership qualities to this young Arsenal squad. However, this was the campaign where age finally caught up with him and a string of injuries means not extending his contract was the smart choice from Arsenal. 6.

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Rob Holding: It seems strange to say of someone who has been at the club for five years now, but this was something of a breakthrough season for Rob Holding. The 25-year-old wasn’t always perfect, but has established himself as Mikel Arteta’s first choice right sided central defender and rightfully earned himself a contract extension at the club. 7.

Shkodran Mustafi: Why on earth he was played in early Europa League and Carabao Cup games ahead of William Saliba only Mikel Arteta will know. The German did little to justify his manager’s faith in minimal game time and had his contract cancelled in January. 4.

Gabriel: A solid debut season when you consider he is still only 23 and was adapting to a new league. The Brazilian started tremendously winning three player of the month awards in a row, but a red card against Southampton and testing positive for COVID-19 over Christmas halted his progress. He never really recovered the consistency, but still looks to have been an excellent buy at just £25 million. 7.



Gabriel Magalhaes in action for Arsenal (Image: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Gabriel Magalhaes in action for Arsenal (Image: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Pablo Mari: Like Chambers many had forgotten about Mari at the start of the season after he was ruled out until December with a long term injury. Upon returning to the first team though the Spaniard proved his worth to the squad with a string of composed defensive displays. 7.

Sead Kolasinac: The Bosnian started just one Premier League game before leaving to join Schalke on loan in January. Not replacing him with back up for Kieran Tierney proved costly, but allowing him to go was probably the right call. 4.

Kieran Tierney: It may speak to the quality of their attacking options, but Arsenal’s leading chance creator this season from open play this season was their left back. As well as being excellent offensively the Scottish international was solid defensively and showed commitment and desire that has made him an instant fans favourite despite having hardly played in front of the Emirates faithful. 8.

Miguel Azeez: The highly rated 18-year-old only made one sub appearance in the Europa League against Dundalk, but looks set to be involved much more in the first team next season. n/a.

Mohamed Elneny: Most people were surprised to see Elneny return for the start of the 2020/21 season but after a couple of impressive early displays against Liverpool and Manchester United the Egyptian kept his place. His risk-averse approach in possession was a little frustrating at times, but the 28-year-old made some valuable contributions this campaign. 6.

Thomas Partey: After signing ahead of the summer transfer deadline, excitement was rife about what Thomas Partey would bring to the Arsenal midfield. Sadly, injuries robbed the Ghanaian of the chance to consistently show his best and glimpses against Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United were what we were restricted to. 5.

Granit Xhaka: Arsenal’s most consistent midfielder this season. After being sent off against Burnley the Swiss international came back to offer his best form in an Arsenal shirt and was someone Arteta could rely upon for the most part. Individual errors such as the misplaced pass at Turf Moor may cloud his overall importance, but it should not get in the way of the fact that this has been a very good campaign for Xhaka. 7.

Joe Willock: After failing to get much of a chance in the Premier League despite good displays in the Europa League it seemed Joe Willock’s chance at an Arsenal career was about to pass him by. An outstanding loan spell at Newcastle has totally turned that on its head though and after becoming the youngest player to score in seven consecutive league matches, the 21-year-old could be set for a big role next campaign. 8.

Ben Cottrell: Made just one sub appearance in the Europa League. Could be involved more next season but with Arsenal looking to bring in a creative midfielder this summer that seems unlikely. n/a.

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Emile Smith Rowe: It is no coincidence that since Emile Smith Rowe came into the side Arsenal rank within the top four of the Premier League form table. The England under-21 international has turned the Gunners’ season on its head and made the step up to first team level seamlessly. Keeping fit for as much of next campaign as possible is key for the Hale Ender who will be a regular in 2021/22. 8.

Martin Odegaard: Bucking the trend of abysmal January loan signings Martin Odegaard has impressed during his spell in north London. It’s unfortunate that just as he was finding his best form an ankle injury on international duty halted him in his tracks. But two assists in his last two games shows what the Norwegian can do and it’s little surprise that Arsenal want to keep him this summer. 7.

Willian: It feels a bit easy to go in too hard on Willian but the Brazilian will, based on his performances this season, go down as one of the worst signings in Arsenal’s recent history, despite joining on a free transfer. A positive start with two assists on his debut at Fulham was as good as it got for him, and he failed to hit the heights expected of him. Despite this, Arteta continued to play him, and the 32-year-old’s poor form might have been more tolerable if he hadn’t been blocking a pathway for young talents like Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson. 2.



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Willian battles John McGinn in Arsenal’s defeat by Aston Villa (Image: James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Reiss Nelson: It’s hard not to feel sorry for Reiss Nelson who, as previously mentioned, saw his first team opportunities needlessly restricted by an awful signing. At the same time though when he was given chances he didn’t exactly seize them. A loan in January would have been ideal but it wasn’t to be for the 21-year-old who could leave for good this summer. 4.

Nicolas Pepe: After a slow start Nicolas Pepe has had a brilliant end to the season, finally finding the consistency that has been missing for so long from his game. The Ivorian is scoring goals and stepping in big games such as the Europa League semi final first leg against Villarreal. He has ended the campaign in perhaps better form than any of his Arsenal teammates. 7.

Bukayo Saka: Arsenal’s player of the season. The 19-year-old has played nearly every position on the pitch and excelled in each and every one dragging his side through games at times. In the awful run of November and December he was one of the few who consistently stood out, while his form reached an even higher level after being switched over to the right wing after Christmas. 9.

Gabriel Martinelli: The Brazilian only returned to the first team in December after a six month lay off with a knee injury. Since then he has had to wait patiently for opportunities, but he has generally grabbed them when they’ve been given. Looks more comfortable on the left than up front and surely more chances lie in wait for him next season. 7.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: After the highs of last campaign this was a woeful one for the Arsenal captain. There were of course mitigating circumstances such as illness, family problems, disciplinary issues and a lack of creativity that played their part, but more was expected from the Gabon international who by his own admission had one of the worst seasons of his career. 4.

Alexandre Lacazette: Got over a frustrating two month goal drought between October and December to become one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers in the second half of the campaign. Ended the season as the club’s top scorer and showed his leadership qualities to guide the Gunners’ young squad through their integration into the first team. 7.

Eddie Nketiah: You can’t help but feel sorry for Eddie Nketiah. He is a Hale End graduate eager to impress at first team level but has seen his chances restricted by more senior players. When he has been given opportunities though the England under-21 goalscorer hasn’t done enough to take them. At this stage he needs to move on and establish himself elsewhere. 4.

Folarin Balogun: Many thought the 19-year-old would leave for free this summer despite scoring a goal every 32 minutes across cameos in the Europa League group stages. He’s signed a contract extension though and after establishing himself this season, the Hale Ender will want to kick on next campaign. 7.

Source by Football London

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