midseason ratings

Arsenal Mid-Season Ratings 2018/19 – Forwards and Manager

We’ve hit the mid-season mark under the new Unai Emery regime. Here at the Arsenal Vision Podcast, we will be looking to rate the Arsenal players based on their performances so far. 

In this piece, we’ll be assessing the forwards and the new manager, Unai Emery. 

Danny Welbeck – 6.5/10

Poor Danny. Just when he was getting into the groove of things, he suffered a major injury in the Europa League that ended his season early.

Emery integrated Welbeck into the team slowly due to his commitments in the World Cup, bringing him on as a substitute in league games and starting him in the cups. His versatility, physical power and diligence in following instructions were a plus as the manager has shuffled his team through a series of formations and tactics. 

Welbeck clocked in a respectable 5 goals and 1 assist in all competitions despite being moved between a supporting and lead striking position. He’s a major team player and always puts in the hard yards for his teammates. If he’s leaving at the end of the season, which looks quite likely, Arsenal would be hard pressed to find a back up forward with his experience, ability and professionalism.

Alexandre Lacazette – 7.5/10

Lacazette’s value to the team was evident in the first couple of games when Arsenal’s forward line struggled to find any rhythm without the Frenchman. Lacazette has since become indispensable to the team as his hold up play, clinical finishing and a willingness to put in a defensive shift high up the pitch has endeared him to Emery and the fans.

9 goals and 6 assists in all competitions shows that he’s not just a good goalscorer but a selfless provider for his teammates. He’s on course to better his goals scored in 2017/18 and has already surpassed the number of assists from the entirety of last season.

Much has been made of his moody demeanour when being substituted but he’s managed to show a more positive disposition in the recent Fulham game – providing another assist for his team from the sidelines.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 8/10

A player that I feel doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Aubameyang’s 14 goals in the league puts him at the head of the goalscoring charts but not much has been made of his supremacy in front of goal. This is probably because, for the casual viewer, he’s not an all action player like Lacazette. 

Aubameyang operates in the periphery of the game and his skills are more cerebral. His game is based on finding pockets of space to exploit and his speed helps him gain an extra yard of space to pounce on the tiniest opportunity in the box.

He does miss his fair share of chances but he averages close to 3 shots per game and that is enough to get him a goal in most of the games he plays. 

Aubemeyang also deserves credit for playing a big chunk of the season out of position on the left of midfield but has played on diligently. Scintillating shots from outside the box, something he rarely did at Dortmund, and improved pressing from the front since the North London Derby shows that Aubameyang is expanding his repertoire as a forward.

Aubameyang looks the elite striker we have been crying out for since the departure of Robin Van Persie and Thierry Henry and we should appreciate his talents while we can.

Manager: Unai Emery – 7/10

Emery had a tough task of replacing a legacy manager but said all the right things at the start about working harder. Under his guidance, the team does look fitter and stronger which may explain Arsenal’s second half dominance as the Gunner tend to overrun tired opposition legs. Despite losing the first 2 games of the season, there is a resilience in the team now that has been missing in the last few seasons under Wenger.

Emery has improved individual players like Iwobi, Holding and Bellerin who stagnated under the previous regime. A focus on the collective is also to be applauded but that has come with its set of problems.

The new manager has found it hard to integrate Ramsey and Ozil into his plans – 2 high profile players who have previously been given free creative reign under Wenger. In the case of Ozil, that means dropping the club’s biggest earner and most creative player due to poor form. That is a political minefield that has complicated matters for Emery but he seems to have that under control for the time being.

While the results have mostly been positive, fans have been right to call out Emery on a lack of “philosophy” and a coherent plan. He changes formations very often and has not been able to improve the defence. The half time substitutions were refreshing at the start but it’s hard to see what the team is building towards. Tactical flexibility is always welcomed but it has to be anchored in a clear blueprint.

Still, I believe he deserves more time and the hierarchy needs to back him with more players during the current transfer window, especially in defence and on the wings. 

Emery has been tasked to get back into the Champions League through a top 4 finish and/or via the Europa League. To attain his goals, he has to tighten up the defence, have a consistent plan for the players to adopt and bring out the best of Ozil in the second half of the season.

Hatta is a Singapore-based Gooner, a purveyor of the latest football boots and kits and founder of BOOTHYPE.com. You can also find him on Twitter at @chatwithhat.

Arsenal Mid-Season Ratings 2018/19 – Midfield

We’ve hit the mid-season mark under the new Unai Emery regime. Here at the Arsenal Vision Podcast, we will be looking to rate the Arsenal players based on their performances so far. 

In this piece, we’ll be looking into the midfield to assess who’s played well and who could look to improve as the season progresses. 

Lucas Torreira – 8/10

The defensive midfielder that fans have been crying out for since Gilberto’s departure. Torreira’s drive, aggression and pace belied his small stature as he regularly shielded the defence with his combative tackling

Some have compared him to Flamini in his prime but Torreira is nowhere near as reckless and is a much more accomplished technician of the ball. He’s comfortable on the ball, passes quickly and is capable of delivering a pass through the lines – something that he honed as an attacking midfielder earlier in his career.

Torreira’s form dipped a little from playing so many minutes through a heavy festive period but you can expect him to bounce back sooner rather than later. One of the bright spots in a mixed first half of the season.

Granit Xhaka – 7/10

Finally, fans are starting to appreciate the qualities that Xhaka’s the Arsenal midfield. Xhaka has been able to play his natural game by dictating the tempo from deep. Gone are the days that he would have had to shield the defence alone with midfield partner Torreira picking up the defensive slack in the centre of the park.

His absence was keenly felt when he was moved to the centre and left side of defence due to an injury crisis at the back. Arsenal struggled to progress the ball up the field and could not find a rhythm in those games.

With Emery marginalizing Ozil and Ramsey, Xhaka’s excellent range of passing and set piece expertise looks even more crucial to making the team tick. He looks more and more like a leader on the pitch and could well be the successor to the armband when Koscielny ends his Arsenal stint.

Matteo Guendouzi – 6.5/10 

Guendouzi’s name was on everyone’s lips after a productive pre-season in Singapore. Guendouzi plays with courage and confidence that is rarely found in someone so young. He’s eager to receive the ball in tight spaces and is always committed to play out under pressure. You can see why he’s a favourite of the manager.

However, he is still a teenager learning his trade and his rawness is apparent when he switches off defensively and makes silly tackles in dangerous areas. Sometimes, that courage on the ball also means that he holds on to the ball for a bit longer than he should and ends up losing it in midfield.

Guendouzi is a player with great potential and Emery needs to ensure his minutes in the league are managed accordingly to aid in his growth as a player.

Mohamed Elneny – 5/10

The ultimate “safe” player. Possessing a good engine and an ability to make safe, albeit conservative, passes of the ball, I always felt that Elneny looked a good option to bring off the bench to protect a lead. 

However, Emery doesn’t seem to rate him and he’s been relegated to starting in the cups. Elneny has only one league game to his name – the 3-1 win over Burnley on 22 December which saw him substituted on 59 minutes.

The Egyptian international hasn’t been bad, though he hasn’t been spectacular neither, and would look to be a handy squad player for the cup games where you can be guaranteed of a steady 6/10 performance from him.

Aaron Ramsey – 6.5/10

1 goal and 6 assists in 9 Premier League appearances is stuff many midfielders can only dream of. Despite the good record on paper, Aaron Ramsey hasn’t always looked comfortable in the number 10 role – a position he’s played for most of the season.

Arsenal’s announcement regarding the non-renewal of Ramsey’s contract has also thrown a spanner into the works as his appearances have been marginalized since.

There are rumours of a January departure to PSG or Juventus. A move for him might be a blessing in disguise as managers past and present have struggled to find Ramsey a role to best express his talents. 

If he stays, I would love to see him on the right side of midfield in a “Ljungberg” role where he can tuck in and protect the midfield and make late diagonal runs into the box to add a goal threat in attack.

Mesut Ozil – 4/10

There is no one in the team right now who can divide opinion like Mesut Ozil. The biggest star in the team has struggled to play within Emery’s setup. He’s been peripheral in the earlier games having started on the right side of midfield and hasn’t been on board with the high pressing tactics. Blockbuster performances such as the one against Leicester have been far and few in between. 

For someone of his ability, I believe he should be performing better in the games he starts in though at times, he has unfairly been the lightning rod for wider issues in the team. But as the biggest star and the highest earner in the club, the spotlight is inevitable.

Constant rumours of a backroom rift with the manager has also dogged Ozil – missing games due to a series of “back spasms” and “tactical reasons”. Whether you see him as victim or villain, it is imperative that Arsenal find a way to get Ozil performing in 2019 to lead the team back into a Champions League spot. 

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5/10

Much was demanded from Mkhitaryan at the start of this season. He’s an experienced attacker who can play in wide and central areas, has a telepathic relationship with Aubameyang (judging from their Dortmund days) and is one of the highest earners at the club. The Armenian playmaker has not delivered and his performances have so far been mediocre. 

For a player of his talents, he hasn’t shown enough consistency for Arsenal with only 4 goals and 3 assists in the league and Europa League to show for. Very often he struggles to get the basics right with his link up play and finishing but is equally capable of a brilliant moment of skill (see goal against Chelsea). 

His form did seem to be on a slightly upward curve towards the end of December before suffering a metatarsal injury that would see him return in February 2019. 

Alex Iwobi – 6/10

Iwobi started the season on fire. Like Bellerin, the ex-Arsenal academy player found a new lease of life under the new coaching team. Opponents were struggling to cope with his dribbles, powerful runs and his nutmegs. 

However, December saw the team’s spiralling form affect Iwobi’s performances. A greater responsibility to be the team’s playmaker due to Mkhitaryan’s inconsistencies and the absence of Ozil has seen Iwobi revert to the ponderous play that plagued him game last season.

He could do with a bit of a rest but with scant options within the team for a wide player, Emery may be forced to play Iwobi into the ground. If there was a consolation to the Liverpool game, Iwobi looked like the one guy who could have created something for the team but more reinforcements are required to shoulder the responsibility in attack.

Hatta is a Singapore-based Gooner, a purveyor of the latest football boots and kits and founder of BOOTHYPE.com. You can also find him on Twitter at @chatwithhat.