3 Players who Could Surprise Arsenal Fans this Season
By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)
Off the back of a resounding victory at Craven Cottage on Saturday, Arsenal fans are justifiably optimistic for the season ahead. With a few extra additions to the squad, Mikel Arteta's side really could become a force to be reckoned with this season. However, that's not to say that Arteta doesn't already have a plethora of talent in his current squad. In both defence and attack, our Spanish Manager has some truly quality options at his disposal. The names Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney, Granit Xhaka, Willian, Nicholas Pépé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all spring to mind when thinking of top players currently at our football club. Having said that, there is always one player who represents a bit of a surprise package over the course of a season. A player who his fans didn't initially expect particularly much from but ends up consistently performing at a high level. Last season, Bukayo Saka and Emi Martinez had this effect. Who could fill their boots this year?
1. Rob Holding
After Mikel Arteta revealed on Saturday that he told Rob Holding to "Change your mind because you’re not going anywhere," the onus has been placed on the 24-year-old to prove to his manager that he's made the right decision. A couple of weeks ago, it was believed that the Englishman with the infamous receding hairline would be joining Newcastle United on loan for the 2020/21 season. Now, it looks like he could play a really important role under Mikel Arteta this year. His brilliant ball juggling through Fulham's midfield was exemplary of a man with newfound confidence in his own game. After performing wonderfully well in both the FA Cup and Community Shield finals, Holding seems to be nearing pre-injury self-belief levels. In spite of often looking slightly shaky on the ball in those two games, his prowess regarding 1v1 defending and aerial ability was clear for all to see. With David Luiz said to be struggling with a recurring neck issue and William Saliba being slowly eased into the side, Holding has been presented with an opportunity to nail down a spot in Arteta's defence. If he can continue performing as he did on Saturday at Craven Cottage, it could become very difficult for his manager to drop him. With some consistent game time, Holding could re-emerge as a key component of this Arsenal squad.
2. Hector Bellerin
From one player recovering from an ACL rupture to another, Hector Bellerin also looks like he'll be playing an important role for Arsenal this season. During both the Community Shield final and the opening day victory at Fulham, the Spaniard looked sharp. It seems as if he is slowly regaining his speed and his confidence on the ball also appears to have come on leaps and bounds over the last few weeks. Despite being linked with a move away from Arsenal a few weeks ago, PSG's acquisition of Allesandro Florenzi insinuates they are no longer interested while the rumours suggesting Bellerin will leave the club have also cooled. I'd be unsurprised if it is eventually revealed Mikel Arteta blocked his exit after the 25-year-old portrayed his value to our manager. Alongside Willian on the right flank on Saturday, Bellerin really seemed to have rediscovered his mojo. If Bellerin can prolong his strong start to the season, he will likely prove his doubters wrong. In a side which lacks creativity, an on-form Hector Bellerin could help to solve said issue and contribute towards Arteta fulfilling his vision of incorporating numerous playmaking outlets into his side. We all expect Kieran Tierney to push on further this season, hopefully, his full- back partner Hector Bellerin can do the same 3. Eddie Nketiah
Anyone who saw clips of Eddie Nketiah as a youngster in the Arsenal academy, or those of you who in fact watched him captain England's U21 side against Kosovo last week, will know what a fantastic natural finisher the Hale End academy graduate is. Unfortunately, at professional level, he hasn't always been quite as cool as he could be in front of goal. However, if I were you, I wouldn't worry too much about this. Confidence in front of goal will come with experience at the top level. Mikel Arteta's comments after the Fulham win indicate that the 21-year-old will gain that experience in a red and white shirt this season. After being questioned about Alex Lacazette's future, after initially revealing his faith in the Frenchman, he also said "He has Eddie (Nketiah) next to him, he’s going to push him." Arteta later elaborated that "whoever is in the better shape is going to play." The battle is on. Now, I'm not suggesting Eddie Nketiah will score 30 goals for Arsenal this season. The Englishman straightforwardly isn't at that level yet. Nevertheless, it seems Nketiah fits the profile of striker that Mikel Arteta likes regarding his ability to press, link up play and pose a threat in the box. So, it's probable that the England U21 international will gain consistent game time this season. It'd be great to see him grab 10-15 goals this year.