Arsenal's 2020/21 Squad: Ranked!
By Mac Johnson (Senior Writer) and Max Mishcon
Hey! Hey you! Yes, you! We've got a question for you.
Is it really worth spending hundreds of hours of time, millions of pounds and endless resources just to evaluate your squad?
Days of detailed data analytics and intensive scouting are outdated, overrated and boring.
Instead, why not just lazily rank every player at your disposal, and go from there?
Well, that’s exactly what Mac and Max have done.
So, please enjoy Arsenal’s 20/21 squad: Ranked!
21: Dani Ceballos
Mac's Ranking: 21st
Max's Ranking: 21st
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
Coming in at a respectable 21st and last, is one-time Daniel Finton-favorite, Dani Ceballos. Maybe because they share a name...something worth thinking about.
Much like our lanky ginger Deputy Editor, the hero of Project Restart is very nice on the eyes. Unlike our lanky ginger Deputy Editor, his production for this Arsenal team has been minimal at best.
Loose touches, poor progression, silly mistakes, lack of pace and effort, and awful end product. Back to Real Madrid with you, sir, and thank you for teaching us what we don't need in a No. 8 as we move forward with this rebuild.
Mac's Ranking: 16th
Max's Ranking: 20th
Let this be another case of assists being a misleading statistic.
Willian has been nothing short of lacklustre this season, and we’re no meanies, but topping the assists table in the squad can’t distract us from the failed dribbles, the wayward shots, the unwillingness to run and the careless final balls.
It’s very rare that Chelsea fans are right about anything, but they were spot on about Willian and if any money comes in for him we should grab it and run.
19: Hector Bellerin
Mac's Ranking: 19th
Max's Ranking: 19th
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Yes, we meant to repeat that! What, you think we're copying and pasting my intros?
Unfortunately, it's even more true for Hector than it is for his countryman. Once touted as the future of the club, unfortunate run-ins with a dodgy ACL have left him bereft of pace or confidence, and ultimately looking for a new home this summer.
He's a role-model off the pitch, and an excellent servant to this club, but he also just isn't good enough. Farewell dear Hector; tears in my eyes.
18: Pablo Mari
Mac's Ranking: 18th
Max's Ranking: 18th
The phrase: “He epitomises the modern centre-back” gets thrown around quite often - this cannot be applied to Pablo Mari, however.
Long-range passing and a turn of pace are two things missing from his quite limited skillset. For a back-up, left-footed option, he can do a job, but he should be nowhere near the starting XI.
17: Eddie Nketiah
Mac's Ranking: 20th
Max's Ranking: 16th
Oh, how the mighty have... only joking folks.
Nketiah is the latest in a long lone of youngsters to be tossed onto the scrap heap. However, unlike our Hale End rejects of recent years, I don't think this one will come back to bite us too heavily.
In the nearly three years in which Nketiah has been on the fringes of the first team, he's showed excellent goal-poaching instinct and...nothing else.
Sure, he's got energy, and can press high, but his shooting isn't particularly spectacular, and his work in possession even less so. With the altogether more useful Folarin Balogun waiting in the wings, I can ascribe his place in this ranking to youth and a decent Europa League campaign, the likes of which we'll never see again.
Because he won't be playing for Arsenal much longer.
16: Mohamed Elneny
Mac's Ranking: 15th
Max's Ranking: 17th
If we are to challenge for silverware once again, Elneny must stay.
Every iconic team needs a wildcard like our Egyptian king. A man who will pass the ball backwards and sideways for 90 minutes and then every so often just thump in a wondergoal from 25 yards.
Elneny might just be the only player in the squad who can provide full assurance day in, day out... that he will do absolutely nothing.
15: Cedric Soares
Mac's Ranking: 17th
Max's Ranking: 14th
Cedric proved one thing this season: he's a useful player, regardless of where you play him.
He's not a "loosah," and he's not a starting calibre right-back. But he's an excellent one-on-one defender, he can run all match, and he rarely makes a mistake.
That being said, he's also not spectacular, or awe-inspring. He's a lot like Nacho Monreal, in that he will do the job asked of him perfectly, but will rarely go above and beyond the call of duty.
He'll be a useful backup for our Bellerin replacement, or Calum Chambers next season. Speaking of Chambers...
14: Calum Chambers
Mac's Ranking: 13th
Max's Ranking: 15th
Much like his performances this season, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Calum Chambers.
He comes in, puts in a 7/10 and goes home.
The right-back, turned centre-back, turned central midfielder, turned right-back (again) breathed new life into the right-hand side; overlapping when a certain Spaniard would not, crossing the ball like the second coming of Beckham and adding an aerial presence in the wide areas, the Englishman has truly impressed when given chances.
However, said chances have come few and far between, with little game time being the reason for a low ranking.
13: Martin Ødegaard
Mac's Ranking: 14th
Max's Ranking: 12th
Martin Ødegaard came to the Emirates looking for regular first-team football, and he got it, playing just shy of 1300 minutes in his tenure here, which means he was on the pitch for about 30% of Arsenal's season, an impressive record for a 5-month loanee with an injury history.
2 goals and 2 assists is a slightly underwhelming return, but if Arteta attempts to bring the Norwegian back, it will vindicate his effects on this Arsenal team. Ødegaard brought a high-pressing intensity, feather-light passing touch, and an eye for a key pass back to the team.
However, in a very "my-last-name-starts-with-a-fancy-O" sort of fashion, he also tended to disappear when Arsenal couldn't keep as much of the ball.
It will be interesting to see how his London journey progresses in the future, but given his limited playing time and low G/A return, and frankly, the fact that he was far from revolutionary, a decent 12th is the best we can give him.
12: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Mac's Ranking: 12th
Max's Ranking: 11th
For those wondering when Auba would start to drop off, it was this season.
However, the outrage at our captain’s performances this season seem slightly over-exaggerated. He hasn’t had a BAD season, but relative to his elite standards it’s quite a substantial decline.
The Gabonese forward has arguably finished the few chances given to him, scoring 15 from 15.2 xG, but Lacazette, who has taken much more criticism this season has scored 17 goals from 12.2 xG.
More issues lie in his pressing, as he completes the 3rd most in the squad, yet is the 3rd least successful when he does press.
Combine this with a clear lack of influence over games and you get an Aubameyang with a lot less to offer than he used to.
11: Rob Holding
Mac's Ranking: 9th
Max's Ranking: 13th
Rob Holding played the fourth-most minutes of anybody in the Arsenal squad this season, both in the Premier League—2558—and in all competitions—3353—having never played over 2000 in a single campaign before that.
He's not the flashiest player (unless he's in the final third, at which point he morphs into prime Ronaldinho), but he's tall, strong, and technically very solid.
There's something to be said for solid consistency at the back, and though Holding will never break records, he has been the overall anchor point of the best Arsenal backline in five years. Much of that comes down to his mentality, which is ironclad and fierce, but is also a testament to his growth as a player.
Of our three primary centre-backs this season, he is the lowest-ranked, because he has been the least spectacular, but don't count him out for a long-term place in this Arsenal squad.
10: Bernd Leno
Mac's Ranking: 8th
Max's Ranking: 9th
As we head towards the middle of the pack, Bernd Leno has been fine, but nothing more. For every unbelievable save, there’s a nervy moment or lapse in concentration.
According to the metrics, the German is an above average Premier League goalkeeper, but a serious lack of presence in his area isn’t something the numbers can account for.
With the potential signing of Andre Onana on the horizon, maybe some competition for the number 1 spot will generate a certain drive in Leno we haven’t seen before?
9: Gabriel Magalhães
Mac's Ranking: 10th
Max's Ranking: 7th
What a signing Gabriel has been.
Under the tutelage of the experienced David Luiz, Gabriel has grown in leaps and bounds. Despite a tendency to be over-aggressive, which he typically managed to curb, the Brazilian brought pace, strength, and tenacity to an Arsenal backline that had very little last season.
He's demonstrated flexibility across a backline, able to function on the left or in the center of a defense, and can hold his own against most experienced attackers, and he is just as responsible for Arsenal's upturn in defensive form as Holding, or our next candidate.
Best of all, he's one for the future, and if his relationships with Rob Holding and William Saliba can continue to blossom, he's got a bright future at the Emirates. The only way is up.
8: David Luiz
Mac's Ranking: 11th
Max's Ranking: 5th
The divisive veteran bids farewell to Arsenal this Summer, in what’s been a really strange 2-year ordeal.
Next to Gabriel however, there’s been nothing strange about Luiz’s performances. His distribution is crucial to our build-up-play, as this season the Brazilian appears to be more focused and responsible, with resounding defensive performances on the pitch, as well as being cited as a role model for youngsters off the pitch.
Losing Luiz will not be a huge blow, but his character and consistency will be missed.
7: Thomas Partey
Mac's Ranking: 7th
Max's Ranking: 8th
Gabriel gave him a run for his money, but in our estimation, Thomas Partey has been the signing of the season.
At this point, he might be the only player in the squad who can truly be declared as world-class, possibly with the notable exception of Kieran Tierney. He's defensively sharp, is an excellent progressor (is that a word?) of the ball, and, despite some injury woes, still managed to sway the hearts of Arsenal fans into believing what is evidently true to us: Partey is the future of this team.
Even more importantly, Partey has also shown us that he cannot perform at high levels without support. He often was called upon to cover the space and responsibilities of two men, simply because he is the only man able to do so at the requisite level, and it led to mistakes and lapses in concentration, which in turn have docked his rating slightly.
Arsenal finally got their man and he has vindicated their faith for the most part. Let's hope he can build upon that faith next season.
6: Granit Xhaka
Mac's Ranking: 4th
Max's Ranking: 10th
Currently, the ‘Xhaka cycle’ is at the point of “Huh, he’s actually really good.” Next will come a huge mistake or fallout with the fans, then comes a moment of redemption, and the cycle repeats itself.
Like the man for whom he deputized, Kieran Tierney, Xhaka is one of few conventional leaders amongst the group and has been very consistent throughout the campaign.
But we can’t get carried away. He might’ve completed the most passes into the final third out of all Premier League players this season, but a serious lack of discipline and mobility is holding him back from the full trust of the fans.
It’s been a wild ride with Xhaka over the years - this season has arguably been his best, personally, but he needs replacing.
5: Emile Smith Rowe
Mac's Ranking: 5th
Max's Ranking: 6th
It's amazing what short shinpads can do for a man.
Just as last season was Bukayo Saka's breakout campaign, so this was Smith Rowe's. Earning himself four goals, and a joint-highest seven assists, he has brought energy, vigour, and drive to this Arsenal squad.
He's drawn comparisons to both Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish in the past, but Smith Rowe really has begun to grow into his own boots. He's quick, precise, and has one of the best first touches we've ever seen here at WLYA. And best of all, he can only continue to grow.
Of course, he still has room to grow and areas to improve upon, but this season has lain a baseline that could well be the beginnings of a true Premier League superstar.
4: Kieran Tierney
Mac's Ranking: 6th
Max's Ranking: 2nd
Conversations of future captaincy may be placing too much emphasis on the future; why can’t we just acknowledge and enjoy how amazing KT is right now?
Covering the entire left-flank with an unbelievable engine, the Scotsman also possesses immense technical proficiency: 1-on-1 he’s a demon, his crossing is delicious and his shooting can be dangerous at times.
Injuries have been slightly less of an issue this season, meaning we’ve witnessed almost 3000 minutes of pure ‘pashun and desiyah.’
Deservedly earning himself a 3rd-place medal in this year's Player of the Season vote, he's been a rockstar, and we can't wait to see more.
3: Alexandre Lacazette
Mac's Ranking: 3rd
Max's Ranking: 4th
It may interest some that, in a critique-laden campaign, Alexandre Lacazette scores so high in this ranking. Simply, we don't believe that criticism is merited.
The Frenchman has not been an all-star this season, but he's been quietly efficient, especially by his standards. Fifteen goals in all competitions from twelve expected, and a further two assists, tell a tale of opportunism and good finishing, which is true.
In a season where Arsenal struggled for goals, Lacazette has been one of the only bright sparks, especially given the fact he spent most of his time dropping behind the midfielders to generate forward movement.
But in all honesty, he earns this ranking partially because this has been the first season in which Laca has not let his confidence monster get the better of him. He battled through frustration and defeat time and time again, and has come out thriving. It's a shame he'll likely be sold this summer, but he'll leave on a high, with a WLYA Bronze Medal to add to his trophy cabinet.
2: Nicolas Pépé
Mac's Ranking: 2nd
Max's Ranking: 3rd
Despite being awarded WLYA’s most improved player of the season, the Ivorian hasn’t been spectacular by any means; his high ranking is more of an indicator of how poorly the squad has performed.
Nevertheless, Pépé has matured and has played with more vigour, more intention than last season. Rather than fade away into the background, our record signing now looks to impose fear and fright into the opposition.
He, and I feel sick saying this, just wants it more.
From a double nutmeg dribble and side-netting, weak-footed finished vs Wolves, to screamers against West Brom and Crystal Palace, the sight of Pépé on a teamsheet tends to induce enthusiasm rather than apathy nowadays.
21 goal contributions may not justify a £72 million price tag, but it’s the most out of the squad this season, as Pépé grabbed the role of the protagonist of our Europa League campaign, deserving the silver medal of the 20/21 squad.
1: Bukayo Saka
Mac's Ranking: 1st
Max's Ranking: 1st
There is nowhere else our Starboy could possibly place, and it's been a season to remember. Still just 19, he played over 3500 minutes in all competitions, earning himself a mammoth 7 goals and six assists, and creating 122 shots and 17 goals, including his actions in buildup play.
There were times this season where Saka looked run ragged, and still he persevered. No player on this Arsenal team has the capability to inspire sudden and meaningful on-field impact as does our newly-crowned #7. Best of all, he's not the sort of player who relies on his team's success to be successful; he creates it out of his own excellence.
His star is in its ascendency, especially having just bagged his first senior goal for England, and earning himself a first-team call-up to Euro 2020. Even just writing this, we're finding it difficult to point to specific moments of brilliance from Saka, because he seems to have the Midas touch, even when he's not playing at full capacity.
We realize we're waxing lyrical, but that's because Saka was the brightest spark in a rather dismal 2020/21 campaign. Nobody deserves Player of the Season, and the #1 spot in our ranking, more than him.
That's it for us here today. We hope you enjoyed this Arsenal Squad Ranking, lazily composed by Mac and Max for your viewing benefit. Jokes aside though, it's been a very difficult campaign for many of us, as we watched our beloved Arsenal flounder to a lowly eighth, amid personal and global tragedy. But we as journalists are forever grateful for the ability to write about our beloved Arsenal, and much of that comes down to you. Thank you all for reading, and much love from us here at WLYA. Onwards to 2021/22!