Player of the season? Most improved? Best Goal? Arsenal Awards 2019/20
By Alex Trad
No sooner had the 2019/20 season and its many lows and marked highs started than it had drawn to a close. Retrospectively speaking, the success we enjoyed this year is far lesser than many would have hoped - not to mention the turbulence surrounding the club throughout the campaign. Besides that, there were a number of individual positives to take from the last 12 months. So, who among the current personnel deserves honourable recognition for their efforts?
Signing of the season: Mikel Arteta
Last week, I compiled a comprehensive review of the respective debut campaigns of each of our 2019/20 player acquisitions, from Pablo Mari’s ghost-transfer to Gabriel Martinelli’s astonishing breakthrough season in North London. Beyond that, though, a certain managerial dismissal and subsequent appointment has proved a fantastic piece of recruitment by the higher brass.
None other than Mikel Arteta, 37, former captain, cult hero and slick-haired assistant to Pep Guardiola was brought in at the eleventh and certainly darkest of hours for AFC fans in late-December, replacing a struggling Freddie Ljungberg at the helm. From that point onwards, the Gunners have bettered tenfold both on and off the pitch. First on the agenda for Arteta was fixing the club’s fragmented and divided structure and its unavailing guiding principles and overall flawed ideology.
The Spaniard's arrival and all that has occurred since are sources of much encouragement and promise for the Emirates outfit. In the small matter of six months, the Spaniard has outperformed the former regime on a domestic level, most notably spurring our reinvigorated squad to FA Cup elation over Chelsea. And although a newly-appointed manager having been brought in midway through the campaign may only be properly judged during their first full season in the technical area, Arteta has already achieved a great deal of success. Hopefully the first of many. Young player of the season: Bukayo Saka
Prior to this season, Bukayo Saka featured only sporadically for the first-team, his selections arriving solely in continental and domestic cup competitions. An impressive showing during our pre-season tour of the United States last July, though, caught the eye of then-gaffer Unai Emery. At the first time of asking, the 19-year old delivered in some style- two assists and a magnificent strike from long-range secured Arsenal a routine 3-0 away victory over Frankfurt to begin our Europa League journey.
Several Premier League starts later, the Englishman had fast staked his claim over a place in the first team squad. Following Emery’s dismissal, his chances were far from lessened, if affected at all. In fact, Arteta immediately viewed Saka in the same light, also recognizing his rare versatility across the entire pitch in doing so. As such, Saka shifted from left winger to left-back in Kieran Tierney’s stead whilst the latter endured many months of recovery from an unfortunate arm injury sustained shortly prior to Arteta’s appointment. That, and his incredible match fitness, casted a shining light over a special talent throughout. Having recently penned a long-term deal, the stage is set for many future moments of brilliance from our Academy product.
Disappointment of the season: Lacazette’s uncharacteristically poor return
Yes, Lacazette has at times produced moments of magic this season. Indeed, Lacazette’s goalscoring prowess represents one of the most valued assets of our squad at hand. Apart from that though, the Frenchman registered 16 goal contributions- half what he managed the year before. A damning return to reality for the club’s official 18/19 Player of the Season and former Ligue 1 Golden Boot winner.
Despite his lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury from September to late-October, without Lacazette’s usual effectiveness in front of goal Arsenal struggled to cruise past typically beatable opposition in the weeks leading up to and following Emery’s sacking. In fact, we netted 56 Premier League goals this season, 17 less than the campaign prior. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang alone contributed to nearly half of these strikes. All things considered, Lacazette’s tally does a disservice to the relentless work rate he exhibits when selected. However, goals are and will always be expected from centre-forwards, especially from those with the same level of experience and ability as the former-Lyon man. Surprise of the season: Granit Xhaka’s redemption arc
Through failed captaincy, countless death threats and a public spat with the fanbase, the 19/20 season could not have started in worse fashion for our Swiss midfielder. Then came the light, the gaffer himself: Mikel Arteta. Under the Spaniard’s reinvigorating guidance, Xhaka has rarely stepped a foot wrong and, most importantly, has regained a sense of trust among the supporters. In Xhaka’s absence, there's no denying Arsenal lack quality in the middle of the pitch, and it’s no coincidence either that he has appeared in most to all of our victories under Arteta. It appears as though the player we recruited in 2016 has at last found his feet at the Emirates. Long may it continue…
Goal of the Season: Joe Willock vs Liverpool (Carabao Cup 4th Round) Whilst for sentimental value my favourite strike of the season remains Aubameyang’s beautiful winner in the Final, few goals came better throughout the last year than Joe Willock’s absolute scorcher against the then Champions-elect in a pointless League Cup encounter at Anfield. Given the frenetic nature of the match, 5-5 being the result prior to a penalty shootout which Arsenal then went on to lose, this goal meant more to the fanbase than merely one which gave ourselves a late lead.
It was a testament to our plethora of young talent emerging all at once. A remodeled and arguably refined rendition of Wenger’s famously dubbed “English Core”. Not to mention the limbs in the away end. Scenes of pure elation at the sight of the 20-year old’s long-range belter. A goal fit to collect any Goal of the Season accolade. Deserved winner.
Player of the Season: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang*
Quite literally the sole inclusion in this list all Arsenal supporters would agree on. In the last year alone, Aubameyang has been named official club captain, collected the Premier League Player of the Month award for September, joined the exclusive 50-goal club in record breaking fashion in both all competitions and PL action only. It's safe to say the Gabonese saved the best for last. Two consecutive braces at Wembley against Man City and Chelsea in the semi-final and the final, respectively, guided the Gunners to their first domestic honour since 2017 and a historic 14th FA Cup trophy overall. Saviour cometh.
No doubt the club’s standout performer of 19/20, and certainly up there with (if not above) the division’s most talented forwards. The talismanic nature of his performances all throughout only exacerbate the need for a contract renewal. At the time of writing, Arsenal’s representatives have reportedly struck a verbal agreement with Aubameyang himself and his entourage, as per Sky Sports (among various other sources). In what would prove the perfect start to an irregular transfer window, Aubameyang is close to ‘signing da ting’. You just love to see it.
*Honourable mention: Bernd Leno There it is- a full distinction of Arsenal’s brightest and most important squad members throughout the last campaign. Hopefully more than an FA Cup triumph will be awarded to the Gunners next year, optimistic though this may seem…