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Player of the season? Most improved? Best Goal? Arsenal Awards 2020/21

By Max Mishcon

Contrary to my forcefully positive piece last week, this season has been pretty disastrous. Watching Chelsea lift their second Champions League trophy last night only added insult to an already deep and tender injury.

Tuchel’s Blues almost represent an inflection of what could have been, but instead of spiralling into a whirlwind of hypotheticals, I will once again put on a brave face and present to you WLYA’s Arsenal Awards of the 2020/21 season.

Signing of The Season: Gabriel

Welcomed by weather analysts was the rock of our solid defence this season. Despite still having many qualities which need refining, Gabriel’s raw nature is part of what makes him so aesthetically pleasing to watch.

Utilised often is his imposing frame and speed, his ambitious and accurate variety of passing and an elite aerial presence, evident in his leap to head in a goal vs Olympiakos this season.

Whether or not he partners Saliba, Holding, or a new signing, acquiring a left-footed, 22-year-old centre-back with bags of current ability and future potential for less than £30 million was really smart business.

Player of the Season: Bukayo Saka

What more is there to say on Hale End’s finest?

This poor kid has been overplayed, in countless positions, and has dragged this heavy heap of a team through thick and filthy mud.

Gareth Southgate appears to be an admirer too, as Saka has been selected for the provisional 33-man Euro 2020 squad - and rightly so.

Whilst improving on his goal scoring on creating output, the teenager is still so reliable in a 1-on-1 situation - his faint drop of the shoulder is poetry in motion and his decision-making is outstanding.

Possessing maturity and tranquility beyond his years, it goes without saying that our starboy is deserving of this award, as well as a nice rest.

Disappointment of the Season: Mikel Arteta

Whilst Willian seems like the obvious choice here, I don’t feel a sense of disappointment as we all kind of expected him to be awful, even if not to this extent.

The FA Cup win last year symbolised hope and breathed a new sense of life into a dust-filled club, with Arteta the face of a youthful, progressive Arsenal.

Conversely, the lack of tactical clarity or cohesiveness, the over-reliance on young players and a reluctance to change saw us slip down the table as the weeks went by.

My fellow writer, Alex Trad, noted Arteta as signing of last season, a fitting reflection of his declining stocks.

But don’t confuse disappointment with anger, the second half of the season was very encouraging and showcased improvement, but relative to this time last year, I feel dissatisfied and disappointed by Arteta’s management this season.

Most Improved Player: Nicolas Pépé

Every week our record signing manages to prove himself as either the second coming of Messi or just a glorified Gervinho; but this season he looks to have found his feet.

Compared to last season, Pépé appears to be more active and hungry to make an impact in games, his first touch is sharper and he’s much more direct. Not to mention his finishing has been superb, as he’s over-performing xG by 5 goals.

It might be lazy to label the red card vs Leeds as the turning point, but it sort of was. Since then Pépé has had to fight for his place, and more often than not has earned it.

I view the Ivorian now as someone who can lead the attack in the coming seasons as opposed to a waste of money

In the words of Theo Walcott: He’s quite consistent, sometimes.

Goal of the Season: Tierney vs West Brom

The combination of Kieran Tierney and snow tends to create a powerful sense of dread into the opposition as he relishes the thought of playing in negative temperatures.

As the short-sleeved Scotsman picked up the ball at around the half-way line, I wasn’t expecting fireworks, he then knocked the ball 20 yards past Daniel Furlong, beating him to the ball with immense pace. Cutting into the box from the left flank, he lined up a right-footed shot that arrowed into the top corner.

Words really don’t do this goal justice, but this was a real highlight of the season for me - watching Tierney celebrate with such anger and fury after nestling in a weak-footed screamer perfectly encapsulated a season of lunacy.

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