Ranked: Who is Arsenal’s Most Able Footballer?
By Max Champness
It’s undeniable that Arsenal Football Club have an incredibly strong squad filled with quality players. The talent possessed by the playing staff is very evident- our failing point this season has been the mess of the coaching and the systematic issues we’ve had because of this. On paper, our current ninth placed standing certainly doesn’t reflect the quality of players at our disposal.
With content ideas at an all-time shortage, I thought I’d take a basic look at who are the top 5 players currently in the Arsenal squad, based purely on their footballing, technical ability, because why not?
When I say the most able, I don’t mean necessarily the best players who have produced the most consistent performances and contributed the most to this season, more their pure footballing ability, and how good a performance they could produce at their maximum level.
5. Nicolas Pepe
It may confound many of you that the Ivorian has not found his way higher up the list. As undeniable as the 24-year-old’s skill and talent is, it feels his talents are, as of now, raw, unnurtured and require the close assistance of Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff to turn him into one of the world’s best wingers.
His technical ability, ideal attributes such as pace and trickery, and his slender age leave Pepe just within the top five but rest assured; if this were based purely on potential, he would be right near the top. As of now, Nicolas Pepe is, for me, our fifth most able player- and he’s only going to get better.
4. Bernd Leno
When you look at his save frequency and success percentages, it is almost impossible to argue with the German goalkeeper’s inclusion within the top five. The shot-stopper has made an incredible 104 saves in just 28 Premier League appearances, placing him second in the league. Don’t let his deficit in clean sheets fool you; without Bernd Leno I genuinely don’t know where we would be.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Leno is the second-best goalkeeper in the Premier League, topped only by Liverpool’s number one Allison. At just 28, Bernd Leno still has several years left in him, and will have the opportunity to become a more seasoned player at Arsenal.
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Another potential surprise is the relatively lower ranking of club captain Aubameyang compared to what many would have expected. It is true: The Gabonese international is one of the most consistent strikers of his generation. With him in your team, you can almost guarantee he will surpass 20 league goals, as proven in last season’s golden boot-winning tally of 22.
Despite physically encompassing consistency, Aubameyang can be no higher than third for me. His goal tally is a testament to his understanding of the game, but he does lack in some respects, namely his link-up play and defensive contribution. However, don’t knock Aubameyang. If you need a striker to score you a guaranteed number of goals, there are few players in the world better at delivering the results than he.
2. Alexandre Lacazette
This is where I anticipate the controversy to commence. Yes, I have ranked Alex Lacazette higher than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Although Aubameyang has been the more consistent goal scorer of the two since they joined Arsenal, my ranking system is based predominantly off the current ceiling of the player, in regard to what we have seen of them.
Last season, the league was exposed to one of Lacazette’s best seasons in his career so far. The Frenchman collected the Arsenal ‘Player of the Season’ award, after a remarkable 32 goal involvements across all competitions. However, the extent of what a prime-Lacazette can offer to Arsenal is a whole lot deeper than basic stats; the 28-year-old is known for his excellent pressing ability, confident link-up play, and general off-the-ball work. Yes, he’s had an underwhelming season, and I am not denying that. But a fit and on-from Lacazette, like we saw last season, is arguably one of the best strikers in the league.
1. Mesut Ozil
When you consider pure ability, there are very few players more naturally talented in world football than Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil. The vision, passing range and close control have set the German apart from the rest over his career, earning the unofficial title of perhaps the best playmaker, bar Messi, of this generation.
Whilst Ozil is defintely on the decline, we have still seen glimpses of what he can do over the last 12 months. A fit and playing Mesut Ozil has the capability to be Arsenal’s best and most influential footballer when he turns up. Once again, I must stress; this is purely based on the player’s ability. No other factors, such as consistency and stat-driven results. It would be difficult to suggest Ozil as one of the five, let alone number one, with the inclusion of external factors; Mesut Ozil is virtually unbeatable on his day, but ‘his days’ seem to come around too infrequently now.
The one certainty that can be drawn from this is the pure strength of natural talent at Arsenal- you know your team must have a degree of ability when two World Cup winners have failed to make the side. This, for us fans, can be taken as a huge positive. If we can get all these incredible players playing at the peak of the game, it is safe to say we’d be fierce contenders for the top 4 next season. The one question remains- can Arteta release the full capabilities of this squad?