After chastening defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Chelsea in the first two games of the season, many expected the Gunners would struggle as they did in the last two seasons under Arsene Wenger. However, the Gunners have been undefeated since notching up 9 straight wins in all competitions.
Unai Emery has revamped the Gunners’ style of play with the emphasis on playing out from the back. Although early days, Arsenal has found its mojo and are firmly in contention to finish in the top 4 after missing out on Champions League qualification for two seasons in a row.
The Gunners currently sit in the fourth place in the table and will be looking to secure a top-4 finish this season. The attacking players are brimming with confidence and scoring goals for fun while the usually leaky defence has been performing well of late.
#5. Sead Kolasinac
The big Bosnian left-back was signed as a free agent last summer after being voted in the Bundesliga team of the year owing to his scintillating displays for Schalke. He became a fan favourite after scoring the equalizer on his competitive debut for the Gunners in the Community Shield game vs Chelsea, which the Gunners went onto win on penalties.
After a positive start to the season, the Bosnian’s form tailed off due to injuries and the emergence of Ainsley Maitland-Niles. While the left-back is good at contributing to the attack with his overlapping runs, he is susceptible to making mistakes while playing in a back four. It was no surprise when Wenger decided to give Maitland-Niles a start instead of Kolasinac when sticking with four at the back.
The Bosnian has started just a single game so far against Qarabag and looked shaky defensively. With Monreal’s contract coming to an end and Maitland-Niles returning from injury, the ‘Tank’, as he popularly called, needs to step up and make the left-back role his own or else risk being shipped out.
#4. Shkodran Mustafi
The German World cup winner is an enigma. He is capable of being sublime and ridiculous within a span of weeks. At his best, he is a ball playing boulder and tackler and at his worst, he gives away the ball very often and makes fouls in very dangerous areas.
After leaking in plenty of goals in the opening games, the Gunners’ defence has improved vastly owing to the presence of Lucas Torreira in the midfield. Mustafi has been playing well in the recent fixtures and his vocal and commanding presence is an added benefit to the North London outfit.
The German has to perform at the same level and if there any slip-ups, he might have to deputize for the returning skipper Laurent Koscielny or Rob Holding, who has performed admirably when his services were called upon.
#3. Rob Holding
After his scintillating performances in his debut campaign for the Gunners, many expected Rob Holding to kick on and be a regular fixture in the starting XI for a foreseeable future. His performances against Manchester City and Chelsea in the FA cup run gave a reason for the Arsenal fans to be optimistic about the future.
However, the Englishman’s second season was a disappointing one with Mustafi, Calum Chambers and even Mavropanos leapfrogging him in the pecking order.
Although prone to an occasional lapse in concentration, Holding is a treat to watch when he is in his element. With the return of Laurent Koscielny impending, the young Englishman has no room for complacency and can keep his starting spot if he pushes on and keeps his form.
#2. Bernd Leno
Arsenal’s new number 19 has endured a painful wait to start his first competitive game for the Gunners. Although expected to dislodge the veteran Petr Cech upon his arrival, Unai Emery has benched him while tasking the veteran to play from the back.
The German stopper couldn’t impress in his first two outings as he couldn’t keep clean sheets. It was only after the injury to Petr Cech that Leno started proving his worth. After coming on from the bench in the place of injured Cech against Watford, he helped the Gunners to a clean sheet with his point-blank save from a Troy Deeney header proving to be one of the decisive moments of the game.
Leno’s performances have been phenomenal in the subsequent games and if he is to maintain this level of consistency, it will give a selection headache for Unai Emery with two top-class keepers vying for the No.1 role.
#1. Aaron Ramsey
It has to be him. Arsenal’s longest serving player will be without a contract at the end of this campaign after the Gunners’ hierarchy has decided to withdraw the contract offer that was virtually deemed done. It will be devastating to the fans to see the star midfielder, who scored the winning goals in two FA cup finals, leave the club.
The Welshman is primarily deployed as a No. 10 this term, with Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan relegated to the wings. He was dropped to the bench against Fulham in favour of Alex Iwobi, who has been impressive this term and the Welshman responded with a stunning goal that is an early contender for the Goal of the season, after coming off the bench.
This is the sort of quality that epitomizes the player that he is. The Welshman doesn’t sulk and is a relentless fighter with his tireless running and the uncanny knack of being at the right place at the right time.
Ramsey is highly prolific for a midfielder and his sort of skillset is rare for a No.8 or a No. 10. Arsenal would be foolish to let go off Ramsey for a free and the midfielder isn’t the one to give up with a fight. He has the most to prove and earn himself a new contract. This will likely be an interesting battle.