With the 2015-2016 season now over, and the laughter still audible from the last day of the season, it’s time to assess Arsenal’s squad for their efforts during the nine months. Despite it being immensely enjoyable to finish above Spurs, it shouldn’t mask the fact that the Gunners underachieved in the season and let a promising position in the league slip horribly. Quite a few players have let themselves down a bit this season, so below are my ratings for each player. They’re all subjective so comment if you agree/disagree or tweet me @SamsMatchReport.
- David Ospina
When he got a run in the team because of Cech’s injury in the second half of the campaign, David Ospina did keep some clean sheets and made some excellent saves, with a couple of notable ones in the North London derby at White Hart Lane. His season will always be marred by that own goal against Olympiacos as he dropped a corner into his net with Petr Cech sitting on the bench. He’s a good keeper but won’t replace Cech, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he angled for a move to play first-team football.
- Petr Cech
While his arrival didn’t bring the title, his impact was still undoubtedly positive. After his wobble on the first day of the season, he was a calming influence on the back four and he won the golden glove for the most clean sheets in the Premier League. A particular highlight was the first half against Liverpool back in August with two stupendous saves from Benteke and Coutinho.
- Mathieu Debuchy
Debuchy was incredibly unlucky to have injuries in the previous season as Hector Bellerin went past him in the pecking order, but rather than fighting for his place in the team, Debuchy moaned, and when he did get a chance in the team, looked like he was towing a caravan. Sheffield Wednesday away in the Capital One Cup was a particularly dreadful showing. His loan spell at Bordeaux doesn’t appear to have been overly productive. Surely his Arsenal career is over.
- Kieran Gibbs
This summer could be a strange one for Kieran Gibbs. He’s been stuck behind Nacho Monreal this season and is in danger of his career stagnating. He didn’t really play badly when given a chance in 15/16, and did score the equaliser in the North London derby at the Emirates, but Monreal has been so consistent that the left-back spot just hasn’t been available. It’d be great if he does stay as he is a fantastic player to have as the second choice left-back, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he moved on.
- Per Mertesacker
He didn’t have as good a season as he did in the previous campaign, but he’s still a man that shouldn’t be written off. It’s no coincidence that Arsenal’s defence still looks at its best, and its most calm, when the big German is there. With the club captaincy up for grabs, it would be a shame if Mertesacker was overlooked for the role because he is an excellent man to have in the squad.
He got a run in the team in the second half of the season, but I’m not sure he completely merited it. The defeat away to Manchester United was the most angry I’ve been at football for a long time, and his inept positioning that kick-started Marcus Rashford’s career was a big part of it. In time, he’ll be an excellent defender for Arsenal as he’s tenacious and fully committed on the field, with a particular highlight being the tackle and celebration against Everton at the Emirates, but there’s plenty of work to do on his positioning and reading of the game. Gabriel relies on his pace to bail him out too often.
- Laurent Koscielny
Consistently Arsenal’s best defender. Koscielny didn’t make as many rash challenges to concede penalties in 15/16 and his all-round defensive game was excellent. He looked a bit more uncomfortable alongside Gabriel when he had to be the leader of the defence without Per Mertesacker, but an Arsenal team with Koscielny on the team sheet is always a stronger one.
- Nacho Monreal
Arguably Nacho Monreal was the most consistent performer for the Gunners in 15/16. The fact that Kieran Gibbs, almost through no fault of his own, has very little chance of becoming Arsenal’s first-choice left back, is a testament to how reliable Monreal has been. One of the players that can’t be criticised for under-performing.
- Calum Chambers
With the defence mostly staying injury-free, opportunities in big games were limited for Calum Chambers. He had a shaky start to the campaign against Liverpool but in the second half of the season he impressed whenever he was given a run-out. There was an excellent goal against Burnley in the FA Cup and a superb second-half alongside Per Mertesacker against Leicester City. Rumours suggest he might go out on loan, but I’d like to see him given a few more chances as there is a very good centre-back in there waiting to come out.
- Hector Bellerin
The best right-back in the league and he’s still only 21. He’s ended Mathieu Debuchy’s Arsenal career and made it very difficult to see Carl Jenkinson ever being a regular again in the first team. He’s still quick enough to bail himself out when caught out of position, but his general defending has improved a lot this season. So long as the Barcelona DNA has been extracted from him, and judging by his cockney accent that process is going well, he should be Arsenal’s right-back for years to come.
- Tomas Rosicky
Given that he played less than 20 minutes, it’s impossible to give Rosicky a rating for the season, which is a great shame for his final season at the club. There’ll always be regrets about his Arsenal career, but he should be remembered as a superb player who loved a goal against Spurs. If he does move to another club, hopefully he’ll be able to get a few more games in his professional career.
- Mikel Arteta
Arteta did manage a few more appearances than Tomas Rosicky, but unfortunately as it wasn’t many he does get a low rating (although he gains points for the last day of the season). It seems he’ll go into coaching, and if he does, I’m sure he’ll do well. An excellent player whose influence and importance to the team shouldn’t be forgotten. It was just a beautiful moment to see him (sort of) score on the final day against Villa, with his timing of the run to get on the end of the move showing his quality still could come through, despite all the fitness problems he had later in his career.
- Jack Wilshere
Another man to have barely played during the season. Obviously injuries have been cruel to Jack Wilshere, so hopefully he’ll get a clear run as he offers something to the team that no-one else in the midfield has. He deserves to be in the England squad for the European Championships because he’s the best central midfielder available to Roy Hodgson, and a good tournament would set him up nicely for next season.
- Mesut Ozil
Even though he just missed out on Thierry Henry’s Premier League assist record, it was a superb season for Mesut Ozil. He created chances, he linked the play beautifully and became a leader in the team. He scored goals in big games and was just a joy to watch. With a player of that quality, there will always be rumours of other clubs being interested in his services, so hopefully a new contract will be sorted before the new season.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
It was a challenging season for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He started with a bang with a brilliant goal in the Community Shield against Chelsea, but never quite hit those heights again. There were flashes of his potential, but plenty of frustrating passes and pieces of control. One of those led to his season-ending knee injury against Barcelona. He can still be a superb player, and hopefully the rumours about him leaving come to nothing, but he needs a big campaign in 16/17.
- Aaron Ramsey
Another midfield who has had a frustrating season. Despite him still primarily being a central midfield, Ramsey was at his most effective when on the right of Arsenal’s attacking three behind the striker. He remained a great goal threat from midfield, but never really exerted control on any games in the way he did two seasons ago. Taking on the number 8 next season will heighten expectations from supporters with Ramsey yet to properly find his place in the team. It is worth mentioning his cracking goal at Spurs though!
- Santi Cazorla
The man Arsenal missed the most through injury. Was excellent at the start of the campaign but the knee injury sustained at Norwich wrecked his, and arguably Arsenal’s, season. He always made himself available for the ball and his ability to weave out of small spaces was invaluable to the defence to spark attacks forward. With no Euros this summer for him, hopefully Cazorla will hit the ground running next season.
- Mathieu Flamini
We’ve probably seen the last of him in an Arsenal shirt. He could never be criticised for a lack of effort or commitment when on the field, but he was a stop-gap signing that is no longer needed. His season was summed up by coming on against Barcelona and conceding a penalty within seconds, but the obvious highlight was the North London derby in the Capital One Cup. He gets numerous bonus points for that brace alone!
- Francis Coquelin
Like Cazorla, his absence was costly for Arsenal. A decent follow-up season to his breakthrough one in the previous campaign, but he’ll be tested next season with the arrival of Granit Xhaka and the signing of Mohamed Elneny in January. Coquelin will still be a valued member of the squad but might have to make do with a rotation role.
- Mohamed Elneny
A good signing in January who has slotted nicely into the team. Like Coquelin, it’ll be interesting to see how Elneny’s role in the squad develops with Xhaka coming to the club. The Egyptian looked strong in the midfield, and has an eye for a long range shot, but might struggle for regular action if Xhaka, Cazorla, Wilshere and Ramsey are all available at the same time, but this is Arsenal so he’ll undoubtedly get plenty of time when those players are injured.
- Olivier Giroud
A good goal tally, but his season will unfortunately be remembered for the goal drought in the second half of the season as the title challenge fell apart. Giroud gets criticised too much for what he isn’t, and up front is clearly an area of the field where Arsenal can improve, but the Frenchman can still be a valuable member of the squad. It’s worth mentioning his hat-trick against Olympiacos as it came on a night when Arsenal were under a lot of pressure to get themselves out of the huge hole they’d got themselves into.
- Theo Walcott
His place in the squad has to be questioned. It’s reaching the point where it seems like a change of scenery might be needed to reinvigorate his career. At the start of the season, there was a sense that a corner had been turned as he delivered a few good performances as the centre-forward, but his confidence drained from him and the goals stopped. Walcott’s season was summed up in one moment against Crystal Palace as he just dribbled away from space, into a sea and players and just fell over the ball.
- Alexis Sanchez
Alexis underperformed in 15/16, although that was hardly surprising given the energy he used up in the previous season, and in the 2015 Copa America. He was rushed into action too soon at the start of the season, and suffered later with injuries and rhythm because of it. He got back towards his best near the end of the season with a run of goals and assists. Alexis still contributed a good number of goals despite not reaching his peak and scored in some big games with goals against Manchester United and Spurs. A deserving recipient of the number 7 shirt for next season.
- Danny Welbeck
It’s a huge shame that this season, and now next season, will have been so affected by knee injuries for Danny Welbeck. He made a big impression when he came back in February and looked to have replaced Olivier Giroud as the main striker. The goal against Leicester was a beautiful moment.
- Joel Campbell
We saw more of Joel Campbell in 15/16 than I expected, and on the whole, he played ok. It’s telling that by the end of the season, most Arsenal fans would rather see the Costa Rican on the pitch than Theo Walcott. He scored some tidy goals and grabbed a few excellent assists, notably against Olympiacos and Liverpool. If Arsenal make any attacking signings however, it’s unlikely that his standing in the pecking order of attackers will improve.
- Alex Iwobi
The surprise of the season. He played well in pre-season, but no-one could have expected Iwobi to have the impact he did later in the campaign. He did ok in the cup competitions, but then didn’t look overawed when thrown into a Champions League game in the Nou Camp. There were signs of a good relationship building with Danny Welbeck before Welbeck’s latest injury. The freshness he brought to the team was exciting for the fans and was a definite bright point in a pretty rubbish second half of the season for the team.