We take a look at Arsenal’s top 3 Premier League performers so far this season
Arsenal have had a mixed Premier League campaign thus far. The season got off to the worst possible start, after the Gunners were demolished 4-3 by Liverpool with the final scoreline making the result look a lot more flattering than it was.
Arsenal then followed up that sobering defeat with a 14-match unbeaten run, which was then ended in typical fashion after they caved to an Everton side that decided to get physical with them. A second loss in a row to Manchester City saw Arsenal lose valuable ground in the title race, and many Arsenal fans had already written off their chances following that defeat.
Then came the Bournemouth game. Arsenal looked absolutely abject against Eddie Howe’s side, going 3-0 down and showing no signs of recovering. Olivier Giroud stepped up and inspired the team with 2 assists and a goal, and suddenly a game Arsenal should have really won was deemed a great success despite the fact that they could only draw.
Arsenal now sit in 5th place, 8 points behind league leaders Chelsea. Despite the disappointing campaign thus far, there have been some brilliant performances from individual players this season. We take a look at who Arsenal’s top 3 performers have been this season :
3) Theo Walcott
WhoScored Rating : 7.34
This was the year that Theo Walcott finally admitted that he wanted to specialise as a wide-forward, despite years of insistence that he wanted to play as the main striker. Walcott’s slight frame and lack of dribbling ability were always going to make it difficult for him as a centre forward, but with his blistering pace and good finishing ability, he has looked like a different player this year.
Last season, Walcott made 28 appearances in the league and only picked up a mere 5 goals. He has already surpassed that tally this season. Despite only playing 16 games in the league, Walcott has already picked up 8 goals and 2 assists and has been one of the Gunners best performers, as evidenced by his WhoScored rating.
Walcott has thrived as a wide forward, especially with Alexis Sanchez playing up front. Sanchez often drops deep in search of the ball, allowing Walcott to make diagonal runs into the box which the Chilean picks out with ease. The duo even exchange positions from time to time, in an Arsenal frontline that has looked unplayable at times this season.
It is not just his attacking play that has starkly improved, however. By September, Walcott had made 12 tackles in the league, making on average two per match. It is somewhat ridiculous that figure was more than he had managed to achieve in his previous two seasons combined.
Walcott’s increased defensive workrate is also evident, as the winger has shown much more commitment and desire to track back and make his right-back’s job easier, while also pressing players high up the pitch. He is still averaging 1.4 tackles per game in the league, which is a huge improvement from last season.
Despite this, his injury problems still plague him and he has been in and out of the side over the last couple of months. Arsenal will be hoping the Englishman can put a run of games together soon so he is able to hit the form he was showing in the opening stages of the campaign.
2) Laurent Koscielny
WhoScored Rating : 7.38
There is an argument to be made that Laurent Koscielny is the best centre back in the league, with the Frenchman consistently putting in brilliant performances for Arsenal over the last few seasons. This isn’t a particularly new view either, as Rio Ferdinand – at one time the best in the league himself – admitted Koscielny was the best all the way back in 2015.
Koscielny is everything a Premier League defender needs to be. Quick, strong, good in the air and brave. This season, the Frenchman has been averaging 1.2 tackles, 2.7 interceptions, 0.7 blocks and a very impressive 6.1 clearances per game in the league.
The French international also wins an average of 3.9 headers per game, highlighting just how good his all-round defensive performances have been this season. He is simply a rock at the back for the Gunners, and at 31 does not even look like his age has caught up with him.
Koscielny has formed a fine partnership with summer signing Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of Arsenal’s defence, and Gunners fans know exactly how important he is to the team. The news that he signed a contract extension today – along with compatriots Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin – should bring plenty of cheer to Arsenal fans everywhere.
1) Alexis Sanchez
WhoScored Rating : 7.89
It is no surprise that Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal’s best performer in the league this season. Shifted into a new role as a centre forward, the Chilean international has looked absolutely brilliant and has been an unequivocal success in his new position.
Sanchez’s numbers make for impressive reading. In 20 appearances in the league – 1 of which came as a substitute – the explosive forward has scored 13 goals and picked up 7 assists. That equates to being directly involved in an average of 1 goal per game.
Sanchez also averages 2.7 key passes per game, successfully completes 2.6 dribbles per game and has voted Man of the Match on 5 occasions. The Chilean has quite simply taken his new role by storm and Arsenal have just not looked as impressive whenever he has been shifted back to the wing.
Sanchez is equally happy to assist a teammate as he is to score goals, and his tendency to drop deep coupled with his brilliant vision and ability to pick out a pass has brought out the best in his teammates. He has shared a telepathic understanding with Ozil at times, and as we said above Theo Walcott has looked much better this season with Sanchez playing up front.
He has not only become a better player this season, but he has also made Arsenal a better team as a whole. Arsenal fans will be praying that Sanchez – who has been linked with moves to PSG and Atletico Madrid – signs a new contract and continues to maintain his level of excellence for the rest of the season.