Today, Arsenal find themselves in a tough position coming into the return of football. They are 9th and face-off against champions Manchester City on Wednesday. However, there is hope on the horizon. While this season can pretty much be declared a bust, we did witness the rise of plenty of young and talented Gunners. I rated Arsenal’s best young guns not only on what we have seen so far but also on their potential.
Bukayo Saka – 10/10
Arsenal are full of young, skilled players at almost every position. Bukayo Saka, in my opinion, has the most potential and has shown just how good he can be this year. He has played left wing and left-back, excelling in both positions. The 18-year-old Saka has totaled 9 assists and 3 goals in 30 appearances this season (21 of those appearances being starts). Saka has filled in brilliantly for Kieran Tierney at left-back, but Saka is very offensive-minded and is more of a left winger. He is very young and already excelling at the highest level so 10/10 from me.
Gabriel Martinelli – 9.5/10
Gabriel Martinelli is a very young Brazilian forward who also turned many heads this year. He was signed from the Brazilian side Ituano Futebol Clube for a fee of $6 million over the summer. The 18-year-old Martinelli racked up 10 goals and 4 assists in his 26 appearances coming off the bench for the majority of the time. Martinelli showed a lot of poise and skill on the ball. He can play on the wing dribbling through a defense and delivering excellent crosses and can play striker showing great heading accuracy and pouching skills. He has had some injuries already, so that is the only worrying point for me. I am very excited to see what he can do once he gets more playing time. 9.5 out of ten because we haven’t seen enough of him yet to be a 10/10.
William Saliba – 8.5/10
Arsenal have no doubt had their defensive issues the last couple of seasons. There is hope in a familiar place for Arsenal, France. Last summer, Arsenal signed center back William Saliba for $27 million and then proceeded to loan the 19-year-old to French Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne. Saliba picked up an injury and only played 11 games, but was brilliant in those games. He boosted a pure tackle success rate of 79.17%, third-highest in the top five leagues. Saint- Etienne was struggling with relegation the whole year but had clean sheets in 3 of Saliba’s 11 starts. Saliba will need to prove himself in the Premier League before he would have a higher rating from me.
Reiss Nelson – 8/10
Reiss Nelson did not have the breakout season Arsenal fans were hoping to see from the 20-year-old Londoner. Nelson only managed 2 goals and 3 assists in 965’ minutes played. However, Nelson was excellent on loan with Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga in the 18/19 season. He scored 7 goals and had 1 assist in 628’ minutes played. Nelson can play both wings and can play as an attacking midfielder. He is a great dribbler of the ball and has great crossing skills. I still believe Arsenal fans have yet to see the best of Nelson and he will develop further under Arteta. Nelson was given a pretty big opportunity to prove himself with Arsenal this year and he showed up a little shy of expectations, only an 8 for me.
Eddie Nketiah – 7.5/10
Eddie Nketiah only played a full 90 minutes for Arsenal once this season and in that match, he scored against Everton. He spent most of the season with Leeds United on loan. The Arsenal academy product was used as a super-sub there. He came off the bench and scored 3 goals and registered an assist for Leeds in 495’ minutes played. For me, I would like to see Arsenal loan Nketiah out to a club that will start him every match next season. Nketiah is a striker who is as quick as a fox in the box with some similarities to Aubameyang. Nketiah is 21 years old now and has yet to make a real dent in Premier League, I so couldn’t go higher than 8 but I still very excited for his future.
Matteo Guendouzi – 7/10
Matteo Guendouzi prefers to go forward and could use work on his defensive abilities since he does start as a DM most of the time. He had 8 assists and 3 goals in all comps playing 2,220 minutes. The passionate Frenchman has shown a lot of skill on the ball, but most importantly, a calming presence on the ball. Guendouzi is normally very composed in possession and has been very useful in playing out the back. Guendouzi has shown a great ability to pick out a long ball this season as well. However, 21-year-old could use work at almost everything defensively, from closing down players to tackling. He only averages 1.7 tackles per 90 minutes. I am still optimistic that under Arteta (who played a similar position), Guendouzi can develop into a very good defensive midfielder because the talent is there.
Emile Smith-Rowe – 7/10
Arsenal haven’t seen much of Emile Smith-Rowe on the first side unless we are talking about the preseason. Smith-Rowe seems to light up every preseason for Arsenal. He is very creative on the ball and a fantastic dribbler. The 19-year-old did excel with a struggling Huddersfield side on loan this year with 1 goal and 3 assists in 10 appearances. He created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes (highest on the team) and had a passing accuracy of 86.8% (second-highest on the team). Smith-Rowe is very young and is definitely someone who we could see a lot of down the line. Not a lot of Premier League experience, so I could not go any higher than 7.
Joe Willock – 7/10
Joe Willock is an under-the-radar midfielder who is still only 20 years old, so he has plenty of time to grow. Willock is a central midfielder who goes box to box but seems to prefer the attacking role. For me, he is similar to former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, and with the right coaching, could develop along those lines. The Arsenal academy product has played mostly as an attacking midfielder this season and did not register any assists in 1503’ minutes played but did score 2 in the Europa League and 2 in the EFL Cup. He excelled in both the u18’s and u23’s, but we have yet to see him have the same kind of success in the Premier League. Like Guendouzi, I think Willock will benefit greatly under the tutelage of Arteta. Other than 2 or 3 performances, he has been very average this season and has not really made his mark against the top competition. Only 7 out of 10 so far for me.
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