What became quickly apparent as we tried to find five players Arsenal need to upgrade – as we have done with other clubs – is that pretty much every Arsenal player is playing well, which makes any pick debatable, and we’re sure anger-inducing in some cases.
There are far more players Mikel Arteta can build around (basically all of them), but we’ve tried to pick our top five, which was far easier than this.
They’re not obviously in need of an upgrade, but more so than the rest, and we fell short of five in the end.
Ben White is playing as well at right-back as Ben White can play at right-back. And because Ben White’s playing well and is playing at right-back it doesn’t require much of a leap for people to suggest Ben White is an excellent right-back. But Ben White is not a right-back and therefore not an excellent right-back.
He’s had some very good games and has produced some outstanding moments of skill, but he’s a weak link. And that’s not because he’s terrible, but because the rest of the team are so good and look so comfortable. Every other player in the starting XI looks made for their position. Ben White does not. Because he is not.
If you hadn’t already sensed our desperation in trying to select players in need of an upgrade, it will now be apparent. Granit Xhaka has been brilliant for over a year now, in quite the extraordinary turnaround for a player who was flipping the bird and telling the fans to “f*** off” three years ago.
Charged with more attacking responsibility he’s thrived under Arteta and has successfully held off Fabio Vieira, who many thought would play more frequently in Xhaka’s stead following his €35m move from Porto.
But if Arsenal are to become the best team in Europe, which must be the goal, is there a place for Granit Xhaka in that team? A move for Declan Rice suggests Arteta is of the same mind.
We’ve been forced to think of an ideal world for Arsenal in order to pick Holding. He’s an experienced centre-back, useful to the dressing room for that experience as well as his outstanding character and attitude, which came to the fore in the All or Nothing documentary and is apparent whenever he’s given the opportunity to speak to the media.
He also would have been a more sellable pick had we written this article last week, at which point he was Arsenal’s fourth-choice centre-back behind White, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, as opposed to now, with €25m signing Jakub Kiwior presumably ahead of him in the pecking order.
Holding is probably more useful to Arsenal when he’s not playing which makes him a great fifth-choice option. We may well have successfully talked ourselves out of this one.
Weird that Arsenal’s most prolific player in the Premier League is in need of an upgrade. Also quite weird that a player who got two goals and an assist in his only start this season has played just one minute besides. But then he has been injured for a lot of it.
Because it’s apparently now impossible for Arsenal players not to play well, Nelson probably would have banged in another few goals had he been handed more opportunities.
But even during his Man of the Match display against Nottingham Forest you didn’t get a sense that Nelson would be pushing for a starting spot, and his career thus far suggests Arsenal may now be operating at a level above him.
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