Power Ranking Every Arsenal Player from the 2015/16 Premier League Season
2015/16 was a strange season for Arsenal. They finished in second place, an improvement on last year, yet they were still left with an overwhelming sense of disappointment and underachievement.
It was a curious campaign for many players, too. Take Olivier Giroud—he ended with 24 goals in all competitions, but he still endured a 15-game barren spell in the league.
In this piece, we assess the individual contribution of every member of the Arsenal squad to their Premier League campaign. It’s not as simple as merely looking at how minutes they spent on the field—sometimes, a player can have a significant impact upon the course of the season despite a relatively small amount of game time.
We’ve also tried to factor in the relative expectations on each player. If a player is regarded as a world-class talent but delivers consistently disappointing performances, that will influence his ranking negatively.
However, someone who surpasses expectations will rise accordingly. It’s worth noting that Tomas Rosicky, who did not play a single minute of Premier League football this season, is not included.
Go to the next slide as we begin the countdown of Arsenal’s Premier League performers.
25. Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere was largely absent from Arsenal’s Premier League campaign. After picking up an injury in preseason, he missed all but the final two of their league fixtures.
Wilshere looked lively, but unfortunately he is another effectively written off due to fitness problems.
24. Mathieu Debuchy
Mathieu Debuchy was the only senior player to leave the squad during the January transfer window. Having grown frustrated at a lack of opportunities, he joined Bordeaux on loan.
In his half-season with the club, the Frenchman was limited to just two Premier League appearances. When he was called upon, he looked shaky. After spending so much time on the sidelines, presumably rustiness was a factor.
Fortunately for Arsenal, Hector Bellerin survived most of the season without a fitness scare, which meant Debuchy was not missed after his departure.
23. Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta did not start a single Premier League match in 2015/16. However, he did make nine substitute appearances in what would prove to be his last season with the Gunners.
They weren’t all memorable for the right reasons—he replaced Francis Coquelin against West Bromwich Albion and went on to score an own goal that put a serious dent in Arsenal’s title challenge.
Arteta did get a wonderful send-off on the final day, coming off the substitutes' bench to fire home Arsenal’s fourth goal against Aston Villa—admittedly via both the crossbar and the Villa keeper. His joy as the ball crossed the line quickly transitioned to sorrow as he faced the reality of leaving his beloved Gunners.
22. Calum Chambers
This was a season of stasis for Calum Chambers. When he joined the club at the outset of the 2014/15 season, expectations were high and the former Southampton man seemed to be going from strength to strength.
However, he didn’t really kick on this year. The 21-year-old made just two Premier League starts all season, and never really threatened Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny or Gabriel Paulista’s place in the central-defensive hierarchy.
One of those starts came in the home match against Liverpool, when he recovered from a shaky start and grew into the game with impressive maturity. He also played a key role as a substitute in February’s 2-1 win over Leicester City.
Chambers must now consider how best to continue his development. Perhaps a loan spell is required to help him get the experience he needs to fulfil his potential.
21. Kieran Gibbs
At the start of the season, Kieran Gibbs would have had aspirations of forcing his way into Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2016. By the end, he would have been happy with the occasional run-out for his club.
The form of Nacho Monreal has effectively relegated Gibbs to a high-profile reserve. He only started three Premier League games in 2015/16, with a further 12 substitute appearances.
However, his solitary league goal was a massive moment—an equaliser against Spurs that takes on particular significance given the fact Arsenal were eventually able to reel their rivals in.
20. Mathieu Flamini
Although Mathieu Flamini did not get the rapturous reception reserved for Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky on the final day of the season, he made the biggest contribution of any of that trio across the course of the campaign.
The 32-year-old made 16 appearances in 2015/16, and he was a regular starter in an injury-hit midfield alongside Aaron Ramsey in the winter.
Although Arsenal’s midfield looked vulnerable in that period, it would have been even more ragged without Flamini’s experience.
19. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
This will go down as another disappointing season for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
He was named in the starting XI for the opening match of the season—a sure sign that Arsene Wenger was eager to include him in his plans. However, he committed a major defensive error in that match against West Ham United, which set the tone for his 2015/16.
One Premier League goal and zero assists tells the story of his campaign. If Oxlade-Chamberlain wants to stand any chance of nailing down a regular place with Arsenal, he must first overcome his injury problems and then focus on developing some end product.
18. David Ospina
David Ospina only started four Premier League games this season. However, he kept two clean sheets in those four matches and showed himself to be an able deputy for Petr Cech.
The question now is whether the Colombian is happy with that status. As an international-class goalkeeper, he may feel he should be at a club where he starts regularly.
Arsenal may have to work hard to keep their impressive understudy content.
17. Theo Walcott
What a strange year it was for Theo Walcott. After signing a lucrative new deal last summer, he began the season as an exciting new option at centre-forward.
Initially, it worked a treat—Walcott’s pace and movement brought a new dimension to Arsenal’s attack.
However, things tailed off dramatically in the new year. Walcott was unable to permanently oust Olivier Giroud, and he finished the season with a paltry five Premier League goals from 28 performances.
That poor form cost him his place in the England squad for this summer’s tournament, and it could yet cost him his spot at Arsenal.
Walcott appears to have gone stale in north London, and after 10 years with Arsenal it feels like it might be time for a move.
16. Gabriel Paulista
Gabriel Paulista’s first full season in English football has not yet provided Arsenal fans with a definitive answer as to whether he is good enough to be regular starter in the Premier League.
He has positive attributes: he’s quick, aggressive and good in the air. However, he can be prone to moments of rash behaviour—as evidenced in his sending-off against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
15. Santi Cazorla
When Santi Cazorla returned to the starting line-up for the final game of the season against Aston Villa, it was immediately obvious what Arsenal have been missing.
There is no one in the squad who shares Cazorla’s ability to weave between midfielders and pick passes form deep.
Arsene Wenger will be able to reintegrate him into the squad next year after an injury-hit campaign this time round—one in which he did not manage a single Premier League goal.
14. Per Mertesacker
Will this be remembered as the season when Per Mertesacker lost his spot as an automatic pick in Arsene Wenger’s team?
Two thirds of the way through the season, the Gunners boss seemed to determined to persist with Gabriel Paulista as Laurent Koscielny’s regular partner instead of the steadily slowing German.
Mertesacker still managed 24 Premier League starts, but he will not look back on this season particularly fondly.
13. Francis Coquelin
A serious knee injury limited Francis Coquelin to just 26 Premier League appearances in 2015/16.
Although he began the season as a first-choice player, by the end of the campaign he regularly found himself on the bench behind new arrival Mohamed Elneny.
Perhaps Arsene Wenger was irritated by Coquelin’s unnecessary sending-off in the north London derby at White Hart Lane.
It will be intriguing to see what role Coquelin plays next season. He enjoyed a fantastic calendar year in 2015, and thus far 2016 has not lived up to that level.
12. Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck only started seven Premier League games this season. He returned to fitness in mid-February, and he was ruled out again in early May. However, his appearances yielded an impressive four goals, many of which were important.
His most memorable contribution was certainly the headed winner of his comeback at Leicester. At that stage, it felt as if he had reignited Arsenal’s title challenge.
It’s a huge blow for Arsenal and Welbeck that the player will be out for a further nine months. Unfortunately, the Gunners cannot afford to wait for him—they will need to buy a replacement.
11. Joel Campbell
Few expected Joel Campbell to have any discernible impact on Arsenal’s season. However, he ended up playing a crucial role in the winter months, helping the Gunners to cope with an injury crisis with a series of impressive performances on the flank.
His most memorable display came in the 3-3 draw at Anfield, when he combined diligent defensive work with ingenious attacking play.
10. Mohamed Elneny
Considering he only arrived in the middle of January and did not make his full league debut until early march, Mohamed Elneny had an extraordinary influence on the side.
He immediately restored balance to a midfield that had been severely disrupted by a series of injuries. Once he came into the side, Elneny quickly became irreplaceable.
One of his great skills is his ability to flourish alongside a variety of midfield partners. The early signs are that he could develop a good relationship with either Francis Coquelin or Aaron Ramsey, granting Arsene Wenger a variety of options.
9. Aaron Ramsey
This was not Aaron Ramsey’s most productive season. A final tally of five goals and four assists in 31 appearances is well short of his starting performances in 2013/14, for example.
However, the sheer energy he expends warrants mention. Few Arsenal players can have covered more ground over the course of the season. Ramsey was able to stay fit for longer than usual, and he was the bedrock of the Arsenal team throughout the campaign.
The issue now is deciphering his best position. He played both on the right and in central midfield in 2015/16, and Arsene Wenger must now decide upon how to deploy the Welshman to get the best possible results.
8. Alex Iwobi
At the start of the season, Alex Iwobi might have hoped for a couple of run-outs in the cup competitions and potentially a loan move. Instead, he finished 2015/16 with 13 Premier League appearances, two goals and two assists to his name.
Iwobi, 20, had a transformative impact on the Arsenal team. When he came into the side, he immediately brought fluency and variety to the Gunners attack.
The young Nigerian is now certain to form a major part of Arsene Wenger’s plans for next season.
7. Alexis Sanchez
Although Alexis Sanchez might not have quite lived up to his extraordinary debut season in the Premier League, a final tally of 13 goals suggests he still delivered an important contribution.
Had injury not forced him to miss several months, he might even have matched last year’s total.
His brilliant brace in the 3-0 win against Manchester United was the undoubted highlight in a mixed campaign.
6. Olivier Giroud
At one point in the season, Olivier Giroud went 15 Premier League matches with scoring. Nevertheless, he somehow finished the campaign with a decent tally of 16 league goals.
Giroud’s strengths are obvious—no player scored more than the seven headed goals he managed in 2015/16. However, his lack of pace can mean Arsenal’s attacking threat is somewhat predictable when he is in the starting XI.
Giroud may be replaced as the first-choice striker this summer, but on his performances this season he deserves to remain as part of the squad.
5. Laurent Koscielny
Central defence was an area which seemed to puzzle Arsene Wenger this season. At times, he appeared uncertain as to which of Per Mertesacker or Gabriel Paulista should be named at the heart of his back four.
Laurent Koscielny’s place, meanwhile, was never in doubt. The Frenchman has matured into a fine defender and is one of the first names on Wenger’s teamsheet.
4. Hector Bellerin
It’s no great surprise that Hector Bellerin was named in the Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year for 2015/16—he was the division’s outstanding right-back.
Although his speed and skill is what catches the eye, he’s also developing into a very reliable defender.
His positioning is improving so that he no longer needs to rely quite so heavily on his extraordinary recovery pace.
3. Nacho Monreal
Arsenal’s most consistent player over the course of the whole season was probably Nacho Monreal.
The Spaniard played in 37 of the 38 Premier League games, and his performance level rarely dipped below an excellent standard.
There is no obvious flaw in his game. He’s a strong tackler, powerful in the air and disciplined in his positioning. It would take quite a dramatic turnaround for Kieran Gibbs to usurp him next season.
2. Petr Cech
Arsenal’s only senior summer signing must be deemed to be a successful one. After keeping 16 Premier League clean sheets in his first season in north London, Petr Cech was awarded the coveted Golden Glove award.
It wasn’t a perfect campaign: Cech made a glaring error on the opening day against West Ham and occasionally showcased a surprising weakness at his near post.
However, he has been a significant upgrade on the likes of Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina.
1. Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil was the only Arsenal player to be shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year Award, and justifiably tops this ranking.
There were plenty of moments of mesmerising skill to look back on, but it’s the statistics that are most startling.
The Germany international created a ludicrous 144 chances over the course of the campaign—it’s only Arsenal’s poor finishing that stopped him from breaking the Premier League assist record.
If Arsenal are to have any hope of taking the title next year, it’s vital they keep hold of Ozil.
*All stats via Squawka