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Arsenal winners and losers including Saka, Aubameyang and Willian

Arsenal’s season could not have gone much worse after a tumultuous start to the season left Mikel Arteta’s side in flirting with relegation at one point.

The Spaniard had overseen the Gunners’ worst start to a Premier League season and by December, they were dangling three points above the drop zone in 16th.

But following some wise acquisitions in January, Arteta has gradually steered the ship away from stormy waters.

For a second successive season, Arsenal came home in eighth place in the league after an impressive run of five straight wins but missed out on European football as a result of their final position.

Mikel Arteta looks set to overhaul his Arsenal squad

That could give the north London side a chance to overhaul and refresh their squad, with a number of players thought to be heading for the exit, including David Luiz.

There is no question some of Arsenal’s senior members of the squad have failed to deliver while Arteta’s faith in the academy has paid off and perhaps saved the 39-year-old having to spend big this summer.

Now that the season has been concluded, Mirror Sport pick out three winners and losers from the Emirates…

Winners

Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka has excelled for Arsenal despite playing several different roles for the club
Bukayo Saka has excelled for Arsenal despite playing several different roles for the club

No player has been used in more positions this season than Saka, which only underlines his importance to the team, despite still being classed as a teenager at 19.

The versatile midfielder has played everywhere from left-back to right-wing but has still managed to consistently stand out amongst his team-mates.

His goal contributions have been crucial too, with seven goals and six assists in his 44 appearances in 2020/21.

Saka was rewarded with a place in Gareth Southgate’s provisional 33-man squad for the Euro 2020 tournament and that is a testament to his brilliant work for Arsenal this season.

Emile Smith Rowe

Emile Smith Rowe has made huge strides for Arsenal in 2020/21
Emile Smith Rowe has made huge strides for Arsenal in 2020/21

It is difficult to fathom that Smith Rowe only managed 97 minutes of domestic action for Arsenal last season prior to going on loan to Huddersfield.

The 20-year-old has been one of the resounding beneficiaries of Arteta’s switch to a back four, featuring in 33 matches and racking up four goals and seven assists.

The playmaker, dubbed the ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ by Arsenal fans, has flourished with the freedom to cut in from the left flank and create chances for his colleagues.

Which players do you think has been Arsenal’s biggest winners and losers this season? Have your say in the comment section below.

Smith Rowe recently bagged his first Premier League goal for his boyhood club in the 1-0 win over Chelsea and looks to have a bright future both for club and country.

Rob Holding

Rob Holding has become an unlikely regular for Arsenal
Rob Holding has become an unlikely regular for Arsenal

The defender spent the majority of his time under Unai Emery on the fringes and treatment table, but has found a new lease of life under Arteta.

The 25-year-old has worked his way into the reckoning with some solid displays at the back and his 30 Premier League appearances this season dwarfs the 18 he made across the previous two campaigns.

Indeed, he has squeezed Gabriel Magalhaes and David Luiz out of the team after forming a strong partnership with Pablo Mari recently.

Holding’s vast improvement has not yet been officially recognised by Southgate with a place in his squad, but as long as he carries his form into next season, he should soon appear on his radar.

Losers

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored only 10 league goals since winning a new contract
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored only 10 league goals since winning a new contract

The Gabonese forward had certainly earned the right to demand a lucrative new contract worth a reported £250,000-a-week after finishing with 23 goals last season.

But the 31-year-old has experienced something of a decline in 2020/21, finding the net only 10 times in the league — placing him behind top scorer Alexandre Lacazette, who notched 13 goals in a more central role.

Aubameyang has struggled with off-field issues, having been dropped for the north London derby clash against Tottenham for turning up late and contracting malaria while on international duty in April.

Arteta will be hoping it is not the beginning of a gradual decline and the Spaniard may have to make a difficult decision if his form does not improve.

Willian

Willian's time in north London already looks to be running out
Willian’s time in north London already looks to be running out

In some ways, the Brazilian is certainly a winner after landing a three-year contract from the Gunners, having moved on a free transfer from Chelsea who refused to go beyond a one-year deal.

But the 32-year-old has struggled to adjust for his new team and his paltry return of one goal and five assists in 25 games has drawn widespread criticism from Arsenal fans.

It has even prompted suggestions he is seeking a return to Stamford Bridge, although a return to Brazil or move to USA seems more realistic at this stage.

With every game, Willian looks less comfortable in this squad and it would be no surprise to see him depart after a disastrous season on the north side of the capital.

Dani Ceballos

Dani Ceballos is heading back to Real Madrid this summer
Dani Ceballos is heading back to Real Madrid this summer

Ceballos enjoyed a productive first loan spell after joining from Real Madrid for the 2019/20 campaign, having been signed by Unai Emery.

But the Spain international’s stock has fallen under Arteta, moving to a deeper role in central midfield, which did not appear best-suited to his abilities.

His slide down the pecking order has coincided with Smith Rowe’s emergence and with the 20-year-old a regular at the Emirates, there doesn’t seem to be much room left for Ceballos.

The 24-year-old has already sent a farewell message to the Gunners’ supporters as he prepares to head back to Spain.




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