Has every Arsenal player regressed under Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal's squad is full of under-performing players - is that Arsene Wenger's fault? - Action Images via Reuters
Arsenal's squad is full of under-performing players - is that Arsene Wenger's fault? - Action Images via Reuters

There was once, believe it or not, a time when Arsene Wenger's teams were greater than the sum of their parts.

The Arsenal side that beat AC Milan 2-0 at the San Siro in 2008 included names such as Manuel Almunia, Philippe Senderos, Emmanuel Eboue, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb. This was a time when Wenger improved players immeasurably. These days, Arsenal's squad is full of players who consistently perform below expectations and shy away from big occasions.

All of which made us wonder how many of Arsenal's current squad have improved under Wenger, and how many have actually regressed. 

Petr Cech

One of the great Premier League goalkeepers - perhaps even the very best - who came to Arsenal past his peak, but although he proved an astute signing for a good 18 months to two years, Cech has shown real signs of his age this season.

His save success rate has plummeted from 76.2 per cent in 2015/16 and 75.5 per cent in 2016/17 to a pretty woeful 62.9 per cent this term. Not only that, he has committed four errors leading to an opposition goal in 27 Premier League appearances this season; that is more than in 69 games over his previous two seasons at Arsenal.

Petr Cech | Save success rate
Petr Cech | Save success rate

Verdict: Regressed

David Ospina

Ospina has performed at a consistent level throughout his Arsenal career, which is about as much as could be expected of him given he has barely had a run in the first team.

Verdict: No change

Hector Bellerin

The length of Bellerin's hair has been inversely proportional to the quality of his performances. It wasn't all that long ago that Arsenal fans considered a neatly-cropped Bellerin one of the best right-backs on the planet. Even if that was overly optimistic, Bellerin was at the very least a young player with the potential to be the best and play at just about any club in the world.

Of course, there's no causal relationship here, but on this season's evidence, every other team in the top six has a more reliable right-back. Bellerin has been caught out of position too often while also offering far too little going forward, with one assist in as many league starts this season as he got four in last term. A long way from his best.

Verdict: Regressed

Shkrodan Mustafi

Has always seemed strange Arsenal signing, and one that isn't helped by rumours he was never actually Wenger's choice at all, but that of StatDNA, the data company the club bought in 2014.

Shkodran Mustafi reacts after the defeat to Man city  - Credit: Getty images
Mustafi was at fault for City's opener on Sunday Credit: Getty images

The meekness with which he was bumped away from Claudio Bravo's punt up-field by Sergio Aguero at Wembley on Sunday was unforgivable, and his reputation is now far, far below that which came with him when he joined for £35m. That wasn't his first mistake this season, and it is concerning to think that it probably won't be his last.

Verdict: Regressed

Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny has been one of the Premier League's most consistent centre-backs over the past decade, and although injury problems have subsided somewhat - he seems to have overcome the worst of his troublesome Achilles - he is no longer the steadying influence in the Arsenal defence he once was.

Back in 2013/14, Arsenal were winning 68.8 per cent of the matches Koscielny started, compared with 33.3 per cent without him. Now, they are winning 50 per cent with him and 40 per cent without. His influence is waning and the numbers back that up.

Verdict: Regressed from his best

Nacho Monreal

By a distance Arsenal's best player this season, which says all too much about a flailing attack line of expensive under-performers.

Monreal has proven himself as adept at centre-back as he is on the left side of defence, and has also become a significant threat at set-pieces. Only Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey have scored more Premier League goals than Monreal this season.

Arsenal top scorers | Premier League 2017/18
Arsenal top scorers | Premier League 2017/18

He is extremely reliable, and is arguably the last bastion of hope for Wengerites that their manager can still improve players. This has been Monreal's best season for Arsenal.

Verdict: Improved

Calum Chambers

Few graduates of the Southampton academy that go on to move elsewhere fall quite as far as Chambers has since leaving St Mary's.

When Arsenal signed him, Chambers was Nathaniel Clyne's equal having shared right-back duties in 2013/14 under Mauricio Pochettino, yet even though Clyne has spent the entirety of this season injured, Chambers is has fallen way behind his former team-mate in the progression of their respective careers.

A year on loan at Middlesbrough last season seemed like it might have been the opportunity for first team football that he needed to establish himself at Arsenal, but he has remained a backup player and it is hard to see him ever becoming a regular there or, say, for England.

Verdict: Has not improved as expected

Rob Holding

Another player who came to Arsenal with bags of potential but has looked out of his depth all too often when given a rare chance in the team. He has started five Premier League games this season, and Arsenal have won only one and lost three of them - including awful results against Bournemouth and Watford.

Verdict: Has not improved as expected

Sead Kolasinac

A free transfer last summer, Kolasinac has been a very good signing, particularly based on his start, when he was scoring and creating goals for fun.

Sead Kolasinac - Credit: Getty images
Remember this Kolasinac? Credit: Getty images

By the end of November he had three goals and four assists to his name; since he has only one of either. Whether it is injuries or issues with confidence, he looks a shell of the player he was only three months ago.

Verdict: Regressed since his start

Granit Xhaka

What kind of player is Xhaka? He isn't defensive enough to screen the defence sufficiently on his own, he does not create, and he isn't a box-to-box midfielder. What is for sure is this: he is the most frustrating player in the entire squad.

Arsenal vs Manchester City player ratings
Arsenal vs Manchester City player ratings

Erratic, performing far below the standards that convinced Arsenal to shell out in the region of £30m for him and not helped at all by the fact that he plainly isn't suited to playing in a two-man central midfield, Xhaka's stock has nosedived since moving to England. A real victim of Wenger's disregard for the holding midfielder.

Verdict: Regressed

Mohamed Elneny

A player that didn't cost a bomb and does a simple yet highly necessary job in front of a fragile Arsenal defence, Elneny's presence usually seems to improve Arsenal, but only in so far as that it raises further questions regarding Wenger's continued persistence with Xhaka and his decision not to sign a better defensive midfielder than Elneny.

A decent yet limited player who Arsenal need to improve or buy an improvement on, and another that hasn't really progressed in the last three years.

Verdict: Stayed the same

Jack Wilshere

Injuries and attitude problems have been two major factors in Wilshere's failure to hit the heights predicted of him when he broke into the first team a decade ago, but Wenger's influence cannot be understated.

Seven years on from the Barcelona game in which he came of age and ran the show against a midfield of Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Wilshere has not produced another performance anything quite like it, and likely never will.

Jack Wilshere in action - Credit: Reuters
Wilshere dominated a game against Barcelona in 2011 Credit: Reuters

He has worked his way back to fitness and back into contention at Arsenal impressively, but he is far from the player many thought he could become.

Verdict: Regressed

Aaron Ramsey

One of the success stories of the past decade at Arsenal, Ramsey is a big-game player (he was clearly only half-fit at Wembley this weekend) who thrives in a position of responsibility.

Goes through significant lulls in form all too often, but remains hugely influential and a key player when he is available. He is a far more rounded player than the youngster who joined Arsenal, and any lack of improvement over the past few years is largely the result of persistent injuries rather than through any fault of his manager, who seems to know how to get the best of Ramsey.

Verdict: Improved

Mesut Ozil

Since being made the highest-paid player in Arsenal's history, Ozil has been atrocious.

Arsenal need him more than ever, and they need him to control games as we know he can, but Wenger doesn't seem able to extract the dormant fire in the German's belly.

Mesut Ozil reacts at Wembley - Credit: PA
Ozil made little contribution against Manchester City this weekend Credit: PA

Is he - or has he been at any point during his time at Arsenal - better than the player who won La Liga at Real Madrid, or helped Germany to third place at the 2010 World Cup? If he has, it hasn't been a vast improvement and the manager is probably to blame.

Verdict: Stayed the same

Alex Iwobi

It isn't entirely clear when Iwobi's peak was, but it certainly isn't this season, which has been littered with attacking futility. He can't shoot, he can't cross, and he is with increasing frequency dribbling hopelessly down blind alleys.

Surely Wenger's job is precisely to see where Iwobi's potential lies, notice weaknesses and seek to hone his skills. There is little evidence that that has happened at any time in his professional career.

Verdict: Regressed

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Far too early to judge his Arsenal career, but it has already been an incredibly mixed bag. Three assists against Everton were followed by an absent, inept display against Tottenham.

He has so much to offer, and could be an incredible signing under the right stewardship. Whether Wenger can bring out the Mkhitaryan we saw against Everton on a consistent basis already looks like it could be ambitious.

Verdict: Too soon to judge

Alexandre Lacazette

Came to Arsenal a 25-goal-a-season striker; came away from the north London derby a broken man. Last summer he was a record £52m signing; now he is second-choice.

Alexandre Lacazette reacts  - Credit: reuters
Lacazette looked low on confidence against Spurs Credit: reuters

Lacazette has so much to offer but he has shown his class all too fleetingly in recent weeks, scoring only once since December 3, while it also hasn't been apparent that Wenger can get his team playing in a way that suits a quick, direct centre-forward. Which doesn't bode well for the next player in this list.

Verdict: Regressed

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

One of Europe's most lethal forwards, but after an impressive start against Everton his work off the ball has gone unrewarded in defeats to Spurs and Man City. These were games in which there was bags of space in behind opposition defences stationed high up the pitch, but Aubameyang provided almost no threat over 180 minutes, though that should not be regarded as his fault with service to him limited.

He and his manager need time to gel, but Lacazette's travails do not sound positive for the man who has replaced him as Arsenal's most expensive signing.

Verdict: Too soon to judge

Danny Welbeck

Always looks on the brink of a return to his best, but injuries always deny him. Hard to blame Wenger, except perhaps for choosing to sign such an injury-prone player.

Verdict: Stayed the same

In conclusion

While Tottenham are thriving under the guidance of Pochettino, with so many players improving immeasurably, it is galling for Arsenal fans to see so many of their talented squad struggle almost continually.

Where Wenger was once an innovator, an inspiration and the best in the business, it seems as though football could be leaving him behind.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting