5 Arsenal players that needs to improve as premier league returns from international break

Alas, after a grueling wait of 12 days there are only a handful more to go, and plenty of Premier League action to watch in the mean time, until Arsenal are back as they host Crystal Palace on Monday.

Plenty of assessment has gone on over the past two weeks looking at how Mikel Arteta’s side have got on: where the improvements have been, what still needs to be tinkered with and how much can be extracted from the most recent outing against Brighton.

While no less than 16 players have been off with their international sides partaking in various fixtures, including World Cup qualifiers, for the first time in what feels like an eternity, the squad has come back unscathed.

5 Arsenal players who need to step up after international break as Premier League football returns for Mikel Arteta against Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace

Thomas Partey has notched himself a pair of goals for Ghana, Nicolas Pepe and Aubameyang found the back of the net and the Hale End stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have also got on the scoresheet.

As London Colney beckons, key members of the squad are looking in fine fettle.

What about some of the others? A season so far of two halves, sort of, has seen a variety of performance levels ranging from the disappointing to the outstanding.

However, it’s not just those Arteta has on his hands that need to start upping their games now the international break has concluded, as other members of the squad out and about on the continent also need to return from this period invigorated and ready to make an impact.

1. Lucas Torreira

Remember him?

While there are loanees like Konstantinos Mavropanos and Matteo Guendouzi who look all but assured of securing permanent moves to their temporary clubs at the end of the season, the same can’t be said of Lucas Torreira.

On a season-long loan with Fiorentina, the holding midfielder’s deal includes an option to buy for £12.8m at the end.

In his six matches with I Viola so far this campaign he’s been in the starting lineup on three occasions, substituted on once, been left on the bench twice and is yet to complete a full 90 minutes.

Neither Arsenal nor Torreira can afford another season of bit-part action like what happened at Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan’s stock will continue to fall as the Serie A sides who previously held an interest will move off the case, while Arsenal sorely want to get the midfielder sold for as much as they feasibly can.

As it is, that number stands at the aforementioned £12.8m. It’s hard to envisage a chain of events where that suddenly rockets up with his Arsenal deal expiring in 2023. Still, it’s early days and Italian football suits him, so here’s hoping to a fruitful campaign.

2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can’t be blamed for a lack of effort this season. That is unjust. In every performance he’s had there has been a real hunger and desire. He looks engaged.

Does that mean he’s been playing well? Breaking it down game by game:

  • Full of beans in brief Chelsea cameo
  • Electric at West Brom
  • A passenger vs Man City when the entire team faltered and he was isolated
  • Always moving against Norwich and grabbed the vital goal
  • Was let down at Turf Moor with wasteful final balls
  • Outstanding in the North London Derby
  • Pretty dreadful at Brighton

His most recent performance stands out: nothing stuck to his feet at Brighton; his touch was woeful. It was from every point of view a really poor display, which was near enough the case for everyone on the pitch.

3. Kieran Tierney

Kieran Tierney has not been playing well this season. Starting off in okay vein away at Brentford, performances since have tailed off and the left side of Arsenal’s attacks are looking significantly less potent.

Therefore it’s a good thing that Emile Smith Rowe is stepping up.

His partner just behind him needs to do more though. What Tierney is experiencing is nothing more than a dip in form, one he will overcome in due course.

Given he is a regular start for Arsenal that needs to come sooner; such are the demands. His passing has never been his greatest strength yet this season it has dropped in efficiency and quality. Too often simple balls go astray and, as seen against Brighton when Arsenal were being pressed high, they needed a technically secure option there to help them beat the first line of defence.

While the systematic differences have been cited and his constant usage for club and country has to, Tierney will rekindle his best form soon enough, Starting with Palace.

4. Reiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson hasn’t played poorly for Feyenoord since joining them on a season-long loan… because he hasn’t played a single minute of football for us to make that judgement.

Issues with the intensity of his new side’s regime and his own fitness problems meant that he suffered a setback in his hopes for a competitive debut. However, he did complete 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly in the build-up to their most recent Eredivisie fixture, where he remained an unused substitute.

This is a huge season for the 21-year-old. The biggest of his career so far. Having been not even on the peripheries of the first team at Arsenal last season he needs a consistent run of fixtures – in what would be his first proper full season of football – to entice clubs across the continent that he is a talent worth investing in.

Feyenoord currently sit in fifth place in the Dutch league with a game in hand on those above him. Nelson needs to prove to Arne Slot that he’s deserving of a place in the two wide berths over Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Luis Sinisterra, who are currently ahead of him in the pecking order.

Now up to speed with Slot’s training methods and hopefully more settled in Rotterdam with his new teammates, the six matches (including two Europa Conference fixtures) are prime time for Nelson to establish himself in the team and make it his shirt to lose.

5. Martin Odegaard

Is this being harsh? Yes, in all honesty.

Excluding the Manchester City debacle, Martin Odegaard has started the last four Premier League matches and only struggled in one of them.

Near enough everyone had an off day at Brighton, with Odegaard no different. His usual influence waned as the Brighton press succeeded in damaging Arsenal’s centrality, condemning Partey and the Norwegian’s usual link-up to a place back on the bus. There was a spot right next to the Norwegian’s touch.

The other three league matches Odegaard has started in he’s been excellent. Against Norwich he was controlling despite barely having resettled at the club, away at Burnley he got the all-important winner and against Spurs he was magnificent, especially in the opening 35 minutes.

Yet when the going gets tough for Arsenal he can be guilty of going missing.

In terms of him ‘stepping up’, Odegaard is already well up this proverbial flight of stairs. It’s been a strong start to the campaign for him. Yet, as the key creator in this team the moments where the game state is leaning in favour of the opposition is where his presence could be more keenly felt.

It’s hoped, at least, that Crystal Palace will be the ones facing the majority of the shots on Monday in which case the 22-year-old will be able to put his usual stamp on proceedings. When the pendulum swings the other way though, we’d like to see a bit more.

But he’s still brilliant. A really special talent who has the world at his feet. It has to be remembered just how young he still is despite his name being known in the world of football for what feels like a decade.

There are no issues with Odegaard. Supporters can see the heights he can hit. The aim now is to find a level of consistency in his performances in challenging circumstances. That’s the next step.


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