Arsenal’s 2020/21 season has certainly not gone to plan so far. After all, the Gunners find themselves mid-table after 24 Premier League matches and they have also been knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup tournaments. Though they are obviously underperforming, this Arsenal team could easily be even worse off if it wasn’t for their young players.
Superstar veteran striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is normally one of the more reliable forwards in all of Europe. In fact, the Gabon international has scored 20+ league goals in five consecutive campaigns. Nevertheless, Aubameyang has struggled for most of the current season, particularly in the Premier League.
Along with the club captain, newcomer Willian has also failed to find his previous form following his switch from rivals Chelsea. The Brazilian, while regularly a very exciting player during his time in west London, has looked completely out of place with his new team. The 32-year-old playmaker has managed just one assist and zero goals since the opening match of the season.
With some of the club’s highest-paid players underperforming, a few of the youngsters have stepped up. The versatile duo of Bukayo Saka (19) and Emile Smith Rowe (20) have been Arsenal’s best attacking players over the last few months. After the Gunners found themselves 15th in the Premier League table and facing Chelsea on Boxing Day, manager Mikel Arteta made some changes.
The two biggest alterations for the big game was the introduction of Smith Rowe into the Premier League squad and the switch from the left flank to right for Saka. Arsenal crushed their crosstown rivals on the day 3-1, with Saka and Smith Rowe both directly involved in the goals.
Since Saka made the switch to the right side of the 4-2-3-1 formation, the teenager has racked up four goals and two assists (as well as earning a penalty) in just nine Premier League matches. Smith Rowe, on the other hand, has collected four total assists during this same timeframe.
Prior to that Chelsea match, Arsenal were averaging just 0.9 goals per league game. However, with Smith Rowe in the number 10 role and Saka on the right flank, the Gunners are now averaging 1.9 goals per game during league play. And with the team playing well defensively, an extra goal per match makes a big difference. Although Arsenal have only climbed five spots in the standings since this Chelsea game, they have only lost two of their last 10 league games (with one of these losses coming after a dubious David Luiz red card).
Along with the dynamic duo of Saka and Smith Rowe, new addition Martin Odegaard (22) has also brought a spark to the team in his first few matches with the club. Though still obviously getting used to his new teammates, Odegaard showed his quality in his first start with the Gunners during their 4-2 victory against Leeds last weekend. The young Norway international clearly got better as the game went on.
While they are not exactly where they want to be just yet, things are starting to look better for this team. Saka, Smith Rowe, and Odegaard should continue to be a solid creative force behind strikers Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. If the Leeds game, a match in which Aubameyang netted his first Premier League hat-trick with Arsenal, is a sign of things to come, Gooners should feel excited about the future with these young playmakers.