As Arsenal and Mikel Arteta sit top of the Premier League following five wins from their opening six games, the Spaniard has been able to assess his squad and decide who he can and cannot count on for the season. The Gunners will be hoping to go one further than the previous campaign, when they were pipped to the Champions League places by north London rivals Tottenham. With a win in the Europa League on Thursday already in the books, Arteta has been able to see the majority of his squad in action this season. Here, Express Sport looks at three reliable players and two less predictable members of Arsenal’s squad this season.
Reliable: Gabriel Jesus
After signing from Manchester City for £45million in the summer, Gabriel Jesus has led the line superbly for the Gunners. He has three goals and three assists in six league games this season, and has offered not just a genuine goal threat but can combine with the other forwards, hold up play and press from the front.
He is a modern-day striker that offers Arteta plenty up front, and can also operate out wide if Eddie Nketiah is pushing for more opportunities following his goal in the Europa League against FC Zurich.
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Less predictable: Albert Sambi Lokonga
The Belgian has been thrown into the team following injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, but has come in for some criticism for his performances as a deputy. The 22-year-old was linked with a loan move away from the Emirates this summer, and Arsenal attempted to bring in Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa on transfer deadline day to play the role Albert Sambi Lokonga is currently occupying.
Lokonga struggled against Manchester United as the Gunners lost 3-1 at Old Trafford, when he was caught too far up the field for the Red Devils’ first goal and then conceded possession as Erik ten Hag’s side countered for their second, and Partey is expected to be restored to the starting lineup when the Ghanaian has recovered from his thigh injury.
Less predictable: Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka has surprisingly taken more of a backseat role in the Arsenal attack this season, and found himself well below Jesus, Martinelli and Martin Odegaard in attacking returns. The England star has been forced to help out more defensively as White behind him is not a natural full-back, which may have hampered his efforts going forward.
However, it is a surprise to see last season’s top scorer for the Gunners only notch once in the Premier League this season, in the defeat to Manchester United. He was handed a rare rest on Thursday but did come off the bench against Zurich. Saka has played almost twice as many minutes as any other under-21 player in the league since the start of the 2019/20 season and may be suffering from burnout.
Saka has played over 7,000 minutes in the league since that time, with the closest player to him being Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood with 4,367 minutes and then Tino Livramento sits in third with just 2,203 minutes.