Gunner Thoughts

Next up Mentality: Arsenal’s Unsung Heroes

All year Arsenal have demonstrated an ability to have players step up when it matters most.

The International Break is coming to a close and as always it was one of the worst times of the season. I don’t understand who believes it makes sense to plop one of these down at such a critical juncture in the season but I can understand why managers and clubs hate it.

This time around it seems like every other team found was to have their best players bow out with injury and illness. Meanwhile, Ødegaard was absolutely torpedo by the dirtiest of Rodri tackles, Saka played every second for Southgate — criminal — Zinchenko played full minutes and, true to form, Partey was held out of yesterday’s Ghana match with a “small injury”.

I refuse to believe he wouldn’t have been asked to play —or forced — if Arsenal didn’t send their own physio down with him, but it’s another injury Arsenal fans will be waiting to hear more about.

Arsenal fans still don’t have news on center back William Saliba, beyond L’Equipe’s “several weeks” and Arteta’s “We hope Willy [Saliba] is going to be better news. Again We have to wait to tomorrow to get a better picture.”

It’s hard not to be concerned with names like these stacking up late in the season. Add Tomiyasu’s season-ending injury to the pile which complicates how Arsenal shift around the backline and the foundation of Arsenal’s rock-solid spine is under threat.

But if there is reason to be heartened in the face of (potentially) bad news, it would be the comforting reminder of how good Arsenal have been this season in the face of their injuries.

When a team is leading the league and in a race for the title, it’s easy to focus on the core players driving the campaign, and forget the supplementary contributions. In a season that could easily come down to a few points on the table, it’s these incremental edges that see a team get two extra points with a win or even a point for getting a draw.

The season the long, it’s a nine-month slog; title-winning teams need players that can step in and make plays, be it for 20 minutes or multiple months.

It’s this “next man up” mentality that’s often found as a train of accolade-achieving sides. A team that knows injuries will occur but have complete faith in the person standing in the wings to rise to the occasion.

When the standard-bearer goes down, who picks up the cannon flag and marches on?

These players — and they have done it incredibly well.

Rob Holding:

Most recently, Rob Holding stepped into the mix in Saliba’s stead and put his mark on the season. While everyone online — myself included — tossed out options that would see Arsenal move Ben White back central, Arteta knew what he had in Holding, and Rob rewarded him. He was fantastic against Crystal Palace. He put himself about physically well and was a duel-winning machine (11/15) and quick to pounce on loose balls, collecting 7 recoveries.

Arteta has had two weeks to consider his options, but the 27-year-old defender made his statement of intent to his manager.


Few would argue against this being a difficult season for Arsenal’s defender. He was incredibly consistent last season, but struggled for minutes and health. In an advancing and growing team, some might wonder where his place lays in the future. But this didn’t stop him from making his mark on the season. Early in the campaign, Arsenal welcomed Liverpool the Emirates, winless in their previous 8 matches against the Reds.

Arteta made the bold decision to call on Tomiyasu and the even bolder choice to put him on the left to go mano a mano with Salah. There was only one winner on the day as Arsenal won 3-2 and Salah managed only 27 touches and was removed before the 70th minute. Outstanding defensive work and huge contribution for this campaign.


Nketiah may be someone that has been replaced by Leandro Trossard as Jesus’ de facto number two, but his contribution to this season can’t be forgotten. Not only did he step in after the World Cup break and fill the shoes of Jesus, I think his performances also provided a sense of calm amongst the fan base. The news of Jesus’ lengthy injury sent shockwaves through fans and many — internally and externally — were declaring Arsenal’s run finished. Finito.

Instead, Eddie comes in and scores versus West Ham, scores versus Brighton, and hit his peak moment when he put away two versus Manchester United, including the first of Arsenal’s three epic late-winners. The steam ran out, an injury has set him back, but his contributions on the pitch and to team morale play a big role in Arsenal hitting the ground running after the World Cup.


Only right to talk about him after Eddie since his contributions feel like a relay baton being handed between the two. There’s a reason many are asking if Trossard is Arsenal’s greatest January signing OF ALL TIME. When Eddie’s contributions hit a bit of a wall, opposition teams started to figure Arsenal out, Leandro stepped on and re-injected versatility and verve into this team.

Trossard’s first contribution may have been his role in Nketiah’s game-winner versus United, but his momentous note has to be when he moved central and brought this attack back toward their best levels. He was phenomenal and perhaps what shows that most is his statistic of 6 assists since joining Arsenal. He’s knitted together everything, stretched defenders, and created so chances for Saka and Martinelli when things were drying up. Highly doubt he is done contributing to this team’s success.


Another January signing that has brought a serious impact. Thomas Partey picked up a short term injury but had to miss four matches. Jorginho was one of the few people that walked away cleanly from the Manchester City loss, but also helped lead Arsenal to three straight wins in the remainder of the matches. Of course his big moment was the absolute firecracker shot off the bar and off Martinez’s head for the game-winning own goal. One of the best moments of the season. Add 3 points to the tally. Epic stuff from a “Chelsea reject”.

Furthermore, I believe we will continue to see contributions down the stretch as the pressure rises and Arsenal looks to players that have won trophies and survived football’s pressure cooker situations. Jorginho can and should help supply some of that.

Reiss Nelson:

Do I even need to write anything beyond his name? Reiss Nelson. Reiss fucking Nelson. To come into any game and contribute is difficult (it’s why they deserve a whole blog), to come in and contribute an assist and one of the coldest stoppage-time goals of the season to flip a match on it’s head and claim all three points: god-tier stuff.

There are others probably worthy of being mentions on this list. Fabio Vieira stepped in for Ødegaard versus Brentford and added a goal to Arsenal’s 3-0 win. Tierney stepped in for Zinchenko during a run of matches and Arsenal hardly lost a step in their game. Elneny also stepped in for Partey earlier in the season.

Seeing this young team already possess this mentality it already a feather in their cap. And if they can see these final ten matches out and get themselves across the finish line, many of these players will deserve their flowers. They deserve every single bit of it.

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