The Most Underrated Player at Arsenal

Most underrated?

Yesterday’s excellent Post by RC about how Sylvain Wiltord may have been under-appreciated during his time at Arsenal set me to thinking: who is the ‘Wiltord’ in the current squad?

Who is our most under-appreciated player right now?

We can rule out Smith Rowe, Saka, Leno, Martinelli, Gabriel, Partey and Tierney because the love-in surrounding that group of talented stars would make a harlot blush.

Holding is not quite at that level of acclaim but also seems to have earned the respect of fans this season and has cemented his first team place.

Likewise, despite poor recent form, I would not include Aubameyang because during his time at Arsenal he has been greatly appreciated and ‘rated’.

And for the purposes of this Post I am ruling out Willian because I am talking about players who are underrated in terms of what they have achieved at (and contribute to) Arsenal, not what they have done elsewhere in their careers. As for Mari and Cedric, we just haven’t seen enough of them yet in the red and white.

I, perhaps controversially, do not consider Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nelson and Nketiah to be in the conversation (although I would love them to get there in the near future).

So the list of contenders I came up with is: Xhaka, Elneny, Lacazette, Pepe, Luiz and Bellerin. You could include Chambers and Mustafi in that group if that’s your thing, but I’m not.

Now to whittle down that final selection:

Pepe? Clearly he has talent, but (through no fault of his own) he’s saddled with that £72m price tag which raises expectations that he just hasn’t met. He has shown flashes of real ability, but not enough.

Bellerin? I’m not sure you can call Hector underrated during his time at Arsenal and his form in the last couple of seasons (since his serious injury in fact) has been inconsistent. Pass.

Luiz? For all that he infuriates fans with crazy mistakes, he was outstanding in our FA Cup triumph last summer and has been pretty steady this season. A possibility, but he falls somewhere between being not quite good enough to be underrated and not quite bad enough as well. No.

Xhaka? A Marmite player for supporters, but manager after manager has deemed him an important component of their plans. The trouble is I don’t think we can view him as underrated. We know his strengths and weaknesses, what he can and can’t do for the team. Some of us value that contribution, others are fed up with him, but we have his measure. So, it’s a no.

That leaves Elneny and Lacazette and these are my two favourites for the spot of ‘most underrated’.

Elneny because of his un-showy, workmanlike performances, his athleticism and his apparent lack of ego as well as the fact that he seldom loses possession; Laca for being one of those players who – even though he’s no Thierry Henry – contributes important goals and is always prepared to work hard for the team. He has some very poor spells of form, but always seems to come through them.

It’s a toss up, but I’m going for Laca. In fact (as I believe someone said in comments), he is not dissimilar to Sylvain Wiltord and, in the Invincibles team, you could imagine him performing a similar role to Sylvain.

I have watched many games where Laca’s finishing has been off, he has been isolated up front and generally out of sorts, but you never see his head go down and he never stops trying to close down opposition players.

Am I right? Over to you.



26 Responses to The Most Underrated Player at Arsenal

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    Great stuff, Rocky. Well argued and yes those two are generally underrated by the fans. I guess it is all about what each of us values in a player and how we review their outputs and inputs for the team. From my point of view XhakA is the most undervalued player including on this blog. If and when he doesn’t play, which is seldom and in itself a reason to value him tremendously, we really miss him and seldom play well. He is vital to this team but seldom gets the recognition, and if he makes just one mistake, which is becoming more rare, many love to put the boot in again. All, managers have loved and played him but so many fans just loved to redicule him. I never quite got that and I reckon that, just as with The BFG, we will start properly valuing his contributions when he is gone.

  2. RockyLives says:

    Thanks TA

    As you probably know I am more pro-Xhaka than many people hereabouts. In particular I think he has been very good recently. I can certainly see why you have plumped for him.

    I’m not sure I’d agree that the BFG was under-appreciated. Perhaps in his first year or so, but he steadily became a fan favourite.

    In his early days I think people expected – because of his size – that we had signed a titanic physical defender. In fact, although he was fairly good in the air, the BFG’s real qualities were in reading the game and in playing out from the back with real footballing intelligence. An all-round top quality footballer (and man). I’m very glad he’s still very involved with us.

  3. TotalArsenal says:

    Hey Rocky, over the years I constantly had to read end challenge the views of fellow bloggers regarding the BFG’s slowness and ‘turning ability of an oil tanker’ so at best I remember him as a marmiter among the fans. I fully agree about his footballing skills. He was also good at reading of the game, organising the defence and leading the team, but many just focused on his perceived weaknesses. I think the same is happening with Granit.

  4. Gööner In Exile says:

    I have a long list of players over the years, Giroud, Nacho, BFG, in more recent years, in the past Wiltord, Petit, but maybe the biggest of all was the unsung hero from the invincibles, Gilberto, “the invisible wall” was so aptly named as so many did not realise what he gave us until he was gone.

    I actually struggle to think of anyone in the current squad who fits that bill, maybe it is Leno (vote from the GKs union) but a keeper as a standalone position can rarely be underrated. Xhaka divides opinion but I don’t think we can call him underrated you either like him of not.

    For me it is probably Holding, yes people are starting to notice him more, but for a long time they thought he was a spare part or not good enough. He is a quietly competent defender who rarely goes to ground and enjoys getting physical with opponents, I love when he smiles and jokes with forwards who have fallen over next to him or he has just had a physical battle/tussle with. It is hard not to see a lot of Bould or BFG in him, calm and unflappable.

  5. TotalArsenal says:

    We have a new goalkeeper, Matthew Ryan from Brighton, on loan. Very pleased with this… An insurance policy.

  6. Gööner In Exile says:

    TA and Rocky I get what you are saying about Xhaka but I think to be truly underrated a player has to be solid in all areas of his own game at the limit of his own physicality but make up for it in reading of the game and football intelligence, where Xhaka lets himself down is in his woeful ability to tackle when he has the physical attributes to be better and his lack of positional awareness when trying to make up for his lack of pace.

    BFG’s slowness was never something he could improve but as you say his reading of he game was impeccable and was rarely caught out. For similar reasons I’ve gone for Holding he knows his limits on the pitch and plays within them, meaning he is rarely caught too far out fo position or in situations where he will get turned inside out.

  7. RockyLives says:

    I think Holding is a good call GiE – certainly still undervalued by some fans.

    Do you know anything about the new understudy ‘keeper.

    I feel sorry for Runarsson – he didn’t buy himself or pick himself and he had one bad game but his Arsenal career is probably over.

  8. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky

    I think I championed Lacazette some time back when he wasn’t flavour of the month as he wasn’t scoring emphasising his importance in our link play being as important as goals.

    I used the Firmino and Liverpool reference that the greater share of goals came from the players playing off Firmino but his link play often contributed to many of those goals.

    I think the yoyo feelings of fans I know and maybe blog with, (please note not intended as a dig or personal criticism), has meant that Lacazette has been underrated but right now isn’t underrated.

    In an inverse way Aubamayeng has gone from being highly rated and is now, in my opinion, underrated. He has had a bad patch in a bad team from the start of this season. So much so that the young (but hugely talented and exciting prospect) Rookie, Martinelli, is being stated as better than Aubamayeng for a strting 11 spot.

    This for me means that Aubamayeng is now the underrated player, not Lacazette.

    Elneny is a great shout, and my choice, because he hasn’t been subject to as much yoyo opinion as the 2 forwards. He is probably the only one that has been consistently underrated.

    Elneny can do a bit of everything in DM, and has decent technique and passing range. However he seems the only one that will comfortably play the disciplined positional DM role and allow others a bit more freedom.

    All the others, Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock, Douzi, Torreira, seem to be best as a player operating between the holding midfielder and number 10. I would even put Partey in this category, that he will be at his best with another DM tucked in behind him to allow him more freedom.

    In essence Elneny makes them all play better and is the ideal partner to each of the others, far more so than any of the others compliment each other.

    For me Elneny is the most consistently underrated player, and he is a player I would look to keep at the club. If anything I think we need another Elneny back up type, but before dipping into the market I would look at Chambers

  9. LBG says:

    Holding closely followed by Elneny for me. Elneny is the Mattieu Flamini of his age. Already compared Rob with the silent man with no hair. Think his partnerships with Mari and Gabi could last us for the foreseeable.

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi GiE, Xhaka’s ability to tackle is indeed below par but his real strength is, and here is where we disagree, his positional awareness. His reading of the game and positioning is superb and he gives shape and organisation to team. Without him on the pitch, we lacked that dimension. However, now we have Partey we finally should have cover or even go one better, and Elneny is the ideal third leg to stand on for the double DM ‘pivot’.

    I think you are right that many just don’t like XhakA but that should not stand in the way of being able to rate him. I never liked Sanchez much but I rated him highly for example.

    I agree with you GB that Elneny makes others better and this is often undervalued. XhakA definitely plays much better with the Egyptian next to him. It will be interesting to see what our strongest combo will be out of XhakA, Partey and Elneny.

  11. LB says:


    I have received a personal request to buy something on behalf of Peaches and send it to her “niece” I am concerned that it is a scam.
    Could you confirm that it is or not?


  12. Rasp says:

    It’s a scam LB, unfortunately she has been hacked

  13. LB says:


  14. Hi all
    My email has been hacked, so please don’t be sending any Amazon gift cards on my behalf.

  15. Sue says:

    I won’t lie, I’d have preferred RA between the sticks, but Ryan will have to do 😄

  16. RockyLives says:

    Redders between the sticks 😀

    Now there’s a plan! Redders would use Runarrson as a toothpick.

  17. Rasp says:

    Thanks for the post Rocky, it’s a good question. I think others have listed the main candidates from the current squad. From past teams I would suggest Flamini and Grimandi as utility players who stepped in to fulfil a roll and always delivered. Gilberto has to be top of the list. I really rated Lauren. He was fairly popular when he played but I thought he was top notch … one of the hardest men ever to play for the Arsenal.

    If anyone wants to write a post asking which players we’d have to eat humble pie over I’d have to hold my hands up with Cedric and Xhaka after recent performances … let’s hope they can keep it up.

  18. RockyLives says:

    Just being ultra cautious: the recent email from you advising people to use a specific email address is actually from you, right?

  19. 1979Gunner says:

    Dunno about this lol

    Lacazette cost circa £50M – so you expect for your dosh and while acknowledging his efforts and goals, I don’t think he has delivered.

    On the other hand the relative bargain of El Neny seldom let’s the team down. He’s never flashy so rarely catches the eye. Much in the same was as Parlour.

    So El Neny would be my choice.

    In comparing Lacazette to Wilthord you’re interestingly comparing record signings (I think Lacazette was) – I think Wilthord shades that duel.

  20. Me again …… yes Rocky I have just sent an email to you and others with info about a new email address

  21. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Peaches

  22. Sue says:

  23. Rasp says:

    Thanks Sue … Azeez got 1 and Balogun a hat trick …. let’s hope we keep them both.

  24. Rasp says:

    I’d be interested to hear what GiE thinks of our new loanee number 2 keeper Mat Ryan.

  25. LB says:

    If anyone can find any footage of that match can they put it up.

  26. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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