The THREE players Mikel Arteta should build his Arsenal team around, according to Rio Ferdinand

Cameron Smith
The THREE players Mikel Arteta should build his Arsenal team around, according to Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand has explained the three players that he believes Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta should build his team around moving forward.

Arteta has faced a difficult first full season in charge of the Gunners, and with the side currently in ninth, knocked out of the Europa League by Villarreal, and facing a fight to even make the competition next year, the Spaniard has come under immense criticism.

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Ferdinand, who made over 400 appearances for Arsenal’s rivals Manchester United, spoke of Arsenal’s season on his YouTube channel, and explained why Arteta should mould his team around certain key individuals.

“The only thing to come out for Arsenal are ESR [Emile Smith-Rowe], Saka and Tierney this season,” Ferdinand said.

“They’ve been top, they’ve been the best players and that’s what he’s got to build around going forward.

“Even Joe Willock has gone to Newcastle and kept them up. He’s got to come back into the fray surely after that little spell he’s had there.

“Those are the guys that Arsenal have to build around going forward.”

How good have they been under Arteta this season?

While Emile Smith-Rowe only came into the team during a torrid run in December, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney have been vital for Arsenal this campaign.

Saka has played the third most Premier League minutes in the Arsenal squad this season, at just 19, and will overtake Granit Xhaka and move behind only Bernd Leno if he plays more than eight minutes against Chelsea as the Swiss international is injured.

The England international has netted five league goals and grabbed three assists, and his eight goal contributions is behind only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in the squad.

Tierney has also been crucial, and his various absences this season have hindered the side massively. He’s managed 23 league starts this campaign and his threat down the left is a huge part of Arteta’s game plan. In fact, only the aforementioned Saka and Willian are attempting more crosses than Tierney this season (4.6 per 90).

And finally, Smith-Rowe has added some attacking creativity that was sorely missed in the first half of the season. The playmaker has made 15 Premier League starts this term, scoring once and assisting four.

His xA per 90 tally of 0.26 is second only to Gabriel Martinelli in the squad, and is better than the likes of James Maddison (0.25), Bernardo Silva (0.22), and Marcus Rashford (0.13).

Joe Willock has netted five goals in 11 games for Newcastle, and despite only joining on loan in January, he is their second top scorer in the league, behind only Callum Wilson.

With Smith-Rowe’s creativity so key it’s unlikely that Willock is rewarded with a starting berth next season, but he’ll be a useful squad player, and if Arteta can add resources to back up the talents of Smith-Rowe, Saka and Tierney, then Arsenal could be ready to challenge become a force again.