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Football Manager-ing Arsenal
Which player suits which role in the popular game?
Fun fact about me: I’m an absolute Football Manager addict. Even though I consider myself less a tactico and more just a nerd who loves player movement, I enjoy absolutely everything about game, especially the squad building.
Now, I’m also very online, and I love to share a spirited discussion about the finer points of the game itself. Naturally, that led me into a recent argument with a Newcastle fan, who wouldn’t come off his assertion that Thomas Partey is a “squad player” and not a big miss for Arsenal. All while saying the likes of Elliot Anderson, Matt Targett and others are big misses for Newcastle. What a weirdo!
Now, combine paragraph 1 with paragraph 2, and that’s what we’re talking about today!
For those who are uninitiated in the ways of Football Manager: When you sign a player to a contract, you assign them a squad/playing time role. Thanks to this whole Newcastle fan thing, as well as the relentless arguments about Eddie Nketiah’s role at Arsenal, I decided I’m going to sort the Arsenal squad by what I believe their correct roles are from the Football Manager rubric.
Got it? Good. Let’s go.
This is the very top tier in which you can place a player in FM. A Star Player suits up for every important game when they’re fit, and should be one of the leaders in playing time. I believe Arsenal have four of these:
Generally speaking, your star player will be one of (or THE) most important player, both on the pitch and off. They expect to lead and are extremely well-compensated for it.
If I had to cut this down, which would be really tough, I’d lead with the first three. But I think Ødegaard occupies a similar territory in terms of rank around the club, so I’m keeping him there. Don’t like it? Tough!
Important Players are just that one step down from stars. They may not be the biggest name in the squad, but they’re also going to play every game they’re fit for. Only extenuating circumstances take these names off the team sheet. I think there are four of these at Arsenal:
I just want it known I had Jesus in the Star Players group but felt five might be too many. Please also note that I don’t think the names below this point aren’t “important” players to Arsenal, I’m just following the game’s categories! Ok? Ok.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Regular Starters are going to expect to be in the XI for a good chunk of games, probably half or more, when the full squad is fit. These are players who are in (or close to) your best XI, but are also one of the first names sacrificed in the case of a tactical tweak or rotation.
That gives us 14 players I’d call “Regular Starters” or more, for 10 outfield roles. That seems like a manageable balance, in my book. Maybe you can make an argument for Trossard and Tomiyasu moving down, but let’s keep it moving.
I don’t love this categorization, because it feels a little belittling to these guys. How I see Squad Players: They’re not in the “fully-fit” XI, but they’re among the first choices when someone needs to sit. They are also the guys who expect to be among the first names called off the bench in just about every game, and will put in 30+ appearances, even if it’s not always as a starter. Another way to look at it: Europa League starters.
Jorginho seems like something of an odd fit here, but for me it comes back to the fact that I don’t think he starts often in a fully-fit midfield. Whether fully-fit is realistic, on the other hand…
And though he has played lots of minutes this season, Nketiah is the same. If he ever gets to a point where a fit Jesus, Saka or Martinelli loses playing time to Eddie, let me know.
These are the guys who are going to get into the squad often, play sometimes, but typically aren’t the first off the bench or the first called upon when there are fitness concerns. They’ll get starts here and there but ultimately are at the bottom of the list, and are either OK with it, or not long for the club. I think Arsenal only have three at the moment, although I did debate Kiwior here.
Emile Smith Rowe
Reiss and ESR feel like they should be more, at least anecdotally, but even in a season where Arsenal have seen numerous injuries that touch their positions, they’ve barely combined to play more minutes than Vieira. Maybe they’ll earn their way up the ladder, but until then it’s hard to push them up too high, even if I do love them. And it definitely makes you wonder about Reiss’s extension, and consider the possibility that Arsenal did that deal so they could prioritize other roles this past offseason.
Surplus to Requirements
Simple enough: They’re not needed, they’re not going to play, and they’ll be done away with soon.
Now, if you know FM, you know that keepers have their own roles. I’d personally put Raya as the First Choice Keeper, Ramsdale as Backup and/or Cup Keeper, and Hein as Emergency Backup. Whether that’s just, we can leave for another day!