Premier League Preview: Arsenal
With the new Premier League season now under two weeks away, we are going to be previewing every club before the new season kicks off. First up is last year’s FA Cup winners and recently crowned Charity Shield winners, Arsenal.
William Saliba (Saint-Etienne) £27million Willian (Chelsea) Free Pablo Mari (Flamengo) Undisclosed Cedric Soares (Southampton) Undisclosed
PLAYER OUTS: Sam Greenwood (Leeds) Undisclosed Trae Coyle (Gillingham) Loan Tobi Omole (Released) Dinos Mavropanos (Stuttgart) Loan Zech Medley (Gillingham) Loan Matt Smith (Swindon) Loan Jordi Osei-Tutu (Cardiff) Loan
LAST YEAR FINISH:
REASONS TO BE POSITIVE:
2 trophies in a month and Arsenal’s worst Premier League finish for a couple of decades has been swiftly forgotten. They head into this new season full of momentum and positivity.
Arsenal’s FA Cup win was a huge victory in so many ways - it ensured European Football, a world class striker looking likely to extend his contract, it has made them appealing to free agents such as Willian and has allowed them to hold off some serious competition to sign exciting centre back prospect Gabriel Magalhaes (not yet signed at the time of writing.) If they don’t win that final - it makes what I have just mentioned a lot more difficult.
Another reason for Arsenal fans to be really positive is the manager, Mikel Arteta.
Arteta wasn’t the most physically gifted player but he was a highly intelligent one, and he has brought this intelligence into his management career.
Arteta understands the club’s DNA and you can see he is hugely ambitious to return Arsenal to Europe’s top table. He has bought a sound defensive structure, and has made Arsenal far more modern side by introducing a high press.
Under Emery and Wenger there was a feeling that Arsenal would only ever play one way - they lived and died by the sword. Under Arteta, they seem to have a plan for each opponent. It seems more meticulous and this new approach has already yielded wins against Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea.
Gone are the days of trying to beat the top teams by trying to outplay them. There is a new refreshing stubbornness to Arsenal’s defending - an allowance to let the opposition hold the ball. A new sense of pride in keeping a clean sheet. A willingness to run. On the whole, Arteta has just made them a lot harder to beat.
The final reason for Arsenal fans to be really optimistic about the season ahead is the likely contract renewal of star striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
Aubameyang arrived at Arsenal with a bad boy reputation, which resulted in some of the biggest clubs in Europe being reluctant to buy him. Arsenal took the plunge and the gamble has paid off handsomely.
Already a golden boot winner, Aubameyang is world class. He offers a Arsenal a clinical edge and can score every type of goal. Perhaps more importantly, Aubameyang is loved.
He is the star man, the fans love him, his manager loves him and by making him captain it is clear that he loves and has revelled in the responsibility of leading Arsenal. Reports have emerged that Aubameyang has apparently had two other offers this summer but they were quickly dismissed so that he can continue his career at Arsenal.
A fit and firing Aubameyang gives Arsenal every chance of finally breaking back into the Top 4.
REASONS TO BE CONCERNED
The aim for Arsenal has to be a Top 4 finish but they have been handed a tricky start. Tough matches against Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd within their first 7 fixtures could mean that they are playing catch up early on. In Arteta’s first full season he will want to hit the ground running.
Lack of goals? Much like their North London rivals, there is a big reliance on a star striker to score their goals. Arsenal scored 56 goals last season, of which Aubameyang scored 22. Last season Aubameyang missed very few matches, if he gets injured or misses any significant chunks of time there could be a fear that the goals might be a little harder to come by.
Themselves. Although there is no doubting that Arsenal are a much sounder defensive unit, last season they still showed signs of the defensive lapses that we are so accustomed to seeing. They can sometimes be so inconsistent - and it is this inconsistency especially away from home that has dented any real top 4 hopes over the past few seasons. This season, with the race to get into the Top 4 going to be even more difficult, Arsenal need to wave goodbye to these defensive frailties to ensure they stay in the race.
Ozil and lack of investment. It looks like Mezut Ozil and his astronomical £350,000 a week wage are going to be staying in North London for the upcoming season. Although he knows he won’t be playing, his presence could be a distraction for the squad and his manager. It is an issue that the media won’t let go of and is bound to rumble on - if arsenal do hit a tricky patch, you can bet that the omission of a creative outlet like Ozil will be the hot topic.
Arsenal have done some clever business in this summer window, but the signings to really help take them onto the next level, is unlikely to come.There is a lot of youth in the Arsenal team and although players such as Saka, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Martinelli are all incredibly talented - they are young. There will be inconsistencies with these young players. You just question whether Arsenal are just one or two really high class players short.
PREMIER LEAGUE BLOG PREDICTED FINISH:
We believe Arsenal will just finish outside of the Top 4 this year and finish 5th - although that gap to the Top 4 clubs will be bridged. However, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if they went to win the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League through that competition.