Table Review: 6th, 63 points, 19 Wins, 6 Draws, 13 Losses, Goals For: 74, Goals Against: 51, Goal Difference: +23.
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Top Scorer: Alexandre Lacazette, 14 Goals
Any season in which Arsenal is not competing for the title is a poor season. Finish a distant sixth, and have your manager effectively sacked, and it’s a dismal season. In many ways, 2017-18 was a season to forget for Gunners fans, as they failed to reach the top four for the second consecutive year.
The season was marred by a shocking away record, as the Gunners lost multiple close matches to lower-table clubs. Boasting just 16 points from 19 matches, Arsenal shied 16 or more points astray of the other top six clubs in away matches. Losses to Huddersfield, Brighton, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Watford and Stoke – all in away matches – cost the Gunners dearly in their bid for a top four berth.
Arsenal under performed in every area, failing to win any silverware, most notably stumbling in the Europa League. Great players joined the club, great players left the club, but it was the exit of Arsene Wenger that was the most notable. The longest-serving EPL manager to that point had pressure mounting on all sides, and the club announced a mutual agreement that Wenger step down. This will be effective in May 2018.
IN: Lucas Torreira – CM – €27M, Bernd Leno – GK – €22.5M, Sokratis Papastathopoulos – CB – €14.4M, Matteo Guendouzi – CM – €7.2M, Stephan Lichtsteiner – RB – Free
OUT: Chupa Akpom – ST – €900K, Santi Cazorla – CM – Free, Jack Wilshere – CM – Free
It’s been a busy window for new manager, Unai Emery, adding a variety of first team talent, squad depth and youngsters to his side. Notably, Emery has revitalized his engine room, clearing out Jack Wilshere in favour of Lucas Torreira. The former Sampdoria man should slot into the middle to accompany Granit Xhaka, forming an intimidating pivot in front of the defense.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos will most likely replace the under-performing Shkodran Mustafi, and Lichtsteiner will back up Hector Bellerin. Bernd Leno comes in at a very affordable price as Petr Cech continues to age. Matteo Guendouzi must be viewed as a project at this point, but has the potential to develop into a good third option in the midfield, should he get the opportunity.
All in all, Arsenal has acquired shrewdly with deals for Bern Leno and Sokratis catching the eye for value, but they have failed to address some of the biggest concerns in the squad. Such as a lack of speed on the flank, as well as any world-class wing talent. The squad still needs to be strengthened further before it reaches a title-contending unit.
Predicted Starting XI
The battle for the starting spot between the sticks will be a fierce one in the preseason, but it should be the younger, more agile Bernd Leno who wins out over the incumbent Petr Cech. New signing Sokratis will strengthen the backline, whilst adding his wealth of experience to a defense much in need of leadership.
Lucas Torreira will have to beat out Aaron Ramsey and Mohammed Elneny to start with Xhaka, and it’s likely that either Ramsey or Torreira will be used dependent on the situation. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will need to prove his worth to the new boss, as his age, and the presence of Mesut Ozil limits his playing time.
Alex Iwobi’s new contract should see an increase in his playing time as he partners Alexandre Lacazette on the flanks. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the undisputed first choice striker, but Lacazette and Welbeck present viable back-ups, should Emery wish to employ a different system.
Table Prediction: 6th, 65 points, 18 Wins, 11 Draws, 9 Losses, Goals For: 70, Goals Against: 43, Goal Difference: +27.
Manager: Unai Emery
Top Scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
It’s going to be another tough year for Arsenal. Good things take time, and although the appointment of Unai Emery can only be seen as a positive, the Gunners lack a squad capable of pushing for the title. The proof will be in the rebuilding, and any fast start to the season would come as a shock.
With only three genuinely world-class players in the squad, Aubameyang, Ozil and Koscielny, the development of Bellerin, Torreira and Iwobi cannot come fast enough. Arsenal will be back to their former glory at some point in the future, but until then, the other five clubs ahead of them remain poised to continue that run.
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