Arsenal had quite a season to forget last campaign, but they have a new chance at the Premier League title to look forward to when the new season starts this week. Will their improvements be enough to get them back to the Champions League? How about a trophy? Let’s take a look.
LAST SEASON: BREAKING THE WRONG RECORDS
An FA Cup title was a nice highlight of last season for Arsenal, but it was merely a bandage covering a far greater disappointment.
A seemingly routine Round of 16 Champions League exit to Bayern Munich was only the start for Arsenal’s woes. After their devastating loss with a 10-2 aggregate score line, Arsenal went on to finish 5th in the Premier League.
That marked the first time in over 20 years under manager Arsène Wenger that Arsenal failed to finish in the top 4 and above their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Clearly something needs to happen if they are to bounce back quickly.
TO CHANGE, OR NOT TO CHANGE
Wenger’s reign at the club will continue for the 2017/2018 season, surprising some fans that thought he would call it quits. But his destiny is clearly tied to the club, so it is now his responsibility to steer Arsenal in the right direction.
Okay, so the manager didn’t change. But surely the personnel will see some changes in key areas.
And in this area, Arsenal seem to have done well for themselves so far. Their main signing of the summer, Alexandre Lacazette, has already impressed with his scoring and overall contributions to the attack during the preseason.
The £48 million Frenchman from Lyon fills a need that Arsenal have had in the striker position for quite some time now. Alexis Sánchez, Olivier Giroud, and Danny Welbeck have taken turns in that position, but nothing solid ever came from these experiments.
Having a reliable starting striker allows Alexis to contribute greatly from the wing, and lets Welbeck play the role of an excellent backup when a change is needed.
Arsenal’s other signing, Sead Kolasinac from Schalke, has shown a lot of promise so far. For a free transfer, he already looks to be a bargain backup left-back for the club.
He also played a large role in Arsenal’s first trophy win of the season, scoring the equalizer in the Community Shield against Chelsea that allowed Arsenal to win on penalties.
Arsenal’s transfer successes also translate to the players they’ve kept. Héctor Bellerín had a lot of interest from Barcelona earlier in the summer, but Arsenal managed to keep their starting right-back.
Alexis also had interest from everyone under the sun, from PSG to Bayern to Barcelona. But even if it means they will lose him for free next summer, Arsenal stayed strong and kept their talisman for yet another year.
Arsenal have spent quite a while trying to improve their situation in central midfield. Despite their signings in recent years, last season still showed that it is one of Arsenal’s weakest areas of the pitch. If Arsenal were going to continue their momentum in the transfer market, then perhaps an upgrade would be the way to go.
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT SEASON
Wenger has already shown a willingness to experiment with lineups and spend the money necessary for improvements. With a more positive mentality, Arsenal have all of the tools to make a turnaround and secure top 4 for the 2017/2018 season without a change in manager needed.
A few other factors may play into Arsenal’s chances of success this season. Wenger has come out and stated that he will focus on the Premier League, meaning that the Europa League may not be a big distraction for the Gunners.
Meanwhile, their competitors will have the much more difficult Champions League to deal with.
Chelsea, with a squad that hasn’t changed much, will now have to fight for one more title. Tottenham, who struggled last season dealing with multiple competitions, will have to do the same in Wembley Stadium, where they are known to struggle.
However, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs have spent money to vastly improve their squads. If Arsenal do manage to reach the top 4 again, it won’t be without a massive fight against the other top teams in the league, including an Everton side that have had a strong transfer window.
KEY FIXTURES TO WATCH FOR
Arsenal overall have a favorable beginning and end to the season ahead of them. But look out for the middle of the season where they will face Manchester City, Spurs, and Manchester United in the space of a month.
And it gets better. Later on, Arsenal will face Everton, Spurs, and Manchester City in a row. These tough stretches are crucial parts of the season for Arsenal. Limiting their losses at these points is necessary for a strong push in the league.
Arsenal may not be done with their transfers this summer. But if they keep their best players in this last month, then they will have already improved from last season. Their finishing position will also depend on how well Wenger is able to adapt to adversity in the league.
Yes, these are a lot of big ifs. But taking into account the transfer activity of other top teams, it’s entirely possible that Arsenal can reclaim a spot in the top 4 of the league.
Final Prediction: 4th Place