Premier League Preview: Arsenal

After 22 years, a new chapter has begun at Arsenal. Last April, the evergreen Arsene Wenger announced he was to resign as manager at the Emirates with one year left on his contract. Arsenal fans had grown tired and frustrated of being bypassed by the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and as a result protests including banners were a frequent sight at the Emirates as the fans called for Wenger’s time to be up. With three Premier Leagues, seven FA Cups and seven Community Shields to his name, Wenger left Arsenal as one the greatest and most influential managers of modern day football. After a thorough search for a new manager, many reports suggested former Arsenal and Manchester City coach, Mikel Arteta, would be named as Arsenal’s new manager. However, instead, former Sevilla and Paris Saints Germain boss, Unai Emery, was given the task of getting the Gunners back into the top four and challenge for league titles once again.


SUMMER BUSINESS

After spending heavily to bolster their attacking lineup in January, Arsenal have focused on tightening up their defence and balancing their midfield this summer. They have also strategically invested in youth whilst bringing in experienced Champions League heads; the signings of, 19-year-old, Matteo Guendouzi from FC Lorient and, 34-year-old, Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus reflecting this. The signings of Lucas Torreira, from Sampdoria, and Bernd Leno, from Bayer Leverkusen, could transform Arsenal from Europa League semi-finalists to genuine title challengers. Midfielder Torriera, signed for £27 million, could prove to be the signing of the summer. The tough tackling midfielder firms up the weak defensive midfield position previously filled by Granit Xhaka and Mohammed Elneny; Torriera recorded 2.8 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1.3 dribbles per match last season. The Gunners also picked up two players from the Bundesliga, goalkeeper Leno from Bayer Leverkusen and, defender, Sokartis from Borussia Dortmund. 26-year-old Leno replaces an ageing Petr Cech whilst simultaneously investing for the future and Sokratis brings leadership and aerial domination. There haven’t been any major outgoings at the Emirates this summer, whilst the club is also hopeful that Aaron Ramsey will sign a new contract to remain at the Emirates Stadium.


KEY PLAYER – PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

January’s £57.38 million signing from Dortmund hit the ground running last season and Arsenal will need him to continue that form if they are to return to Europe’s top table. In 13 Premier League appearances last season, Aubameyang netted 10 times whilst recording four assists. His electric pace coinciding with cool and clinical finishing makes the Gabon striker one of the hardest players to defend against and after a full pre-season working alongside last summers’ marquee signing, Alexander Lacazette, the strikers could form a formidable partnership. His intelligent movement allows him to instinctively know where the ball will fall, and he made a habit of scoring goals from through balls breaking a defensive line and from a hungry presence in the box. Before his moves to Germany and then England, Aubameyang had primarily played his football in France. Despite being a product of AC Milan’s academy, the Gabon striker never played a first team game for the club as he was shipped out on loan to Dijon, Lille, Monaco and St Etienne. After impressing in France, St Etienne made the loan deal permanent in 2011. In 87 appearances he scored 37 times for Les Verts whilst registering 16 assists. However, it was during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons where he flourished. Across the 2015-16 season in 31 Bundesliga appearances he scored 25 goals and in the 2016-17 season he bagged 31 goals in 32 Bundesliga appearances.


MANAGER – UNAI EMERY

Spaniard, Unai Emery, was appointed Arsenal’s first new manager for 22 years when he succeeded Arsene Wenger in the Emirates’ dugout. Emery comes to England with a potential point to prove as former club, Paris Saint Germain, decided not to renew his contract despite winning back-to-back Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophee des Champions titles. However, the decision, perhaps, came due to the Spaniard only winning the league once whilst failing to reach the quarter-finals in both Champions League campaigns overseen by him. Emery’s most successful tenure came whilst in charge of Sevilla. Sevilla won three consecutive Europa League trophies from 2014 to 2016 whilst recording two fifth place and one seventh place finish. Whilst at PSG, Emery adopted two main formations when setting out his teams; 4-3-3 and 4-3-2-1. He would encourage his fullbacks to drive up the pitch to overlap and provide crosses. As a result, a main defensive midfielder would drop deep to sit just infant of the centre backs whilst only one other midfielder would push on to fill the hole behind the front three. Emery’s appointment is an interesting one for both parties as Arsenal and Emery alike are trying to somewhat rebuild their reputations.

Let’s move forward… on the pitch! Come On You Gunners!

A post shared by Unai Emery (@unaiemery_) on


PREDICTON – 4TH

Arsenal aren’t quite ready to challenge for the title but a return to the Champions League is certainly on the cards for the Gunners. They’ve had one of their best transfer windows in recent years as they’ve seemingly strengthened in positions that have let them down in previous seasons. The flourishing partnership of Aubameyang and Lacazette almost guarantees goals and the signing of Torriera balances their midfield whilst allowing Mkhitaryan and Ozil to pull the strings further forward. The biggest worry for Arsenal is that they follow suit of Manchester United when transitioning from a long-term manager. David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal failed to deliver the winning football United fans had come accustomed to, but Arsenal fans shouldn’t worry too much. The Gunners don’t have the ageing squad United did when Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and they’ve also had a far superior post Wenger transfer window; Moyes’ only signing being Marouane Fellaini during the 2013 summer window. With Emery’s Europa League record Arsenal fans can be excited about their chances in the tournament this season and with a Europa League trophy whilst qualifying for the Champions League, Emery’s could become a fan favourite in no time.


PROBABLE LINE-UP

Arsenal 4-1-2-3 football formation

Sub-edited by Ciaran Wiseman

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