2016/17 Arsenal Season Preview

Last year’s position: 2nd

Current Manager: Arsène Wenger

Positives from last season

Despite stuttering periods of form throughout the season, Arsenal finished second in the league. It was their best finish since moving to the Emirates. Petr Cech proved to be an inspired signing, Mesut Özil came within inches of Thierry Henry’s assist record and Hector Bellerin continued to blossom as one of Europe’s most talented young defenders. Big game performances continued to improve with wins over both Manchester clubs and Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Weaknesses from last season

The Gunners’ inability to sustain form while under pressure was the major disappointment. Fatigue, injures to key players and a packed fixture schedule derailed any hopes of a third successive FA Cup win or noteworthy Champions League progress. A growing anti-Wenger movement and a sometimes toxic Emirates crowd did not exactly help, either. The usual old problems make fans wonder if the coming season will be as formulaic as last season.

Off-season progress

Arsenal’s most noteworthy signing is Granit Xhaka, arriving from Borussia Monchengladbach for £35 million. A suitable fit for Arsenal’s fluid passing play, the Swiss international is an improvement on Francis Coquelin. Bolton’s Player of the Year Rob Holding arrives, along with Japanese international Takuma Asano. Neither is expected to break into the first team immediately. Do not rule out loan moves for either players.

Arsenal have tried and failed to lure more stars to The Emirates with rejected bids for strikers Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette. These approaches show a clear intent to improve the squad, even if there is a stubbornness to do “the right thing” and refuse to pay over the odds for a player.

With no Emirates Cup and summer international tournaments, Arsenal ventured on a US Tour and sporadic appearances around Europe. RC Lens hosted Arsenal’s first friendly with a 1-1 draw. Two wins against the MLS All Stars and Chivas on their US tour suggested Arsenal were slowly finding their fitness and class again. A convincing 8-0 win over Viking FK and a 3-2 win against Manchester City in Sweden rounded off their pre-season adventures. Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all impressed in pre-season games ahead of an intriguing new Premier League season.

Players to look to

Off the back of some excellent performances at Euro 2016, Granit Xhaka will look to add his physicality, passing range and confidence on the ball to give Arsenal another edge in midfield. He will look to link up with midfield maestro Mesut Özil as he aims to further improve at Arsenal.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech will be relied on heavily this season, though David Ospina is an able understudy. Calum Chambers could well fill in for the injured Per Mertesacker and Gabriel alongside Laurent Koscielny in defence. A strong pre-season for Oxlade-Chamberlain will give him the confidence to finally succeed this season and quieten his critics.

Key matches

Arsenal will start the season with a tough test against Liverpool, a game not helped by injuries and unavailable players. With Spurs emerging as an imposing outfit and genuine threat to Arsenal’s claim as the best side in North London, their clashes will be as fiery as ever. Alongside these games, fixtures against José Mourinho’s Manchester United and Pep Guardiola’s City side might be juicy affairs given Wenger’s rivalry with the two.

 


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