With the Premier League returning in a week, here are my thoughts on how Arsenal are likely to get on in the 2017/18 season.
Story of Last Season
Last campaign Arsenal finished 5th in the Premier League, missing out on a Champions League spot for the first time since 1996. They were the only team in the top six to miss out as Manchester United qualified through winning the Europa League. Arsene Wenger’s future was a talking point for the entire season and led to numerous protests including the infamous ‘battle of the banners’ in Arsenal’s match against West Bromwich Albion. Two plane banners flew over the Hawthorns in quick succession, the first one against Wenger and the second one in support of him. Only once Arsenal had finished 5th did Arsene Wenger finally admit that uncertainty over his future affected Arsenal in their Champions League pursuit.
Sead Kolasinac: Arsenal’s first signing of the summer was highly-rated Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer. The Bosnia-Herzegovina international joined from Schalke on a five-year contract. He was named in the 2016/17 Bundesliga team of the season after contributing three goals and seven assists from 36 appearances in all competitions. Kolasinac is set to become Arsenal’s first choice left-back and left wing-back with Nacho Monreal as a more than able deputy.
Alexandre Lacazette: After signing Kolasinac on a free, Arsenal went all out and acquired the services of Alexandre Lacazette for a club record fee of £46.5m on a five-year deal. The Gunners have been in serious need of a top-quality striker for several years and they have finally got their man. Lacazette was the second-highest scorer in Ligue 1 last season with 28 goals for Lyon, a league tally only bettered by PSG’s Edinson Cavani, with 35.
Alexis Sanchez: He’s been linked with a move away all summer but is finally back in training with Arsenal as Wenger continues to insist that Alexis Sanchez is not for sale. Sanchez is a match winner and an incredibly determined individual who wants to play 90 minutes every week. The Chilean had a sensational season for the Gunners last season, scoring 30 goals and providing 19 assists in all competitions. Whether he goes this season or next, Sanchez will be sorely missed.
Laurent Koscielny: Arsenal fell apart without Laurent Koscielny in their Champions League games last season against Bayern Munich and at 31, he is a key component to Arsenal’s defence. Captain Per Mertesacker was injured for the majority of last season and Koscielny stepped up to lead the side in his absence. However, Arsenal will be without Laurent Koscielny for the first two league matches of the season (Leicester and Stoke) due to the three-match ban he received after a foul on Enner Valencia in Arsenal’s final league match of last season against Everton.
One to watch
Reiss Nelson: Pre-season games are perfect opportunities for youngsters to make an impression with the first team. Reiss Nelson has done exactly that. The attacking midfielder who joined the Arsenal academy as a nine-year-old has really impressed in pre-season. He travelled with the squad for their two-week tour of Sydney, Shanghai and Beijing and played in the Emirates Cup. Nelson was superb against Sydney FC last month and followed that up with another excellent performance against Benfica in the Emirates Cup when he provided a fantastic assist for Olivier Giroud following a brilliant run and pinpoint cross. As if this wasn’t enough, he scored an outrageous goal in front of 5,000 supporters at the Emirates Stadium during Arsenal’s Member’s Day. Hopefully Reiss Nelson will have the chance to showcase his ability in the coming season, he certainly has the confidence for it.
Despite the constant protests and general unrest around the club last season, Arsene Wenger still remains at the club. He signed a new two-year contract at the end of May and only admitted once the season was over that the uncertainty over his future had affected the team. Arsenal ended the season with a 13th FA Cup win against London rivals Chelsea. With this victory, Wenger became the most successful manager in the competition with seven wins and Arsenal the most successful club in the competition’s history. However, this just papered over the cracks. Arsene Wenger will remain at the club until 2019 at the very least. He will have to make significant changes if he is serious about challenging for the Premier League title.
Final Standing Prediction
Despite finally signing a top-quality striker, I still believe Arsenal will miss out on the top four again. Manchester City and Manchester United have spent huge amounts of money as they challenge for the title. Chelsea are determined to have a better defence than the 2015/16 season. Everton have spent almost £100m to break into the top four and Liverpool have also improved. Arsenal face an uphill battle to finish in the top four and given their tendency to have a terrible month every season, they could easily get left behind. I think Arsenal will finish 5th again with Arsene Wenger blaming the Europa League for causing fatigue among his players.
Featured Image Credit: ctwino