2020/21 Season Preview: Arsenal
Heading into the offseason it seemed like it was going to be another year of uncertainty and
scepticism for Arsenal fans about the state of their club. Despite the upturn in performances and FA Cup glory last season after the appointment of Mikel Arteta the jury still seemed to be out on where the club was heading. With the seemingly forever lasting contract discussions over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the precariousness of Mesut Ozil’s spot at the club and head coach Arteta publicly stating he has “big concerns” about whether he'll be given transfer funds to improve his squad, one wouldn’t blame the Arsenal faithful for feeling resigned about their clubs chances of seriously competing with the upper echelon of the Premier League. However:
-14/08: Ex-Chelsea winger Willian signs 3-year deal on a free
-16/08: Sky Italy report Aubameyang is close to signing new contract
-29/08: Arsenal triumph against Liverpool in penalties to take home the Community Shield trophy
-1/09: Arsenal agree deal with Real Madrid to sign Dani Ceballos on a second season-long loan
-2/09: Arsenal beat off competition from Manchester United, Everton and Napoli for 22-year-old centre-back Gabriel Magalhães in £27m transfer.
Off the back of a characteristic Wembley success and good recent business Arsenal are looking to be in much better shape going into the season. This Article will assess the gunners squad, Evaluate areas in which they can improve/add to and provide a verdict on how they will fare this season.
Areas of improvement under Arteta
Mikel Arteta has not solved all of Arsenal’s weakpoints but there has certainly been a marked improvement from Unai Emery’s regime. Arteta seems to have a long-term vision. An eye towards future proofing the club by giving opportunities to players like Bukayo Saka who has been a revalation since the new bosses’ appointment. He has also given chances to Reiss Nelson in the pre-season alongside not allowing Ainsley Maitland-Niles to leave, seeing him as a right back option with new signing Cedric Soares. Arteta’s philosophy that he attained
under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola seems to be rubbing off on the squad as well. There has been a higher focus on playing out from the back. The distance of goal kicks out from the back has decreased on average by 2 metres. The gunners are also playing a more fluid style of game. They are utilising the pace they possess which is shown through their improvement on the counter. The amount of counterattack shots Arsenal are taking has improved 0.6 of a shot per game. As mentioned there has been improvement under Arteta but it does still seem like a case of square pegs into round holes. Arteta is trying to implement a style of play revolving around possession and solid, structured positional play but has taken on a squad not quite capable of that yet.
Areas to improve upon
Creativity and goalscoring:
Let’s get this out of the way. There is no denying Arsenal have serious firepower up front with Alexandre Lacazette and even more so in Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. The problem comes with the sides reliance on these two to contribute directly to goals. Last season Arsenal scored 56 goals in the Premier League. Aubameyang and Lacazette directly contributed to 36 of these (through goals or assists). That means 65% of all Arsenals goals come through these two. Whilst it is promising that they have a firing frontline, there is simply too much reliance on these two to perform and when they don’t, which often happened last season in Lacazette’s case, Arsenal generally don’t win.
There was an improvement in this later on the season due to the immergence of Bukayo Saka but other players like Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah were inconsistent throughout. You Just feel, looking at Arsenal’s current squad, they do not have enough going forward outside of the two-talisman mentioned earlier. They have brought in an ageing Willian who only notched 4 goals from open play last season for a free-flowing Chelsea side. A signing that really does not breed a whole heap of confidence. They also lack someone to fill the boots of Mesut Ozil who has been the assist king of the Premier League since joining the North London side. Defence:
One area of the pitch Arsenal have improved in the transfer window is the backline. William Saliba has finally joined the club after a year being out on loan at St. Etienne and as mentioned previously, Gabriel has been brought in the sure up the defence as well. The
promising thing about these two is how young they are. At 19 and 22 years old respectively the pairing could be at the club for many years to come. Both players also fit the Arteta style with Gabriel having the 12th most avg. passes per game last season in Ligue 1 with 61.8 PPG. Saliba comes in slightly lower with 45.1 PPG but with significantly less minutes to gauge from. Arteta seems to have made defence a priority which was certainly needed as Arsenal have been known for their non-physical shaky defending for several seasons prior.
Rodrigo de Paul – Udinese
One of the first targets Arsenal should be looking to bring in is a dynamic midfielder capable of driving the ball forward in transition as a 10 with the ability to play the 8 role as well. Too often Alexandre Lacazette has to pick up the slack of the current Gunners midfield having to drop deep to collect the ball and adopt this role himself. An affordable but mercurial player, Argentine Rodrigo de Paul fits this mould perfectly. Lets list off some of his stats in Serie A last season.
-82% pass accuracy
-90 tackles + interceptions
-85 Shots (30 on target)
-83 chances created
-17 Big Chances created (2nd highest
-240 Crosses (highest)
Lets also have a look at WhoScored’s assessment of his strength and weaknesses:
De Paul is a player who most certainly goes under the radar in world football probably because of who he plays for, but he has been producing at a top level for a number of years now. His strengths are his dribbling, creativity and vision which suits Arsenal down to the ground because they need someone to take the load off Lacazette having to create regularly from deep. De Paul also has impressive defensive output and is not afraid to get stuck in; something Arsenal have been missing in their midfield for a long time, someone who can do both, create attacks and squander opposition attacks.
It would not surprise if Arsenal were able to beat their points tally from last season. They have sured up their defence and if they are able to make another creative signing before the start of the season the potential to break into the top 4 is there. I think it will heavily depend on the fortunes of other clubs. There has been a surprising amount of investment in this transfer window, despite the global financial situation caused by COVID-19. If Arsenal can build upon their Community Shield success, then it could be an exciting year for the Gunners. I Predict they will finish in 5th
That has it for our first season preview. Stay tuned for more as we will be analysing other Premier League clubs and what their fortunes will be going forward. Thanks for reading!