Arsenal – 2018/19 team & season preview
For the first time in over 20 years Arsenal have a new man in charge. The Wenger era is over at Arsenal and Unai Emery begins his reign. The fans will be looking for an improvement on their sixth-place finish last year, 37 points behind Manchester City.
After 22 years there is a change in management at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, although the most impressive achievement being the invincibles season where they won the League title (2003-04) without losing a match for the entire season.
Unai Emery is now the man at the helm at the Emirates and the club has also shown the desire to improve the squad by spending money on signing five new players. This is a marked difference to the transfer policy of Arsenal in the past, often picking cheap young players to develop rather than spending big money.
Ins and outs
Swiss captain Stephan Lichtsteiner arrives on a free transfer from Juventus. The 34-year old is expected to bring a huge amount of experience and leadership to the side with his quality, positive mind set and determined attitude.
He is joined by Bernd Leno. The highly-rated German keeper is just 26-years-old and has made over 230 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen before agreeing to a £19.3m move. 30-year-old Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been added to bring some steel into the Arsenal team – the very experienced defender from Borussia Dortmund joined in £17.7 deal. He is an old school, no-nonsense type of defender with great physicality and tough tackles.
Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira has also signed for a fee of £27m. The 22-year-old is an industrious player with a great ability to make interceptions. The defensive midfielder is also a good passer of the ball, managing an average 86.7% completed pass rate for his former side Sampdoria.
A player who has impressed pre-season is Matteo Guendouzi. The 19-year old signed from Lorient for £7m and is likely to be challenging for a first team spot.
The team captain Per Mertesacker has retired and is now the manager of Arsenal Academy. The 2014 World Cup winner made 104 international appearances and 518 career club appearances scoring a total of 38 goals. Also released was Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard joined from Malaga in 2012 but a series of injuries restricted him to 180 appearances. West Ham signed Jack Wilshere on a free transfer. Jack made his senior team debut at just 16 years and 256 days, a record for the youngest ever league player, but the 26-year-old decided against signing a new contact.
Aims for the season
The last time Arsenal put their hands on the Premier League title was the 2003-04 season. Quite a long time for one of the biggest clubs in England. It may not be a realistic expectation for them to win it this season, but fans will likely be happy if Arsenal are still in contention in the New Year.
Arsenal play in the Europa League this year, a competition they also participated in last year, reaching the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Atletico Madrid 2-1 on aggregate. Interestingly, their new manager is the Europa League master, having led his former team Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strength – Quality squad. Arsenal seem to have spent well, a total of about £70m on a quality goalkeeper, two experienced defenders, and two defensive midfielders.
The biggest weakness over the years has been a quality striker to bang in goals for the team, but now they have two fierce attackers in front of goal in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandra Lacazette. The team now looks well-structured and balanced as they are strong in all areas of the pitch, and with a new manager in the side, they are more promising than they have ever been in years.
Weakness – Style of play. After 22-years under Wenger, the team now has to adapt to a new manager with a new style of play. The new manager plays with the original 4-2-3-1 formation different from the 3-4-2-1 and may take a while for the team to adjust to the new tactics and philosophies.
Most important players
Mesut Özil – The new Arsenal captain has been excellent at creating chances. The former German international has 50 assists since joining the club. This tally could rise with the quality of Lacazette and Aubameyang ahead of him.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – The striker took no time at all to adapt to the Premier League last season and his goals will be vital if Arsenal are to challenge the top four.
Where will they finish?
The bookmakers have Arsenal at 22/1 for the Premier League with 8/1 for the Europa League, 9/1 for the FA Cup and the EFL Cup.
We can see Arsenal’s season being inconsistent, expect brilliance one week followed by heavy defeats. For this reason, we cannot see Arsenal breaking into the top four. 5th or 6th is our prediction.