After last season’s disappointing campaign, missing out on the Champions League for the first time since Arsene Wenger arrived at the club, it’s fair to say Arsenal need a big improvement this season.
Winning the FA Cup for a record 13th time did little to paper over the cracks of a poor Premier League campaign and, although a late season revival of eight wins in nine matches took them to within touching distance of the top four on the final day, it was merely a case of too little too late.
But pre-season preparations at the Emirates have been coming along nicely and, after their Community Shield victory over Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, they’ll host Leicester City on Friday night in high spirits.
How has their summer been so far?
All in all, it hasn’t been too shabby as far as the north London side are concerned.
Easy victories over Australian opponents were followed by a penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich – putting to bed their recent misery against them – and a fatigued loss against rivals Chelsea.
On return to England they competed in the bizarre Emirates Cup, somehow winning despite losing more matches than Sevilla courtesy of the rule that dictates that a point is earnt for each goal scored in the tournament, before getting revenge on Chelsea in the season-opening Community Shield.
On that occasion it was one of their two summer signings, the 23-year-old Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac who arrived on a free from FC Schalke, who scored a late equaliser to take it to penalties.
But it’s their other summer addition that has been hitting the headlines and causing great levels of excitement around the Emirates, with Alexandre Lacazette – the out-and-out, proven striker that Arsenal have been crying out for in recent years – arriving in a new club record £46.5 million deal from Lyon.
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Is there a man in English football who divides opinion more than Arsene Wenger?
Last season he almost became a pantomime villain figure at the Emirates, with the ‘Wenger In’ or ‘Wenger Out’ argument dividing a club in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time in the top-flight.
There was a growing feeling that he was running on borrowed time after yet another dismal Champions League exit to Bayern Munich but, after coming out victorious in the FA Cup final once again, he quashed all speculation of leaving the club by penning a new two-year contract at the Emirates.
It’s fair to say that the jury is still out on whether this was a good decision or not – and it can be assured that the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade won’t be disappearing soon – but time will tell this season.
How could the Gunners line-up this season?
After the success of his 3-5-2 experimental system towards the back end of last season, it’s likely that Wenger will persist with this formation heading into the Gunners’ first game on Friday evening.
Petr Cech will retain the number one jersey despite pressure from David Ospina, and captain Laurent Koscielny is expected to stand tall at the heart of a back three alongside the returning Shkodran Mustafi and one other central player from either Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding or Nacho Monreal.
The impressive displays from Kolasinac leave it almost impossible to leave him out, meaning that Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will fight it out for the right-wing back slot, whilst it is likely that Granit Xhaka will be joined by Aaron Ramsey to add some defensive steel and grit through the middle.
And the rest of the Arsenal line-up almost writes itself, with Ozil sitting in behind talisman Sanchez and new arrival Lacazette as they look to add much-needed firepower to their attack this campaign.
Who are Arsenal’s best fantasy football options?
As with any side that’s challenging for the Premier League title there are three or four obvious picks within the first-team, and in Arsenal the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and now Alexandre Lacazette are the men that are almost guaranteed to be scoring big points almost week in, week out.
But if you’re looking for a more under-rated – and more economical – pick look no further than Arsenal’s highly under-rated summer signing Sead Kolasinac, the burly Bosnian left-back who arrived on a free.
During pre-season he’s impressed hugely with his desire to drive forward and, despite only being a substitute during the Community Shield on Sunday, once on the pitch he showed exactly what he’s all about with lung-busting runs forward, eventually popping up to earn his side an equaliser late on.
Should Arsene Wenger persist with a wing-back system throughout the new season then that is the type of impact that Kolasinac could have each matchday, certainly making him worth consideration.
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Premier League Verdict
Perhaps the toughest Premier League to predict in history is slowly creeping up on us, with any of the teams that finished in the top-six last season equipped enough to challenge for the league title.
Arsenal will head into the new season with renewed confidence after their FA Cup triumph, Community Shield win and their smart transfer business so far but it’s still to be seen whether they have the strength in depth and the winning mentality required to sustain a title challenge beyond March.
With there likely to be a catalogue of Europa League games to play, as well as their customary FA Cup adventure, it may be another long Premier League season for Arsene Wenger’s men if they don’t invest further.