A new era has dawned at Arsenal and the dawn of Unai Emery’s reign at the Emirates Stadium is upon us following two decades under Arsene Wenger.
The former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla boss faces a baptism of fire by hosting defending champions Manchester City on Sunday, then enduring another tough test the following week with a trip across London to Chelsea.
Emery has invested into his squad this summer though, landing five new faces, and a number of them are expected to make their debut this weekend. Here, we have identified the likely line-up for the Gunners.
Goalkeeper – Leno
Arsenal have been crying out for a top-class goalkeeper for a number of seasons, despite landing Petr Cech from Chelsea in 2015, and the Gunners have turned towards Bernd Leno to become the new first-choice stopper at the Emirates Stadium.
It remains to be seen how much football Cech, now second in the pecking order, plays this season as Arsene Wenger in recent years used to utilised his second-string stopper in the cup competitions but it’s not known whether Emery will do the same.
Leno arrives with plenty of expectation and experience but has plenty of years ahead of him at 26 years of age.
Defence – Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles
The biggest issue for Arsenal ahead of their Premier League opener is found at left-back, where Sead Kolasinac is facing around ten weeks on the sidelines and Nacho Monreal is not yet fully fit. Because of that, Ainsley Maitland-Niles will play in a more unfamiliar role having done the same against Lazio.
There’s also another big absence in the middle, where Laurent Koscielny is sidelined until 2019, but a new face as arrived in Sokratis Papastathopoulos. He will play alongside Shkodran Mustafi and fans will want better performances than witnessed in pre-season.
On the right, Hector Bellerin remains first choice despite signing veteran Switzerland international Stephan Lichtstiner and that could actually work in the favour of the Spain ace, as he will have competition in his position to push him on.
Midfield – Ramsey, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Lacazette
The saga concerning Aaron Ramsey’s contract situation is yet to come to a close but fans will be thankful that the Wales international enters the season with the club and has battled back from a knock to be in contention to feature on Sunday.
Alongside him is the sort of player Arsenal have needed for a while, with Uruguay World Cup ace Lucas Torreira arriving to compete in a combative role for the Gunners and providing extra protection to a defence that was far too frail last season.
Torreira’s impact could allow the attacking trio to be more expansive and Arsenal look likely to hand starts to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, set for his first full season at the club, Mesut Ozil, who enters on the back of a poor World Cup, and Alexandre Lacazette.
Former Lyon man Lacazette will compete for a central role alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this season but could be forced out wide, where his pace could prove to be a real asset but it may be a concern on Sunday in front of an inexperienced full-back.
Attack – Aubameyang
Signed for a club-record fee in January, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the ground running upon his arrival in the Premier League by scoring 10 goals and contributing four assists in just 13 league appearances for the club.
The Gunners have significantly improved their attacking ranks in the past 12 months and Aubameyang enters the campaign as the club’s leading man, excelling in pre-season and having crafted a strong relationship with Lacazette.
With Mkhitaryan and Ozil playing balls through to the Gabon international, and Ramsey charging forward from midfield, Aubameyang could hit the sort of numbers that saw him regularly tear apart the Bundesliga.