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Arsenal: 2017/18 Premier League Season Preview




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.

Fancy a new challenge this season? Sign up to Draft Fantasy Football and prove your knowledge of the Premier League!

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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.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.


Tottenham Hotspur fans react to Danny Welbeck dive

Tottenham Hotspur fans were not pleased with Danny Welbeck’s dive v AC Milan.



Arsenal successfully knocked AC Milan out of the Europa League last night with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. The hero of the night was England forward Danny Welbeck. The striker scored two goals as Arsenal completed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory over the Rossoneri.

But Milan had taken an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu’s bamboozling long-range strike. Arsenal, at that stage, were looking on the ropes. Welbeck though won and then dispatched a penalty to level the scoring. The word ‘won’ being the optimum word.

Welbeck dived for the penalty, there is no doubt about that. Ricardo Rodriguez barely breathed on the Arsenal man, who tumbled to the ground hopefully. When the penalty was given, he looked in disbelief.

Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli (2L) is booked for a dive during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

For Tottenham Hotspur fans it was a moment they did not appreciate.

Spurs have seen Dele Alli victimised throughout the season, and some would say rightly so, for his diving. There is no doubt that the England midfielder has dived this season and not many Tottenham fans would suggest not.

But the anger here lies with what Tottenham fans believe is hypocrisy. There is also a certain level or irony given a thinly veiled dig by Arsene Wenger against Spurs’ players this season.

After the highly controversial 2-2 draw at Anfield, where Harry Kane was accused of diving v Liverpool, Wenger had this to say, as reported by the BBC:

“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it.

“But English players have learned very quickly and might be the masters now.”


“Sometimes players play a little bit with the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees.”

With Arsenal their next Premier League opponents, Arsene Wenger’s barb was not hard to see.

When that statement came out Tottenham fans quickly pointed out occasions when Arsenal’s English stars had been caught diving. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were prominent examples. Now, in Welbeck, Tottenham have seen another.

Arsenal fans will be happy that their team have booked a place in the next round of the Europa League. On balance it was more than a fair result as over two legs Arsenal outplayed the Italian giants.

But the Welbeck moment certainly put an asterix on the game for Spurs fans.

Here is some of the best reaction from Twitter…

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AC Milan

Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.

They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.

These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.

Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.

The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.

Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.

Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.

Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.

The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.

It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.

When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.

If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.

There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.

Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.

It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.

It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.

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Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Amex

Arsenal lost for a fourth successive game as Brighton & Hove Albion bullied their opponents into submission.

Rob Meech



Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as Brighton & Hove Albion took a giant leap towards Premier League survival.

The pressure on Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, which has intensified since the turn of the year, looks set to reach new heights after another dismal day at the office for his charges.

Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in control before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were unable to muster an equaliser.

For Brighton, this was a huge result that lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Is beleaguered Wenger’s position now untenable?

It lurches from one disaster to another for Wenger.

He probably thought the nadir had been reached after last weekend’s limp performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, when his future became the main topic of debate.

The Frenchman would have hoped for a reaction from his players in the subsequent fixtures.

Instead, his side were brushed aside against City in the Premier League before producing another sub-standard display here against Brighton.

Added to their shock Europa League reversal at home to minnows Ostersunds, it is the first time Arsenal have lost four successive matches since 2002.

After last season’s FA Cup triumph, Wenger penned a new contract that takes him through to the summer of 2019.

Now, however, it’s difficult to see how he can last beyond the end of the current campaign.

Perhaps only by lifting the Europa League, which would automatically qualify Arsenal for the Champions League, could Wenger realistically remain in situ.

Even then, it may not be enough. His players look devoid of any confidence and need an injection of new ideas.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Brighton take a massive step towards safety 

The focus will understandably be on Arsenal, but Brighton’s display should not be overlooked.

This victory extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to four games and has all but banished thoughts that they might be dragged into a relegation scrap.

Yes, it was a good time to face Arsenal, but Chris Hughton’s side made a fast start with two early goals that went a long way to recording their first win over the Gunners since 1982.

Brighton’s performance bore all the hallmarks of their season so far.

Despite being one of the lowest scorers in the division, they took their chances when they came, exploiting Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces and aerial balls.

In the second half, the home side remained very organised defensively, which was key when the Gunners upped the tempo.

Modest and unassuming, Hughton has done a terrific job on the south coast.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Defensive shortcomings continue to haunt Arsenal 

Wenger has regularly spoken of his belief that Arsenal cannot compete on a level playing field with the likes of Manchester City.

And while his side’s record against fellow ‘Big Six’ clubs is regularly scrutinised, the Gunners’ results against the lesser lights have not been good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.

In 2018 alone, Arsenal have been beaten by Swansea City, Bournemouth and now Brighton in the Premier League, while losing to Nottingham Forest and Ostersunds in cups.

A lack of leadership has long been an issue on the pitch and it’s an area Wenger has consistently ignored.

Defensively, the Gunners are too easy to bully.

Take Shkodran Mustafi’s defending for the first goal in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, for example.

Particularly away from home, Arsenal are prone to imploding.

Despite the attacking talent Wenger has at his disposal, his failure to invest in proven defenders at the top level looks set to cost him dearly.

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