The Gunners played their first pre-season friendly on Saturday 14 July against Boreham Wood. Arsenal came out 8-0 winners in the match, boding well for the upcoming Premier League campaign. That means it is time for the 2018-2019 Arsenal season preview.
Arsenal Season Preview
Last Time Out
The past two years have finished on bittersweet terms. The team lifted the 2017 FA Cup in surprise fashion, beating both Manchester City and Chelsea along the way, yet finished outside the top four for the first time under Arsène Wenger.
Last season saw a dismal sixth-place finish for the team, an exit from the FA Cup at just the third round, a loss to Pep Guardiola’s side in the Carabao Cup final and a semi-final exit in the Europa League.
However, the negativity subsided just a bit after Wenger announced he was leaving the club. This allowed the fans to unite to bid adieu to the Frenchman. Just how will this season turn out for Arsenal?
Player to Watch
In typical Arsenal fashion, the strength of this year’s squad is in attack. For the Gunners to achieve their most important aspiration of the season, Champions League football, their talented strike force must perform.
Therefore, the player to watch is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the former Borussia Dortmund striker. The Gabon international netted 10 goals and created four more in just 13 league appearances last season. That put him on pace for a whopping 29 goals in a full 38 match season!
What may be more impressive is the fact he did it while deployed on the left flank, only playing through the centre when he switched off with Alexandre Lacazette.
Much is expected of ‘Auba’ from Gooners this season. To re-join Europe’s elite clubs in the Champions League, he will have to deliver.
Head Coach – Unai Emery
What Arsenal Season Preview would be complete without discussing Wenger’s replacement?
For the first time in club history, Arsenal enter the new campaign without a manager. Instead, the Gunners have restructured their model and hired a head coach, Unai Emery. He will be far less influential at the club compared to Wenger, with Ivan Gazidis, Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi taking over certain responsibilities which were previously left to the manager.
Emery’s last post was at PSG, where he was unable to make the impact expected on the continent. However, the Spaniard did manage to win five trophies during his two-year tenure.
He also won the Europa League three times in succession during his time at Sevilla. Unai Emery previously managed at Valencia, where he claimed three successive third-place finishes in La Liga.
Arsenal will hope he can find similar success in north London, as their most important aim will be either a top-four finish or to win the Europa League, thereby cementing their place in the Champions League.
Emery is a proponent of the 4-2-3-1 formation, as was Arsène Wenger. Also, like his French predecessor, the Spaniard enjoys playing an attacking game, so expect a lot of goals from this Arsenal team.
The Gunners have given their squad major face-lifts over the past two transfer windows. First came the attacking duo of Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January, followed by a quartet in the summer.
Veteran defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stefan Lichtsteiner will hope to mend a leaky Arsenal defence. Meanwhile, highly-rated 22-year-old Lucas Torreira will hope to finally replace the talismanic figure of Santi Cazorla in the centre of the park. Finally, Bernd Leno, formerly of Bayer Leverkusen, will challenge Petr Cech for the spot between the sticks.
These moves were all prudent, aimed at building squad depth, improving the weaker areas from last season and building for the future. Therefore, expect to see an improvement over last season’s distant sixth-place league finish.
While it is too soon to expect a concerted title challenge from the Arsenal, a return to the Champions League seems within reach. The fact that the summer transfers were taken care of early also bodes well for a club which traditionally stumbles off the block early in the season.
Predicted League Finish: Fourth
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