2016/17 Season Recap
The main point of conversation during Arsenal’s 2016/17 campaign was the future of Arsene Wenger. Constant protests from fans and criticism from the media may have overshadowed how Arsenal actually performed last season.
Arsenal failed to do what they have done the past decade and missed qualification into the Champions League. A fifth place finish was all the Gunners could manage; one point behind Liverpool.
In Europe, Arsenal topped their Champions League group, which brought massive expectations as they entered the Round of 16. However in the most coincidental circumstances, they drew Bayern Munich and the result was not pretty; 10-2 on aggregate to the German side.
In terms of cup runs, this was much better. A fifth round loss in the EFL Cup wasn’t great, but an FA Cup victory seemed to keep Wenger in the job. They beat rivals Chelsea in the final and provided a great end to a rather disappointing season.
Sead Kolasinac, LB (Schalke, Free transfer)
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon, £46.5m)
Yaya Sanogo, ST (Toulouse, Free transfer)
Wojciech Szczesny, GK (Juventus, £10m)
Most important player: Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal’s biggest problem for years has been their lack of a true world-class number 9. Olivier Giroud has been a great serviceman for the club, but has failed to score enough goals to bring a title to the Emirates.
They have Danny Welbeck in their ranks, but he also lacks goals and isn’t a 20-a-season player – a fact that Louis Van Gaal knew when selling the Welbeck to Arsenal from Manchester United. While Alexis Sanchez, a world class player in his own right, has played up front his natural position is out on the wing with a striker up front to create for and combine with. This man is Alexandre Lacazette.
100 goals in 203 appearances for Lyon, Lacazette is what all Arsenal fans have been calling for. 28 goals in Ligue 1 last year shows the type of form Arsenal need to take the leap from just making the top four to contending for the title.
Their squad is arguably ready now. In the past few seasons they have signed the defenders, they have a ‘good enough’ midfield and, with Lacazette, their attack is deadly. Arsenal fans will just be hoping it doesn’t take him too long to adapt to the Premier League.
One to watch: Rob Holding
The 21-year-old featured only eight times last season for the Gunners, mostly later on when injuries were Arsenal’s biggest issue. Holding’s performance in the FA Cup final was second to none, however, and he was extremely impressive for such a young player. He became a fan-favourite later on in the season and was one of the main positives of their largely disappointing 2016/17 campaign.
Assuming that Arsene Wenger continues to play with three at the back, we could see Holding become one of Arsenal’s most reliable defenders. If their attacking options are ready to challenge for the title, it is important that Arsenal can defend well enough to hold the best teams at bay. Holding may be at the core of this.
Biggest weakness: Club unity
Although there have been major issues in defence and with injuries, Arsenal’s biggest weakness is an off-pitch factor. Their major weakness seems to be unity between the club, the manager, and their fans.
Throughout the entirety of last season, unrest between the club and its supporters was a huge hindrance to Arsenal’s on-field performances, as it seems the manager does not handle pressure well. Wenger himself has admitted the saga over his contract extension may have negatively impacted the contract situation with Alexis Sanchez & Mesut Ozil. How big an impact have the fans had on Wenger’s contract situation? Seems to be a vicious cycle that’s doing the Gunners no favours.
With Wenger’s future set in stone, Arsenal will hope that last season is firmly behind them. They will hope that fans trust the club, their goals, methodologies and objectives, which will improve how they can push forward as a unified football club.
In a formation that seen throughout the back-end of last season, the 3-4-3 seemed to find a successful team for Arsene Wenger.
Giving freedom for the front three to be more attacking and the wingback’s to show their attacking qualities as well as their defensive ones allowed players like Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to flourish. The main personnel changes from last season include the introduction of both of their major signings.
First five games
In the opening game of the Premier League season, Arsenal host Leicester City. In more recent times, Arsenal have struggled to achieve good results in their first game, but their record against the Foxes -even when Leicester won the league- will give the Gunners some confidence. If they are to be considered a title contender, it is important to come out the gates strong.
When is Stoke away an easy contest? The Potters will come out and play their game at the Bet365 Stadium, which will include frustrating their opponent and eating away at them until their chances arrive. Their 4-1 win in this fixture last season will hopefully be replicated in week two.
In their first big game of the season, Arsenal travel to Anfield. Arsenal have a history of not showing up in big games and this must be improved if Wenger’s men genuinely see themselves as title contenders. They will look to this game to send an early message to the rest of the league as they attempt to take it to Klopp’s ‘gegenpress’ at Anfield.
A game where three points is a must. It is games like this where Arsenal simply must get the job done and move onto the next week. A win here from the Gunners will hopefully consolidate a promising start.
Oh boy, what a fixture! In a game where Arsenal rarely grab anything, a trip to Stamford Bridge will be the end to a tough month of fixtures. To transform from a top four team to a title-winning team, they must get over their Stamford Bridge hoodoo. After the first five games, they will be hoping to beat Leicester, Stoke and Bournemouth. As for the two huge games, if they can grab a win or even four points, it will be a brilliant start.
While winning the league seems highly unlikely, that will be their aim. However, getting back into the top four and into Champions League football will be the absolute minimum.
They will look to grab silverware somewhere along the way, and if they can follow Manchester United’s lead from last season in the Europa League and gain qualification into next year’s Champions League, a lot of pressure on Wenger and the Gunners will fade away.
Fans will desperately want more than coming 4th and the FA Cup, and a strong Premier League campaign would probably be at the forefront of Arsenal minds.
RealSport Prediction: 6th
With other teams appearing to be so much stronger and more stable and both Manchester clubs strengthening so much this summer, it is RealSport’s prediction that the Gunners finish a disappointing sixth. It is hard to see Arsenal being able to knock off the sides above them and they have done little to improve their squad.
It is imperative they hang onto Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez as there could be huge trouble if they don’t. At this stage with this squad, and tough European football, sixth is perhaps the best they can hope for.
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