The last three days of the transfer window could be decisive for Arsenal with club captain Laurent Koscielny halfway out the door and the Gunners still hoping to secure one or two more players to bolster their back four.
But will they make the top four? Here's a thorough look at the Gunners and their hopes for the season that lies ahead.
What's Arsenal's biggest challenge? 🏔
In short, keeping clean sheets. Arsenal only managed eight of those all season in 2018/2019, a statistic bettered by the likes of Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Cardiff City, and Newcastle. For a side chasing the Champions League places, having the 12th most clean sheets simply won't cut it.
Club captain Laurent Koscielny is expected to leave in the coming days, making a central defensive signing an urgent priority with Rob Holding still two months away from full fitness. Moves for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and Juve centre back Daniele Rugani are still in the pipeline. Fullback Héctor Bellerín is also on the road to recovery and his and Holding's returns will be a massive boost for Emery.
Pépé to inject something different 🇨🇮
Arsenal's record signing will be expected to hit the ground running from day one after a 72m move from Lille. The Ivorian dazzled in Ligue 1 last season for Lille, scoring 22 goals and assisting 11. Arsenal has lacked goals from wide areas in recent times and Pepe's pace, power and creativity could be the remedy.
Ramsey departure & a lack of fluency 🧐
Arsenal scored a few wonder-goals last season and went on an 11-match winning streak after losing their opening two fixtures under Emery. However, they struggled to produce the fluent, attractive football that Arsenal has become famous around the world for on a consistent basis.
Alex Lacazette was their most prolific assister in all competitions last season, highlighting how poor a season Özil had and how reliant Arsenal has become on Lacazette's hard work and defending from the front.
Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos will be tasked with linking midfield and attack. Although he's not a direct replacement for departed Juventus man Aaron Ramsey in terms of playing style, Ceballos will be expected to bring direction and incisiveness to Arsenal's midfield play. Unai Emery will have to replace Ramsey's athleticism and marauding box-to-box style that bore so much fruit for Arsenal in his decade at the club, including two winning goals in FA Cup finals.
Leadership & a blend of youth and experience 🗣
Granit Xhaka is being heavily-tipped for the captaincy with Koscielny close to tying up a move to Bordeaux. For so long, Arsenal's apparent lack of leadership has been a stick they've been beaten with and the reason they've failed to win a Premier League title since 2004. Xhaka was Borussia Mönchengladbach skipper at age 22 and has the tools to do the job, but will he be able to cut out his defensive lapses and costly errors? At 26, this should no longer be a concern.
Alongside Xhaka in the engine room will be the excellent 23-year-old Uruguayan Lucas Torreira. With a full season under his belt, the ex-Sampdoria man should bring bite and balance to Arsenal's midfield. English youngster Joe Willock is also set to compete for a midfield place after impressing in pre-season. Matteo Guendouzi, still only 20, is also becoming a regular. Torreira's red card away to Tottenham last season will highlight an area that needs work, whereas his virtuoso display in Arsenal's thrilling come-from-behind 4-2 win over their North London rivals at Emirates Stadium provides a glimpse into what this side can produce with their backs against the wall.
What's there to look forward to? ⚡️
Unai Emery's high-energy, high-press methods should be more ingrained in the players now after the Spaniard's first full season. It's also hard to look at a front three of Pépé, Aubameyang and Lacazette and not get excited at the potential damage they can do to defences.
It also looks as though the rift between Emery and chief playmaker Mesut Özil has been repaired. If the German is no his game, he'll thrive with pacey attackers running ahead of him. Arsenal fans will be hoping that his assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's clinical strike against Barcelona in a recent friendly will be a sign of things to come.
This Arsenal side has all of the attacking potency in the world, the question is whether they can knit it together and produce it in big games. The only certainty is that they'll look good in their new Adidas kit.
Predicted starting XI (4-2-3-1) 🧮
Leno; Bellerín, Sokratis, Holding, Kolašinac; Xhaka, Torreira; Pépé, Özil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Substitute options: Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Monreal, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Nelson, Ceballos, Elneny, Guendouzi, Mustafi
It's hard to see Arsenal making the top four if their defensive issues aren't addressed. They might outscore plenty of opponents but keeping the back door shut is another matter entirely. Arsenal will dazzle and frustrate fans in equal measure this season and their most realistic route to silverware is via the FA Cup or the Europa League.
With their defensive issues still mainly unresolved, we expect the Gunners to finish 4th in the Premier League, if and only if they negotiate the first six games without defeats against Tottenham and Liverpool.
What are you expecting from Unai Emery's Arsenal this season?
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