Arsenal head into their second season with Unai Emery on the back of such a lop-sided season you’d be forgiven for thinking Arsene Wenger was stashed away in the rafters pulling the strings of the former Sevilla boss.
It’s clear it will take more than a season, more than a year, more than a couple of transfer windows to forge a squad made from the material the Gunners’ fans demand.
Last season boasted a sensational start, followed by a disappointing end. If you’re a Game Of Thrones fans stowed away in Islington, you’ve had a rough 2019 so far.
Emery has much to prove in the coming campaign, but does he have enough to galvanise his squad and set them on course for a Champions League return?
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about Arsenal ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Wait for it … ????
— Gunnersaurus (@Gunnersaurus) July 29, 2019
Where did Arsenal finish last season?
5th. The first season of the post-Wenger era was always going to be a struggle.
Opening week defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea aside, Arsenal enjoyed a terrific 14-game unbeaten run into December but the pressure dropped over the winter months and the Gunners returned to an all too familiar pattern of inconsistency.
Four defeats in seven games to end the season left Arsenal fans seething as they missed out on Champions League football by one point, finishing just behind Tottenham.
Who is Arsenal’s key player?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A last day brace for Aubameyang saw the Premier League Golden Boot trophy split three ways between himself and fellow African superstars Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Aubameyang won’t be thoroughly pleased with his debut campaign in the Premier League though, with a string of misses attached to his name.
Arsenal’s ambitions are pinned to his form, and his connection with Alexandre Lacazette.
They are the most deadly tandem strike partnership in the top flight, in a league filled with lone rangers. Emery must be brave enough to play to their strengths and they will deliver the goods.
Who is Arsenal’s biggest summer signing?
William Saliba (£27m). At long last the Gunners are picking up pace in the transfer market, but they’re provoking plenty of head-scratching with their moves.
Dani Ceballos has arrived from Real Madrid on loan and young Brazilian forward Gabriel Martinelli has arrived to compete for a place in the future, that’s where the logic appears to have ran out.
Arsenal are reported to be running on limited resources, which is why the world was pleasantly surprised when the club dropped £27m on 18-year-old centre-back William Saliba.
The 6ft4 defender has filled his frame with years left to grow, his strength particularly impressive even as a 17-year-old in Ligue 1.
Arsenal believe they’ve found the next big prospect, and fair play to them for investing in the future, but with Laurent Koscielny on thin ice following his refusal to fly out on the US tour and Shkodran Mustafi defending like… Shkodran Mustafi, surely they needed a centre-back for now?
Saliba will return to Saint-Etienne on loan for the season, meaning the Gunners can’t even fall back on their biggest money signing so far.
Well, I guess when you’re running on such a limited budget, you’ve got to spend it wisel… SEVENTY TWO MILLION POUNDS for Nicholas Pepe!
Yep, the cash-strapped Gunners have found £100m down the side of their settee and not a penny of it will be spent on a defender to play this season.
Pacey winger Pepe’s imminent arrival will undoubtedly improve their attacking strength and depth, but it seems the priorities have been entirely skewed, and Arsenal could once again pay for failing to address their desperate need for a top centre-back.
Who is the Arsenal manager? Meet Unai Emery
Serial Europa League champion Emery was halted in his tracks during the eerie night in Baku earlier this year, but that won’t stop him going for it again.
We’re likely to see a gap open up between the top three and the ‘next three’ (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd) with the battle for the top four set to be immensely tight.
Given the fine margins between success and failure in the top flight, Emery will continue to feel the Europa League represents a fantastic chance for Arsenal to jostle their way back to the top table of European football.
Emery changed his style often in 2018/19, which appeared to muddle his own players as much as it did their opposition.
He must find a settled approach with the ability to be unpredictable, as opposed to apparent improvisation throughout the campaign.
Arsenal fixtures – The Start
11th Aug: Newcastle United (A)
17th Aug: Burnley (H)
24th Aug: Liverpool (A)
Arsenal fixtures – The Run-In
2nd May: Liverpool (H)
9th May: Aston Villa (A)
17th May: Watford (H)
The fans say…
ANDREW MANGAN, ARSEBLOG
Who will be your key player this season?
As it stands we’re a team which needs goals to offset defensive weakness, so I’d say Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He got 31 goals last season and we’ll need him to do something similar again.
Any young talents to look out for?
Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe are four very talented young players knocking on the door. They should feature in the Europa League and the League Cup at first.
There’s a lot of speculation about the club looking at Wilf Zaha. Given that resources are limited, should he be a priority signing? Are there other areas in greater need of reinforcements?
Yes, Arsenal need at least one central defender, maybe two, so there are better ways of spending the money. However, there’s no doubt a player who has the qualities Zaha has would be a big help also.
How can Mesut Ozil be included the starting XI in a way that benefits himself, Lacazette and Aubameyang? Or is that simply not possible?
It’s possible when Arsenal play with a back four rather than a back three, so again we come back to sorting out the defence and having defenders good enough to play in that system.
Where will you finish in the Premier League?
With the squad in its current state, 6th. Hopefully with reinforcements we can get back into the top four.
Where will Arsenal finish? RadioTimes.com says…
As mentioned, the competition for the final top four spot is likely to be incredibly close, but it won’t necessarily be a high quality shoot-out.
Arsenal have defensive frailties, highlighted by the fact Mustafi remains in the squad and a Mesut Ozil-shaped hole in their wage budget, but they may still be able to score their way into the Champions League reckoning.
In Aubameyang and Lacazette they have genuine class among their forward ranks, both capable of picking out match-winners and putting any team to the sword when in full flow.
Their points tally may not rise greatly, if at all, but Arsenal have a deadly touch that Chelsea and United may lack in the hunt for the top four.