Premier League 2020/21: Arsenal season Preview
2019-20 finish: 8th (14W-14D-10L, 56 points)
Head coach: Mikel Arteta
2019-20 Premier League top scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (22 PL goals)
Other trophies: FA Cup, FA Community Shield
The 2019-20 Premier League season was the worst for Arsenal if their performances in the last 25 years of Premier League are considered. The Gunners finished eighth last season and that was their lowest finish since ending up as the 12th-placed team in the 1994-95 season. They were on a horrible run of form during the initial part of the season and that's why manager Unai Emery was sacked as well.
However, there was some improvement seen once Mikel Arteta took over as the Arsenal manager and they recorded impressive wins over Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool late in the season as well. Their FA Cup and FA Community Shield victories only served as an affirmation of that improvement and thus it can be said that there are only better things in store for them as far as the forthcoming season is considered.
Issues Arsenal faced last season
Arsenal had two major problems last season. One was the vulnerability of their defence and the other was their overdependence on Aubameyang for scoring.
The Gunners had conceded 48 goals in the 2019-20 season which was the third-worst among the sides who finished inside the top 10. Only Chelsea (54) and Sheffield United (50) had conceded more goals than Arsenal. The defenders were slow at times or made pretty silly mistakes which saw them conceding at crucial moments in the games.
Their overdependence on Aubameyang cost them a lot as well. Alexandre Lacazette was completely out of form, Mesut Ozil was well past his prime and Nicholas Pepe was misfiring big time as well. Apart from Aubameyang, they had no reliable options who could score consistently. Moreover, they had no driving force in the midfield as well, which increased their woes even more.
Have the Gunners addressed their gremlins?
Arteta has been seen making efforts to strengthen their defence this summer. He acquired the services of Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes for a reported fee of $33 million from Lille. 19-year-old defender William Saliba, who was acquired last season for a reported fee of $34 million from Saint-Etienne and then sent back on loan again, is back after completing his loan spell too. Moreover, the loan deals of Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari have been made permanent as well.
To improve their attacking play, Arteta has brought Brazilian winger Willian from Chelsea on free transfers. Willian specialises in set-pieces and can play as a creative force in the midfield too. During his stint of seven years with Chelsea, Willian won five major trophies. Moreover, he is coming to the Emirates Stadium on the back of an excellent outing in the 2019-20 Premier League season as well.
The 32-year-old scored nine goals and assisted seven times in the last Premier League season. His experience will be quite valuable for Arsenal as young players like Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, who impressed with their performances towards the end of the last season, can learn a lot from him.
Prediction for 2020/21 season
With major issues fixed and more experience added to the squad, Arsenal look primed for a top six finish. And if they can keep up their consistency for longer lengths throughout the season, they can even finish as one of the top four teams. One major challenge for Arteta, though, will be to keep Aubameyang with the club. He is a hot prospect in the transfer market and it remains to be seen how the management handles his situation.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Justin Tallis