Arsenal’s key men for the coming season
Here is a look at some of the players who hold the key to a successful season for Arsenal
Unai Emery’s first season in charge of Arsenal was supposed to culminate in Champions League qualification, either via the Premier League or by winning the Europa League.
A spectacular implosion of form towards the end of last season put paid to those hopes in cruel fashion.
At time of writing Arsenal remain locked in transfer negotiations for Nicolas Pepe, Wilfried Zaha and Kieran Tierney.
If none of those deals are finalised and Arsenal go into the new campaign with their current squad, Emery’s team will not be featuring highly in the pundits Premier League prediction.
New signings aside, who will Arsenal and Emery have to rely on for a good campaign that sees the club return to the Champions League?
Many Arsenal fans have been left perplexed at the club’s transfer policy this summer, with Arsenal seemingly targeting attacking players. To the outside world it appeared as though the Gunners were fine in that department last season – scoring 6 more goals than Tottenham and 10 more than Chelsea.
Key to Arsenal’s lethal attack were Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, who contributed to almost half of the club’s goals. Aubameyang led the way with 22 strikes – making him joint top scorer in the league – whilst Lacazette found the net on 13 occasions.
The pair’s ability to not only score out of nothing, but to create for each other and the team masked many of the squad’s deficiencies. Although a fifth placed finish was less than impressive, it is frightening to think where the club would have been without Lacazette and Aubameyang.
Whilst other areas of the squad clearly need improvement, any success next season will be largely dependent on these two continuing to plunder goals.
(Aubameyang and Lacazette’s performances provided the platform for much of Arsenal’s play last term.)
Aaron Ramsey handled himself with dignity and class last season as he bid farewell to the club and moved to Italian giants Juventus. The Welshman’s humility somewhat hides the massive gap that he has left in the Arsenal team.
Ramsey was pivotal to much of Emery’s pressing play last season, and as of yet the club are still to find a viable replacement. Step forward Joe Willock, the young enterprising midfielder that Zinedine Zidane recently described as an ‘impressive top talent’.
The youngster has a real opportunity to stake a claim for first-team football in the opening weeks of the campaign. Midfield rivals such as Guendozi, Torreira and Elneny are all behind Willock in their pre-season preparations.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Willock will start in the club’s opening day fixture against Newcastle. If he grasps the opportunity afforded to him, 2019/2020 could be a breakthrough season for Willock.
Unai Emery has often spoken of favouring a ‘5 captains’ approach, whereby he places the emphasis on 5 players to provide leadership on the pitch. When pushed to name those 5, Emery alluded to Holding as his ‘English option’.
Injuries impeded Holding last season, limiting him to just 10 appearances in the league. However, the club’s reluctance to recruit a new central defender and the continued existence of Shkodran Mustafi point towards a big season for the former Bolton defender.
The 23-year-old has been on England manager Gareth Southgate’s radar for some time, and 2019/2020 could be the campaign in which he kick-starts his career.