The Mastermind brings you an exclusive guide to every single Premier League team going into the highly anticipated 2017-18 season. From lineups, to transfers to the wackiest of predictions, The Mastermind has you covered. Here is your guide to last year’s fifth place finishers and FA Cup winners, Arsenal.
Arsenal finally went for the blockbuster move in signing the highly talented Alexandre Lacazette this July. Few players in European football have scored more goals than Lacazette in the past five seasons so the French forward will likely be a welcomed addition to the club. With this massive new signing, there is already a sense of newfound optimism at Arsenal Football Club. Wenger’s men ended their lackluster 2016-17 season on a high by winning the FA Cup and the high of winning that tournament may likely carry over into next season. However, Arsene Wenger will always have his problems winning the league with the current squad that he has. Although Ozil, Sanchez and Lacazette are all world class players, more still needs to be done in the transfer market in reinforcing in central areas if they are to challenge for the title. Still, if a few key players can just reach their full potential this season, Arsenal may be able to surprise everyone.
PREDICTED STARTING XI
Switching to a 3-5-2/3-4-3 at the tail-end of the 2016-17 season is what helped to recover Arsenal’s form and avoid finishing any lower than already embarrassing position of fifth place. However, Wenger might be expected to resort back to his usual ways for the start of the 2017-18 campaign. The most intriguing thing about Arsenal’s lineup going into the season is how Lacazette will feature. He could play alongside or below Olivier Giroud, off the left with Sanchez on the right and Giroud in the middle or up there all on his own which is probably the most likely of possibilities. Xhaka and Ramsey are going to need to be all the more important this year if they are to aid Arsenal in their attempt to win the title while youngster Alex Iwobi may permanently steal a place in the eleven.
If Arsene Wenger does resort to a back-three after all, Arsenal’s lineup will likely be forever changing. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin are both capable of operating down the right while Mesut Ozil could play down the wing or through the middle. Rob Holding could also feature more heavily if a back three is in order while new-signing Sead Kolasinac could push Monreal further inside. Regardless of the formation, expect Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to play a more prominent role this season given his growing versatility, and expect a lot less stubborn Arsene Wenger as the experienced Frenchman will likely make an unusual amount of changes to his lineup game by game.
KEY PLAYER: ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE
It’s been known for a very long time that Arsenal have needed a goal-getting centre forward. Alexis Sanchez looked the part in the first half of last season but playing the Chilean up front meant the club then lacked in other areas. Meanwhile Olivier Giroud has always had a great strike rate but he’s never had a fantastic one and he’s far from being a complete striker. Alexandre Lacazette on the other hand really is the complete striker and his influence on the Gunners this season could transform them to a completely different club. So incredibly mobile and vibrant, the French forward scored 76 goals in 97 Ligue 1 matches across his final three seasons with Lyon and that kind of goal-scoring ability could be crucial to elevating Arsenal to the level that they should be playing at.
It’s undeniable that Alexis Sanchez will be Arsenal’s most important player this season should he stay at the club but his future continues to remain in doubt and it’s already been proven several times now that as good of a player that Alexis Sanchez is, that him on his own is not enough to win the Premier League title.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER: GRANIT XHAKA
Given the Swiss midfielder’s £40 million price-tag, Granit Xhaka was a massive disappointment in his first season at the club. He hardly ever made an impact and cost his team on far too many occasions with his rash decision making and horrific tackling. However, this season could be the season where Xhaka finally comes good for Arsenal. He showed an improvement in form towards the end of the season as Arsenal surged toward the FA Cup final and given that he is going on 25, could be a more experienced, level-headed version of his self this. He’s got a good eye for goal, his robust style of play balances out Aaron Ramsey’s mobility, and on his day is one of the more impressive passers of the ball in the league. So perhaps this season is when Xhaka not only makes a name for himself with the Gunners but also takes his game to that next level where a £40 million price-tag could suddenly be justified. Expect this also to be a big season for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nigerian youngster Alex Iwobi.
Arsenal have made two signings this summer, both of them impressive ones. Wenger managed to convince Sead Kolasinac to leave Shalke 04 for free, and finally secured a blockbuster move in the form of Alexandre Lacazette. It says a lot that Arsene Wenger was able to persuade a player of Lacazette’s quality to Arsenal Football Club when so many other big-name clubs were in for the Frenchman. Arsenal aren’t even in the Champions League this season! If the club have the ability to make a statement and sign a player like that, perhaps more big-name signings could be on their way.
Unfortunately on the other end of the spectrum without Champions League football the task of keeping Alexis Sanchez just became that much harder. The Chilean really seems to want to move on and PSG seem the likeliest of suitors. Losing Sanchez would be detrimental and the club can consider themselves lucky that the likes of Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Koscielny haven’t also requested moves. In fact other than the massive signing of a Ligue 1 superstar, what has perhaps been most interesting about the summer for Arsenal is how many players they have managed to keep hold of. The Gunners haven’t sold a single player of note and veterans like Mertesacker, Cazorla and Petr Cech remain at the club. Walcott and Wilshere also seem intent on staying and even outcasts like Lucas Perez and Mathieu Debuchy are somehow still at the club! So it hasn’t been a bad off-season by any means for Arsenal and although they may still need improvements, the signings that they have made may mean they aren’t all that far off at all.
WHAT ABOUT GIROUD?
Whether he’s coming off the bench or starting week after week, Olivier Giroud never fails to find the back of the net. What will be interesting this season is to see how he copes with the added competition of Alexandre Lacazette. There’s every possibility that it could bring the best out of the Frenchman. There’s also a large possibility that Giroud is only used as a Maroune Fellaini-esque plan-B this season. If a 3-4-3 ends up being Wenger’s preferred formation this season, there’s no reason why Giroud can’t be that main man up front. Lacazette could still play on the left as he did when he first started banging in the goals at Lyon and Sanchez could link up with the pair on the right. In addition, as much as hopes should be extraordinarily high for a man capable of scoring as many goals as Lacazette has done, there is no guarantee that he is going to adjust to the style of the league immediately. Giroud will always be a good option for Arsenal even if he has to compete with several other strikers at the club. He will however certainly be one to watch in 2017-18.
- Arsene Wenger will finally leave the club at the end of the season.
- Alexandre Lacazette will be one of the top five scorers in the league.
- Arsenal will make it to the final of the FA Cup for the second year in a row.
- Lucas Perez will be sold on deadline day. Carl Jenkinson, Calum Chambers and Joel Campbell will be loaned out again. Cazorla, Wilshere and Mertesacker will all stay; possibly for their final season at the club.
- Granit Xhaka will incur at least two red cards in the league alone and will be one of the five most booked players in the Prem.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be given more of a chance to shine.
- Alexis Sanchez will pout like a child at least four times.
PREDICTED FINISH: 6TH
It has been a great off-season for Arsenal so far following an impressive FA Cup victory against Chelsea and although their is a lot of optimism around the club right now, the quality of the other teams may just get the best of them for a second season in a row. As a result Arsene Wenger’s men may be in for another long and hard season and instead of propelling themselves forward, may actually stand still or even go backwards in terms of their position in the table. Lacazette will certainly offer something different; something that has been lacking at the club for so long, but just looking at the lineups of the teams above them and even Man United below them, it may be another very tough season for Arsene Wenger’s men. Arsenal really could end up finishing in their lowest position in years in what looks likely to be Arsene Wenger’s final season at the club.