Premier League Prediction: 4th place Arsenal

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In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020 file photo, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates with the trophy after the FA Cup final soccer match against Chelsea at Wembley stadium in London, England. Arsenal may have ended the season as FA Cup winners but their eighth-placed finish was their lowest in the Premier League since 1995 and head coach Mikel Arteta will have to steer his side through some tough early fixtures to give them a better chance of sealing a return to the top four. Photo by Adam Davy/Pool via AP.

Project Mikel Arteta has started in London as the former Arsenal player looks to bring the club back to its former glory. So far since his move from Pep Guardiola’s right-hand man to the manager of the Gunners, Arteta has won the FA Cup and the English Community Shield. Not to mention, he’s won more silverware in August than Spurs have won in the last decade. Arteta has proven he’s the man for the job and that he will sculpt the club in his image, but the team still has a long way to go. With their current team, fourth is where I see them finishing, but you never know with Arsenal. 

Arsenal had their worst season in the past 25 years, finishing eighth in the league and missing out on Champions League football. Through the ups and downs, and three different managers, the Gunners still found a way to grab some silverware and qualify for Europa League football. Now the club needs to get players in and convince some players to stay in order to take the next step towards Arteta’s goal, which is to win the Champions League.  

Arsenal’s defensive weakness haunted them the entire season, as it seemed no matter who was on the pitch they continued to struggle. David Luiz, Rob Holding and Sokratis all showed their flaws throughout the year. Shkodran Mustafi was frozen out of the team for most of the season as he was seen as the biggest defensive liability on the team. It wasn’t until Arteta took over that the defensive shape changed, and now he has gotten the most out of his defenders. Arteta has played with the 3-4-3 formation, with three center-backs and two wing-backs. The three have usually been Luiz, Holding and outside-back Kieran Tierney, while Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have operated as the wing-backs. With young defender William Saliba returning from his loan spell at AS Saint-Étienne in France and the purchase of Gabriel Magalhães from French team Lille OSC, Arsenal hope to keep progressing in their defensive play. With either of those players sliding into the back three, Tierney has the opportunity to move to wing-back. 

A task dispatched to Arteta is using the current funds he has to bring in players that will benefit his team. COVID-19 has shaken the transfer market to its core. Practically no team in football, excluding Chelsea, has been able to spend tons of money in the market because no one has the funds. So Arteta will have to sell a couple of players in order to get the players he needs. Arsenal released midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who signed for Italian giants Roma and midfielder Lucas Torreira who looks to be on his way out to Italy as well after struggling at the club. There have also been transfer rumors of striker Alexandre Lacazette. The most intriguing rumor has been Hector Bellerin leaving the club for 30 million euros.   

Arsenal is looking for players to help in the midfield area. Arteta made it a priority to bring back Dani Ceballos from Spanish giants Real Madrid to help stabilize the midfield and to bring some sort of creativity to the field. Grant Xhaka looks set to continue his role as the anchor of the midfield for the Gunners. Arteta is targeting Atlético Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey this summer to come in and be that box-to-box midfielder the team needs. The Ghanian has been linked with a move to London all summer, but the teams are in a deadlock about the price. The Gunners have also had talks of signing Houssem Aouar from French team Lyon, with his most recent bidding at 31 million euros. Young star Matteo Guendozi has been rejected by the club, as they are not interested in his services. As the season starts in less than a week, Arsenal hopes to make some moves quickly to prepare for the league.  

In my opinion, the most important thing Arteta needs to focus on for a successful season is to unlock the attack’s full potential. Arsenal’s attack is star-studded with captain Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang leading the way. The Gabon international scored a team-leading 29 goals last season in all competitions for the Gunners. With a new season coming, Arteta hopes that Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and new signing Willian can provide a much-needed boost. Success this season will be huge for Arsenal, as they have a new contract on the table for Aubameyang. The striker has only one year remaining on his current contract and is attracting interest from teams around the world.  

People may say Arsenal finishing fourth is a longshot, or that they don’t have the talent to finish that high. All I have to say in response is Aubameyang and Arteta. As I’ve said before, if Aubameyang is on the field, anything is possible for Arsenal. Arteta has proven he deserves to be a manager and has shown he can compete with the top teams in the league. He has Arsenal playing his way and if they keep this good form up, who knows what they can accomplish. Arteta and Arsenal open up league play against Fulham Saturday, Sept. 12. 

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