Arsenal kick off their 2020/21 Premier League season with a trip to Craven Cottage to face newly promoted Fulham on Saturday.
Having secured another trophy after beating Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield, Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal side will be brimming with confidence ahead of the new campaign.
Read on below for our season preview and predictions ahead of Arsenal’s opener.
The domestic fixture list has handed the Gunners some tricky games from the off – with trips to Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United in their first seven matches – but this is something Arteta and his players should relish, following their march to FA Cup glory to end last season. Indeed, Arteta has set up the team to counter-attack with pace and precision when his side see less of the ball, meaning this tough run of away fixtures could end up playing into Arsenal’s hands.
Arsenal have also recruited smartly given the current climate of the transfer market. Willian has arrived on a free transfer from Chelsea and another loan deal for Dani Ceballos has been agreed with Real Madrid. However, the biggest acquisition in north London is that of Gabriel Magalhaes, who sealed a £27m switch from Lille earlier this month. After weeks of speculation, the Brazilian chose Emirates Stadium over Napoli and Manchester United, his arrival representing a major coup for the Gunners.
Gabriel’s presence alongside 19-year-old William Saliba, who is now officially an Arsenal player have completed a season-long loan with Saint-Etienne, could form a familiar partnership at the back for many years to come. With two young players filling a position of need, the club look to have addressed an area that has been their downfall for far too long.
The purchase of Willian will increase Arsenal’s creative threat. His quality ball control and dribbling make him the ideal player to operate in the half-spaces of midfield, where he can help break down deep defensive blocks, something Arsenal struggled to do last term. His proven Premier League experience will also help the development of a number of youngsters in the first-team squad.
On the subject of youth, the development of academy players under his guidance has been one of the biggest positives of Arteta’s time in charge of Arsenal. Bukayo Saka has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, whilst fellow Hale End graduates
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock have all impressed Arteta and his coaching staff. Add in Emile Smith-Rowe, who is poised for first-team action after a successful loan spell at Huddersfield, and the future looks to be bright for Arsenal’s young guns.
Although Arsenal’s youth prospects indicate promise, there are a plethora of fundamentals issues on the pitch that must be fixed if Arsenal want to achieve Champions League qualification. Arteta’s men conceded more goals from set-pieces than any other team in the league last season, so greater defensive communication from dead-ball situations must be instilled. Despite the world-class finishing ability of talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who must sign a new contract for Arsenal to progress – the Gunners recorded their lowest goals total since 1995-96 last term, scoring a paltry 57 times in 38 league games, averaging a mere 1.47 goals per game.
An issue that threatens the cohesiveness of Arteta’s Arsenal squad is the deadline of the summer transfer window, which is not until 5 October. This could be problematic because any new signings Arsenal make could have missed up to a month of Premier League action by the time they arrive in north London, potentially making it harder for them to be integrated into the squad. However, this could also help Arteta move on players should their value be met, such as Hector Bellerin, Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Emiliano Martinez. This would also help Arteta raise the funds he requires to strengthen in other areas, with Arsenal maintaining interest in midfield duo Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar.
It will be an intriguing season for Arsenal fans to see how the team fares in Arteta’s first full season at the helm. An improvement on 56 points and an eight-place finish is to be expected but with Liverpool and Manchester City streets ahead and Chelsea splashing £250m on new signings, it makes it difficult to see the Gunners finishing any higher than fourth. Although Arsenal have developed a newfound steel and resolve under Arteta, this side is still some way off of being serial challengers for Champions League football.
Premier League predictions:
Zac CampbellFollow @ZPRCampbell