Arsenal (66/1 – Premier League Outright 2021-22) endured a thoroughly underwhelming eighth-placed finish in the Premier League last season but there is cautious optimism Mikel Arteta can oversee an improved campaign this time around.
Gunners fans who remember the glory years of George Graham and then Arsene Wenger will still think a club of their size and stature should be at least challenging for a top-four place but, realistically, getting back into the top six first of all may be where Arteta should be setting his sights.
Hopes for new season
There’s a valid argument to suggest that that eighth-placed return in 2020-21 was below-par for a squad which contained the obvious talent of Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang, Alexandre Lacazette and rising stars like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe.
However, they let themselves down with plenty of disjointed performances where familiar failings proved all too costly. Martin Odegaard struggled to get to grips with the English top flight and Granit Xhaka lost his focus. At the back, an injury to Keiran Tierney depleted them down the left and Arteta struggled to fit the pieces together.
However, with several eye-catching new arrivals set to significantly boost the squad, there is better expected. A top-four place may still prove beyond them but they shouldn’t be concerning themselves with mid-table mediocrity either.
Arrivals and Departures
Ben White (pending) – £50m from Brighton
Nuno Tavares – £6.8m from Benfica
Albert Sambi Lokonga – £17.2m from Anderlecht
David Luiz (released)
Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille) – Loan
William Saliba (Marseille) – Loan
It could yet prove to be White, who seems so assured and defensively aware that he may just be the centre-back the Gunners have needed since, well, Tony Adams retired.
Other obvious candidates are Aubameyang (20/1 – Premier League top goalscorer), provided he can rediscover his lethal consistency in front of goal, and Saka, who enjoyed a fine Euro 2020 tournament with England and looks ready to take his game up to the next level.
Arteta has been talked about as the next great young manager for several years but he’s endured a tough baptism of fire back at the club he graced as a player for five years. His reputation was largely based on the fact Pep Guardiola raved about him as his assistant at Manchester City. Therein lies the problem, though. Is Arteta ready to become a ruthless leader on his own or is he someone more suited to playing a supporting role?
He’s had well over a year in charge and the signals are mixed. Winning the FA Cup and Community Shield early on were solid achievements and earned him respect and time. However, it’s now time to deliver on a more consistent basis. Signings like White should help, although he may need a few more of his calibre on board if they are to start to challenge the top four again (Arsenal 5/1 – Top-four finish).
The Spaniard, obviously, favours a possession-based approach but he must also refine it and mix it up when required. Arsenal still don’t appear, to the casual fan at least, to work as hard as half the teams in the league and that must improve so they can then benefit from all the clear technical quality they undoubtedly possess.
Last season – 8th.