Having upgraded their squad in multiple areas, Arsenal have entered the 2019/20 season on a positive note. The squad required reinforcements in several key areas and the London side have done well to sign quality players despite the reported low budget.
Nicolas Pepe, William Saliba, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, Gabriel Martinelli, and Dani Ceballos were the big names that joined the Gunners this season. Reiss Nelson returned to the squad after his loan at Hoffenheim.
Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck departed from the club, while Saliba was loaned back to St Etienne on a season-long loan.
How well are Arsenal covered in the different areas of the pitch? We take a look.
Goalkeepers – C+
Bernd Leno is into his second season at the club and it’s fair to say that he has done well to rise above the pressure and establish himself as a top keeper. His ability with the ball at his feet makes him a perfect fit into the Arsenal side that likes to build from the back.
That said, there is still a gulf in quality between him and the top tier of custodians that includes the likes of Jan Oblak, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Alisson, David de Gea and Ederson. The German has work to do in order to earn a mention alongside the above-mentioned names.
The London club could have done better with their recruitment of the second-choice keeper. Emilio Martinez is back from an average season at Reading in which he conceded 23 goals in 18 games, keeping just five clean-sheets in the process. This could be seen as a downgrade from what Cech offered and Arsenal could hence face complications if Leno experiences a long-term injury.
Arsenal’s goal-keeping duo is not bad but pales in comparison to that of other teams in the top six.
Defence – B
David Luiz and Kieren Tierney were much-needed additions to Arsenal’s defence, but is it enough?
Luiz, Calum Chambers, Sokratis, and Shkodran Mustafi are the four central defenders available at Unai Emery’s disposal at the moment. Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos will be joining the team once they return from injury.
The Gunners often line up in a three-man defence and will hence need six central defenders to ensure squad depth. But the lack of a top-tier central defender could hurt Arsenal in a crunch fixture. Liverpool have Virgil van Dijk, Manchester United have Harry Maguire, and Manchester City boast of an able pair in Aymeric Laporte and John Stones. Luiz is the player closest to these defenders in terms of quality and age isn’t on his side.
Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will grace the right flank as either wing-backs or full-backs depending upon the formation the boss chooses to go ahead with. Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac and Kierney Tierney will be taking guard on the left. The competition for a spot in the starting line-up should drive these players to the next level. None of these players are guaranteed starters and it will be interesting to see what Emery has in store for the flanks.
Midfield – B+
Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka are expected to start in holding midfield with Lucas Torreira and Ceballos providing depth. The latter could displace Guendouzi in the line-up should he reach the levels promised during his time with Real Betis.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil, and Joe Willock provide options in attacking midfield and Emery can be counted upon to make certain bold choices. 19-year-old Willock impressed against Barcelona in the Joan Gamper trophy and against Newcastle United in Arsenal’s Premier League opener. Should the former Paris Saint-Germain opt for youngsters over established players, Willock could enjoy a lot of minutes this season.
There is a neat blend of youth and experience in Arsenal’s midfield and the fact that none of the players have their name in the starting line-up set in stone could come as a boon for the Gunners. Each of the players will be made to work for their spot and a fair idea of Arsenal’s best XI should arrive by January.
Attack – A
Arsenal’s star-studded attack almost rivals that of Liverpool and Manchester City on paper and comfortably eclipses that of other teams in the top-six.
Pierre-Emerick Auameyang and Alexandre Lacazette could operate independently in a 4-2-3-1 or pair up in a two-striker system. The former can also function as a winger and this means that Pepe could fit in as the third attacker in a forward three.
The striking duo were on song in their debut season together and their chemistry can only improve moving forward. Pepe single-handedly carried Lille from relegation zone to a Champions League spot in the Ligue 1 but whether he will replicate his heroics in a new league remains to be seen.
Nelson and Martinelli add depth to the front-line and the option of having Maitland-Niles on the wing is also open.
There is no shortage in depth and this Arsenal attack could make a case for being one of the best in the Premier League.
Lampard was twice a losing finalist in the competition as a Blues player in 2012 and 2013 but now has the opportunity to get his hands on the first piece of silverware since becoming the club’s head coach over the summer.
His reign got off to an ignominious start as they suffered a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, but the former midfielder is hopeful of bouncing back in Istanbul on Wednesday.
“We need to be absolutely ready,” Lampard told uefa.com. “It’s a cup that the club desperately wants to win. I’ve never won it, a lot of players in there have never won it, so we have to give it everything.
“Going up against the team with the quality of Liverpool in a final is as tense as finals can be.
“You can lose finals; they’re very tough. But what you cannot do is lose it on the premise that we weren’t prepared, or we didn’t have that hunger or desire or everything you need to try and win a game of this magnitude.
“It’s going to be one of my first competitive games as manager of this club.
“Every player in there needs to be aware of the importance of the game to this club and we have to give everything, because it’s going to be tough.
“It’s going to be tough, but we cannot walk off the pitch and think, ‘Oh, we could’ve done that’ or ‘We missed that opportunity’ or ‘We weren’t quite ready’ or make any excuses for ourselves.”
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Jose Mourinho’s ability to dominate the news agenda appears more enduring than his managerial abilities.
The – once? – Special One was the main attraction in the Sky Sports studio on Sunday when former charges Manchester United and Chelsea rounded off opening weekend in the Premier League.
After a bright start for debutant Frank Lampard’s youthful Blues dissolved into a mistake-strewn 4-0 hammering, Mourinho’s, understandable, queries centred on whether there was “a possibility to play with more know-how”.
The current Chelsea boss’ acid glare and cutting response when these words were put to him post-match spoke volumes about why the likes of untested midfielder Mason Mount and striker Tammy Abraham started at Old Trafford.
And rather than retreat to the familiarity of relative veterans like Marcos Alonso and Olivier Giroud for Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool, this vehement stance hints that the club’s all-time record scorer’s selection policy draws from an innate coaching philosophy, instead of the practicalities of a suffocating two-window transfer ban.
Lampard lent on youngsters during Derby County’s narrow promotion miss from the Championship last term. He will continue to do so now he’s in charge at the club he triumphantly represented from 2001-14.
This belief, anathema to the immediacy espoused by men like Mourinho who’ve also manned the dugout during Roman Abramovich’s 13-year ownership, should lead to imminent chances for Fikayo Tomori.
If ‘Super Frank’ remains typically assured, it may even come against the likes of Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah and Brazil No9 Roberto Firmino at Istanbul’s Vodafone Park.
Put frankly, France centre-back Kurt Zouma was wretched at Old Trafford. Confidence gained on loan at Everton ebbed away with clumsy passes and a pivotal foul on Marcus Rashford to force the opener from the penalty spot.
Even 29-year-old captain Cesar Azpilicueta was burned away by the England forward for the third, plus negligent about Anthony Martial’s positioning for the second.
With David Luiz now permanently across London at Arsenal and a temporary stint of his own at Goodison Park ended by that move, Tomori’s time is now.
The 21-year-old certainly has the pedigree for it.
Junior honours include the 2017 Under-20 World Cup and 2018 Toulon Tournament with England. Successive FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League doubles were claimed at the Blues from 2014-16.
A second season of regular first-team football witnessed him be named as Derby’s Player of the Year for 2018/19, ahead of contemporary Mount.
With the Rams, he sat in the top three per game for tackles game (2.3), blocks (0.8) and clearances (3.9). His 4,062 minutes was also the second-most recorded.
Tomori, at this stage, remains largely untainted by the defensive fragility that has defined the early months of Lampard’s reign. Chelsea conceded 11 goals in seven pre-season fixtures, but the Canada-born prospect started only two of them (although one of these was a 4-3 victory against Championship strugglers Reading).
He was an unused substitute in Manchester. Provided ringside seats to witness the mauling that ensued.
The hasty return of Germany’s Antonio Rudiger and continued development of Denmark’s Andreas Christensen provide longer-term hurdles. Opportunity has, however, always been the insurmountable obstacle for Chelsea’s premium prospects, rather than talent alone.
Tomiri’s timely rise alongside Lampard has removed this blockade. Now, comes the moment to flourish.