There are lots of positives for Arsenal to bring into the 17/18 season.
Our pre season went well. We got some decent results against big teams such as Bayern, Benfica, and Chelsea, and our effort and tactical shape looked good or great in every game, except against Chelsea in China (0-3 loss). Playing top teams in pre season can backfire, but since we got out of it in one piece we gained quite a bit from the experience. Again we lifted the Community Shield in an impressive performance, which will surely boost our morale and confidence going into the Premier League.
We finally spent the bulk of our transfer money on a striker. Lacazette has been tearing Ligue 1 defences to pieces for years, and as long as we (Özil) supply him with chances, he’ll score. Saed Kolasinac has looked like an absolute steal for a free. He’s versatile, physical and technical skilled, determined, and has been impressive this pre season, especially against Chelsea. I doubt Arsenal will bring in anymore players of significance this summer. Perhaps if the perfect midfielder suddenly becomes available Wenger will pounce, but if not I very much doubt it. Santi is out, but Wilshere is back and I think he can play an important role for Arsenal further into the season, even fill the void of Santi to a great extent.
Our squad is better than in a long time. In quality and quantity. We have a superb starting eleven where very few outside players could come in and do a better job. We have a strong collection of rotational players like Wilshere, Elneny, Ox, Walcott, Gabriel, Giroud, Iwobi, and prospects such as Nelson, Maitland- Niles and Adeleide, who’ll be important when the Europa League games come rolling.
We discovered (copied) a new, more effective formation at the end of last season which saw us concede less and win more than before. Unfortunately it was just too late to see us take the last Champions League spot, however, the success of the 3-4-3 system will continue into this campaign.
Then the negatives.
The contract situation for many key players is not ideal. Özil, Alexis, Ox, and Wilshere’s contracts expire next summer, and Wenger’s reasoning for this is for them to fight for a new contract. I doubt that will motivate most of those players and it will surely put doubt onto the other players with longer contracts. There will be this ugly element of uncertainty looming around. And what happens if January comes and they haven’t renewed their contracts? Will they still give everything for Arsenal in the most important part of the season?
Our midfield could do with a top top player beside Xhaka. It’s unlikely Wenger will find such a player without Champions League and with only a couple of weeks left of the transfer window. It will be difficult finding someone who’ll suit our system and partner up with Xhaka as well as Ramsey currently is as well. If Wenger buys another player for the first team I think it’ll be a great midfielder who becomes available at the brink of August because another club makes a big signing. Similar to how we got Özil and Alexis.
We haven’t cleaned out our superfluous players such as Gibbs, Debuchy, Jenkinson, and Perez. This is money we could add into the contract negotiations that will take part in a couple of months. Our valuation hasn’t been met so I guess our reserves will have a great year.
Will Alexis perform with only one year left and seemingly determined to leave next summer? I think so, but it’s not impossible to imagine there being some problems along the way. Alexis is the biggest winner in the squad and the most determined players I have ever seen. He has also shown professionalism by not acting up for a move like Diego Costa, Ousmane Dembele, and Danny Rose has.
With a more defensively steady system, a stronger squad, and a positive, challenging pre season, Arsenal should be able push for a top spot. Unfortunately, because of a missing top class midfielder alongside Xhaka and the turbulence I suspect we’ll witness as a consequence of the lack of contract renewals this summer to key players, the number one spot is out of the question. Playing down the Europa League group stage would benefit us immensely, as we could focus more on the Premier League during the first half of the season.
As far as quantity, the negatives outweighs the positives, but NOT in quality. That is why I think Arsenal can take a third or fourth place and regain a Champions League spot this season, which should be our lowest ambition but a very important one.