livescore logo

Premier League team guide: Arsenal in the spotlight
Copy icon

Will Evans
LiveScore
Martin Odegaard's permanent arrival has given Arsenal a timely boost
Martin Odegaard's permanent arrival has given Arsenal a timely boost

This season will be Arsenal’s first without European football since 1995-96 — and major improvement will be needed if they are to break back into the Premier League’s top six.

The Gunners have been in transition since Mikel Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December 2019 but the team must now show signs of progress after finishing eighth for the last two seasons. 

Put simply, the time has come for the North Londoners to start mixing it with the division’s best once again — or Arteta may find the axe looming.

Last season

It was all downhill for Arsenal after lifting the Community Shield last August.

A miserable run of results in December saw Arteta's troops lose to Burnley and Everton before their Carabao Cup run came to an end with a 4-1 humbling at home to Manchester City.

Things improved from Boxing Day when Chelsea were dispatched 3-1 but Arsenal were plagued by inconsistency and never looked like mounting a sustained challenge for Europe. 

A limp Europa League semi-final exit to Villarreal — managed by Arteta's predecessor Unai Emery — rounded off a campaign best forgotten at the Emirates.

New faces

Ben White will operate as a right-sided centre-back for Arsenal
Ben White will operate as a right-sided centre-back for Arsenal

Arsenal have set about revamping a tired squad and more new faces could yet arrive before the transfer window slams shut on August 31.

Back-up left-back Nuno Tavares, 21, has been signed from Benfica for £8million while 21-year-old central midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga joins from Anderlecht.

While those deals have both been made with one eye on the future, England centre-back Ben White, 23, should find himself a regular starter at the Emirates after finally sealing his £50m move from Brighton.

Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has completed a £25m switch and will compete with Bernd Leno for the No1 jersey, while Martin Odegaard's estimated £30m arrival from Real Madrid could prove a coup if the Norwegian can repeat the form he showed during last term's loan stint.

Meanwhile, the permanent departure of Joe Willock to Newcastle for £22m frees up both funds and a squad space for more incomings before the end of the window.

The line-up

4-2-3-1: Leno; Bellerin, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Lokonga; Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang.

Arteta has alternated between a back three and back four during his time at the Emirates but appeared to favour the latter during the closing stages of last season.

The early signs are this will continue into 2021-22, based on the way the Arsenal set up in their friendlies against Hibernian, Rangers and Chelsea.

But predicting the personnel who will fill those spots is far more challenging, particularly with more business still possibly to be done before the end of the month.

Hector Bellerin has been linked with a move to Inter Milan and may no longer be playing his football at Arsenal when the season kicks off, while White will surely slot straight in.

Emile Smith Rowe’s recent contract extension is welcome news but there will be competition for the attacking midfield berth after the arrival of Odegaard, with Arteta now spoilt for choice in that area.

And with the Gunners thought to still be in for a striker after missing out on Roma-bound Tammy Abraham, things are equally unpredictable up front.

Star man: Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka's heat map reflects his ability to play on either flank and in multiple positions
Bukayo Saka's heat map reflects his ability to play on either flank and in multiple positions

Bukayo Saka may have suffered penalty heartbreak at Euro 2020 but the versatile 19-year-old displayed his talent to the nation with a series of impressive performances as England reached the final.

A standout showing against the Czech Republic was a particular highlight and Arsenal supporters will be hoping to see more of the same from the academy graduate this term. 

Though comfortable at full-back or in central midfield, Saka played his best football on the right flank in 2020-21. If you include the Community Shield, he chipped in with seven goals and 10 assists across all competitions.

Despite his youth, Arsenal’s No7 is already the first name on the teamsheet at the Emirates.

Up-and-comer: Folarin Balogun

Just 12 months ago, Folarin Balogun appeared destined for the exit but now he has his sights set on a place in the starting XI.  

The 20-year-old striker was seemingly unwilling to sign a new contract amid concerns about a clear pathway to the first team before a change of heart saw him agree a long-term deal in April.

Balogun scored 25 goals in just 19 matches for the Under-18s in 2018-19 and registered 19 strikes in 33 U-23 games over the past two campaigns.

The boss: Mikel Arteta

Arsenal had one of the tightest defences in the Premier League last season but still finished eighth
Arsenal had one of the tightest defences in the Premier League last season but still finished eighth

The jury is still out on Arteta after a mixed start to his managerial career.

Having swapped life as Pep Guardiola’s assistant for the Emirates dugout, the 39-year-old initially made a positive impression — stopping the rot following Emery’s departure and winning the FA Cup in 2019-20.

Tactical masterclasses saw Arteta’s side outfox Manchester City and Chelsea en route to that Cup triumph but the Spanish tactician has struggled to build on those successes.

A lack of identity, poor performances in big European ties and inconsistent results are among the criticisms aimed at the former midfielder, though he has been significantly hamstrung by the poor quality of Arsenal’s squad.

But with technical director Edu starting to shift much of the dead wood and some fresh faces in the dressing room, expectations will be significantly higher this season.

All information correct as of 1pm, August 23, 2021

Tags

ArsenalPremier League
LiveScore logo

LiveScore: Live Sport Updates

Footbal Scores & Sports News

Get instant notifications with the LiveScore app
app-storegoogle-play
cristiano Ronaldo