My views on Arsenal’s readiness next season by Ajay
We all know we finished 5th, missing out on 4th, after we choked in the month of May and had a string of poor results. Over the last 2 months we have seen some strengthening of squad. I am putting here my views on how ready we are for the new season.
Forwards and goal scorers I felt was our biggest issue we had last year. Top teams generally get +50 goals from their top 3 contributors. And another 15 from backup 3 forwards. I.e., 6-7 central forwards and wingers should give approx 60-65 goals. It’s simple.
Chelsea with all their spend couldn’t manage it last season, but we have also been very poor. For that to happen one of our forward 3 has to score 20 goals and other two 15 each. Saka last year was top scorer with 11 goals. ESR added 10 and Martinelli added 6. CF – Auba and Laca had just 4 each in 32 appearances between them. Eddie was much better with 5 goals in 8 matches. That’s 26 goals from top three contributors. Next 4 provided 15 goals. We have significant underperformance from our top 3 by approx 25 goals. And how much have we addressed that in last 2 months?
We have added GJ to the forward line. I expect him to give double of what was there last season between Laca and Auba, at least 15 if not 20. What’s the point of having a young evolving team if they don’t improve from last year? So, I am keeping my fingers crossed that both Martinelli and Saka will improve their tally by at least 7-10 more goals this season and GJ’s presence and movement will help them. Despite all the excitement, Martinelli still needs to have a breakout season where he actually adds more goals to his performances.
Hopefully we will have 40 goals this season between our top three forwards. A big ask honestly. However, in a long season we can’t rely on them to play all season and stay injury free. We need another player who can give 15 goals a season if a player is out for 6-8 months (hope that never happens). Else what’s the point of having a 25 man squad. I don’t see another forward/wingman who can give us that. Hence, I still see our forward lineup as a weakness from this season’s point of view. A versatile forward who can play at wing & centrally, capable of scoring 15 goals, is important. Our own Jota!
Another issue with goals is that we don’t have any direct free kick specialist. We have done well in set pieces but not on direct free kicks. But it’s just an expectation being greedy.
In midfield, both attack and defence we are better than our forward lineup in my view. Our newly appointed captain scored 7 goals last year. I expect him to improve from there, or at worst maintain it. However we have 2 issues to be resolved here. Partey when injured had impact on our defensive record and we need backup there. And Xhaka (though unlike most here on JA, I like him) hasn’t given much from goals point of view. Our backup also in midfield is weak from a goalscoring point of view. Elneny and Lokonga were main backup in midfield with zero goals and 2 assists in 19 appearances. Though we had 9 odd goals from midfield players, improvement on Xhaka who must add more goals to the team and a strong backup for Partey is critical for team to improve. We have not done anything regarding it. We must add one this season and one more next season. 15 goals are what top teams should give minimum from midfield.
In defence is our strength but only when we had all 5 available. GK, 1st choice back 4 and Partey. Which has not been the case in many matches, and it’s not been given this year either. Issues are – Player’s fitness and disciplinary record leading to high goals conceded and less clean sheets.
Disciplinary record – Xhaka, Gabriel and Lokonga need to improve on their disciplinary records and cut down on yellow and especially red cards. Xhaka has to improve and possibly will be helped now as he is playing slightly more forward. Gabriel like Xhaka seems to be hot-headed, last year’s red card being a clear example. Being key to our defence, I am hoping another year of experience under his belt will improve his temperament and allow him to cut down on rash tackles.
Clean sheets – we need to add 5 to 7 more than last year. But how do we achieve that? A) Better fitness and better backup of players B). More attacking game keeping other teams on the back foot, but also fast defenders with good positioning to ensure we are better at not conceding on counter attacks.
When we had both Tomiyasu and Tierney available, we had a mean defence. Especially Tomi. Partey’s presence is also critical from a defence point of view. In pre-season MA has tried White in place of Cedric as backup. Zinchenko will also provide better cover for Tierney.
Our main issue last year was when we had players out, we didn’t have the right backup. Two players being added, Saliba and Zinchenko improve that significantly. City is also an example of how attack is best form of defence. I expect us to improve our defensive record this year and have over 15+ clean sheets instead of 12 last year. Our defenders need to contribute enough on their secondary job of scoring goals similar to City and Liverpool. I think vs last year we have improved our defence the most and it’s defence which wins league titles. MA seems to believe the same, stop goals first and then score. I also assume once our team is more confident of not conceding goals, we will see more fluid games in the opposition half, pinning them back and limiting them to counterattacks.
In short, significant improvement in defence, decent in attack and none in midfield is my summary of squad improvement this transfer window.
Another view to look at it is from ‘table and points’ point of view.
For top 4 qualification we have more competition this year. We scored last year 69 points. What we need to target is 78 points or more this season.
If we cutdown on 13 losses to 8 and improve on 22 wins to 25 we have very high chance of being in the top 4, irrespective of who else is capturing the other 3 positions. Will we improve our losses by 5 games? I think no but we will probably bring it down to 9-10 which means I expect Pool, City and Spurs to have a better record than us. On the wins front will we improve from 22 wins? Last year the 3rd & 4th had 21 and 22 wins. I think we will improve on this but there’s a big if. If our 1st choice forwards remain fit for the entire season. Hence, it’s a chance and with low probability. My guess is we are still a team with 72-73 points in us and defiantly nowhere near top 2.
I am confident that over next 3 transfer windows we will have stronger team (assuming we start extending contracts of our young players during this time). Assuming this will be done by adding 2 forwards, 2 midfielders and 1 RB in my view. However critical is that we add 2 this season for us to be successful now. More critical is we add 15-goal players capable of playing 2 positions of front 3. Second a CM. Preferred is an improvement on Partey (if that possible or backup at least) or less preferred option to add goals by improving on Xhaka (less critical and perhaps next season preference).
The team will be more mature this year and will learn from last year’s mistakes. Our core 15 players of last season will still be here and have 1-year additional experience under their belt. Their understanding and reliability on each other will improve. Two players with experience of handling pressure and winning the league will help our dressing room a lot after the excitement of new additions to squad dies down after 2 months. None of us know how the winter World Cup will impact the season for us and others, but our players for now seem more confident in preseason. The insecurities of last year have gone and players seems to have realised what this team is capable of on their day.
As we enter the new season for now, I am happy that we have improved defence, most likely will improve points tally, but still feel we need to have luck on our side to achieve 3rd or 4th. Those who talk of top two positions are daydreaming in my view. With 2 additions in mentioned positions, I will really look forward to the season and will be surprised if we don’t achieve top 4. Something inside me tells me one more definitely getting added before the window closes.
Arteta and Edu can fix that in the next few weeks and may significantly improve our chances for champions league next season.
CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link…