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Arsenal season preview - predictions, fixtures, summer signings, starting XI

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Arsenal ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Arsenal will be hoping for an improvement on their 2019-20 showing during the upcoming season, which gets underway for them on Saturday when they take on Fulham.

Manager Mikel Arteta will go into the campaign hoping for European qualification via their league position rather than relying on cup glory again, with a return to the top four after four seasons away the ultimate goal.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at the Gunners ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.



How did they fare last season?

Arsenal celebrate winning the 2019-20 FA Cup final© Reuters

A mixed bag.

As far as the Premier League was concerned, it was a campaign Arsenal fans will largely want to forget as soon as possible. However, they did end the season with silverware courtesy of a record-extending 14th FA Cup triumph.

Without that victory over Chelsea in the final, the Gunners would be facing a season without European football having only finished eighth in the Premier League table, 10 points off the top four and a whopping 43 points adrift of champions Liverpool.

Unai Emery only lasted until November 29 before being sacked and replaced by interim boss Freddie Ljungberg, who held the fort until Mikel Arteta's appointment on December 20.

There was a definite improvement after the Spaniard took over, although Arsenal ended the campaign with plenty of work still to do if they are to close the gap on the Champions League places, yet alone dream of a Premier League title challenge any time soon.

High points included league victories over Manchester United and champions Liverpool in addition to their FA Cup win, but in general there were far more low points - such as defeats home and away to Brighton & Hove Albion and a home loss to Olympiacos which saw them crash out of the Europa League.



Biggest improvement needed

Turning draws into wins.

Arsenal lost two fewer games than fourth-placed Chelsea last season but finished 10 points behind them, and only lost one more game than Manchester City but ended the campaign 25 points adrift.

No team drew more than Arsenal's tally of 14, meanwhile, which is the same number of games that they won. Holding on when they take the lead will be the biggest step towards achieving this target.



Manager: Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured on August 29, 2020© Reuters

A relative novice in the managerial stakes, with his appointment at Arsenal in December 2019 being his first taste of the number one job.

However, the Spaniard did learn the ropes under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and has shown plenty of encouraging early signs since taking over at the club he also represented 110 times as a player.

Most importantly of all, in only 29 games as a manager he has already claimed two trophies - the FA Cup and Community Shield.



Key player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pictured ahead of his side's Community Shield on August 29, 2020© Reuters

It is a worrying thought for Arsenal fans just where they would have been over the past couple of seasons without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their ranks.

The captain, top scorer and star man leads by example, finding the back of the net 29 times in 44 matches across all competitions last season, including 22 in the Premier League - a tally only Jamie Vardy could beat.

As things stand his contract issue remains unresolved, meaning that he will be a free agent next summer, but he is expected to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium in what would be the biggest piece of business the Gunners could do in this window.



Summer transfer business

A shot of Willian being announced for Arsenal© Arsenal FC

In
Pablo Mari (£7.2m, Flamengo)
Cedric Soares (undisclosed, Southampton)
Willian (free, Chelsea)
Gabriel Magalhaes (£23.4m, Lille)
Dani Ceballos (loan, Real Madrid)
Runar Alex Runarsson (£1.8m, Dijon)

Out
Konstantinos Mavropanos (loan, Stuttgart)
Zech Medley (loan, Gillingham)
Trae Coyle (loan, Gillingham)
Matt Smith (loan, Swindon Town)
Jordi Osei-Tutu (loan, Cardiff City)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (undisclosed, Roma)
Ben Sheaf (loan, Coventry City)
Tyreece John-Jules (loan, Doncaster Rovers)
Emiliano Martinez (£15.7m, Aston Villa)
Mark McGuinness (loan, Ipswich Town)

Arsenal total spent to date: £32.4m
Arsenal total received to date: £15.9m

Arsenal net transfer balance: -£16.5m




Squad

1. Bernd Leno (GK)
2. Hector Bellerin (DF)
3. Kieran Tierney (DF)
4. William Saliba (DF)
5. Sokratis Papastathopoulos (DF)
6. Gabriel Magalhaes (DF)
7. Bukayo Saka (MF)
8. Dani Ceballos (MF)
9. Alexandre Lacazette (FW)
10. Mesut Ozil (MF)
11. Lucas Torreira (MF)
12. Willian (FW)
14. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (FW)
15. Ainsley Maitland-Niles (MF)
16. Rob Holding (DF)
17. Cedric Soares (DF)
19. Nicolas Pepe (FW)
20. Shkodran Mustafi (DF)
21. Calum Chambers (DF)
22. Pablo Mari (DF)
23. David Luiz (DF)
24. Reiss Nelson (FW)
25. Mohamed Elneny (MF)
26. Emiliano Martinez (GK)
28. Joe Willock (MF)
29. Matteo Guendouzi (MF)
30. Eddie Nketiah (FW)
31. Sead Kolasinac (DF)
32. Emile Smith Rowe (MF)
33. Matt Macey (GK)
34. Granit Xhaka (MF)
35. Gabriel Martinelli (FW)



Possible starting XI

ARSXI 2020-21



Fixture list

Arsenal begin their campaign on the opening Saturday with a trip to newly-promoted Fulham before a London derby against West Ham United and a home tie with champions Liverpool to round off September.

October also looks difficult with trips to both Manchester clubs either side of a home game against Leicester City, while the first North London derby of the season comes in December.

It is a relatively kind end to the campaign on paper, though, with Chelsea the only one of last season's top eight they face in their final eight games.

Arsenal's Rob Holding in action with Liverpool's Sadio Mane in the Community Shield on August 29, 2020© Reuters

SEPTEMBER

12: Fulham (a)

19: West Ham (h)

26: Liverpool (a)

OCTOBER

3: Sheffield United (h)

17: Manchester City (a)

24: Leicester (h)

31: Manchester United (a)

NOVEMBER

7: Aston Villa (h)

21: Leeds United (a)

28: Wolves (h)

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Winks and Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos clash on September 1, 2019© Reuters

DECEMBER

5: Tottenham (a)

12: Burnley (h)

15: Southampton (h)

19: Everton (a)

26: Chelsea (h)

28: Brighton (a)

JANUARY

2: West Brom (a)

12: Crystal Palace (h)

16: Newcastle (h)

27: Southampton (a)

30: Manchester United (h)

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta pictured together on June 17, 2020© Reuters

FEBRUARY

3: Wolves (a)

6: Aston Villa (a)

13: Leeds (h)

20: Manchester City (h)

27: Leicester City (a)

MARCH

6: Burnley (a)

13: Tottenham (h)

20: West Ham (a)

APRIL

3: Liverpool (h)

10: Sheffield United (h)

17: Fulham (h)

24: Everton (h)

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores against Chelsea in the FA Cup final on August 1, 2020© Reuters

MAY

1: Newcastle (a)

8: West Brom (h)

12: Chelsea (a)

15: Crystal Palace (a)

23: Brighton (h)



Prediction: 6th

Last season may have seen Arsenal finish in their lowest position since 1994-95, but they seem to be on the right track again under Arteta and have an exciting blend of youth and experience in their team now.

The signings of Gabriel Magalhaes and Willian, and the addition of William Saliba to the squad, should boost them and with Aubameyang in their ranks they are always capable of winning games.

A first top-four finish since 2015-16 may be beyond them at this stage, but the crop of 2020-21 look capable of at least closing that gap.


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Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes pictured in December 2019
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