EPL Top Six Breakdown - Arsenal


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In the last part of this six-part series, we’ll look at Arsenal and dive into the same criteria we’ve previously judged the PL’s “Top 6.” That criteria is: overall play style, manager evaluation, key player, and predictions.

Overall Play Style

Arsenal limped over the finish line of the 2017/2018 Premier League season in 6th place, having vastly underwhelmed for long stretches of the season. From trading Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January, to extending Mesut Ozil’s contract to heights Arsenal’s wage structure has never seen before, things didn’t quite go to plan for the Gunners for the majority of the season.

Behind the scenes struggles aside, Arsenal (as usual), were able to show glimpses of sheer footballing brilliance with some great passing displays and quick off-the-ball movement. This is nothing new to Gunners fans, who had grown accustomed to seeing this kind of “Arsenal Brand” of football played under Arsene Wenger for 20 years. They attracted a lot of fans around the world by how they play, and it’s hard to look past the club’s administration to see where it all truly went wrong.

Arsenal always looked frail through the spine of their squad over the course of the 17/18 season, and that has translated into the 18/19 season (albeit, not quite as glaringly). Arsenal have evolved a little bit under new management, with less concentration on ball possession and more on movement off the ball and incisive runs between the lines.

Maybe this is the year that they can finally get back into the Champions League, after spending the last couple of years in Europe’s less prestigious competition.

Manager Evaluation - Unai Emery

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After 20 years of Arsene Wenger in the Arsenal dugout, the 2018/2019 Premier League season features a new manager in Unai Emery.

The Spaniard has experienced a great deal of success in his previous jobs, at the likes of Valencia, Sevilla, and Paris Saint-Germain. He’s known as a Europa League expert in some circles, after winning three consecutive titles with Sevilla from 2013 to 2016. If Arsenal fail to qualify for the top four in the league, they may have an escape route via the Europa League and their very able manager.

Emery has managed in quite a few different countries now, even having a stint in Russia with Spartak Moscow, and has evolved his game with each job he’s taken. PSG looked to have been his greatest task yet, and he may have gone on to greater things with the French outfit if not for the biggest “miracle” in Champions League history after Barcelona came back from a 4-0 first leg deficit to eliminate the Parisians.

Emery has a wealth of experience in a fairly young managerial career by usual standards, and has so far been able to motivate Arsenal to playing well enough to be genuinely in the hunt for a top four finish. Arsenal’s problems seem to start and end in their administration though, so maybe sorting that out will allow for Emery to really make his mark on this club.

Key Player

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang:

Aubameyang made his long-awaited move to the Premier League last January, and has been an instant success with his scoring prowess and blistering pace. Whether he’s playing in front of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, or Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi, Auba seems to be able to find the back of the net on a regular basis. Any goalscorer will tell you that scoring consistently can be difficult when there’s uncertainty about the midfielders playing behind you, so the rotation policy at Arsenal makes Auba’s feats even more impressive.

With Ozil seemingly frozen out of a place in the Arsenal squad, and Aaron Ramsey leaving for Juventus in the summer on a free, a great deal of the Arsenal offensive threat will lie with Aubameyang.

Whether he can fire them into the top four remains to be seen.

Prediction

League Finish: 5th

Europa League Finish: Champions