Arsenal endured a difficult 2019/2020 Premier League season as they finished a lowly eighth on the table with just 56 points on the board. It was the first time in 25 years that the Gunners had failed to make the top-six while they also attained their worst-ever points tally since the 1994/95 season, when they ended in the bottom half of the table in 12th.
Despite their poor league showing, the north London giants completed their campaign on a positive note by winning the FA Cup with a 2-1 comeback win over Chelsea. The capital outfit ended a three-year trophy drought with a fourth FA Cup title in seven years and that has ensured that they will have European football to play for next season. The Gunners have directly qualified for the Europa League group stage after the Cup success.
Transfer plans for the summer:
After a dismal league campaign, manager Mikel Arteta is expected to ring in the changes and there could be a number of new signings which may coincide with the departure of unwanted players. One of the positives from the recent season was the progress of some of the young players including Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, and Arteta’s focus appears on recruiting experienced players, who can work alongside them.
So far, the club have not made any signings during the summer transfer window, but it has been reported by The Times that Arteta has three players at the top of his wishlist. The Spaniard is understood to be keen on bolstering the attack with the recruitment of Philippe Coutinho and Willian from Barcelona and Chelsea respectively while he also has his sights on Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey.
The defence has often been deemed as the Gunners’ Achilles heel, but under Arteta, there has been much better organisation. The north London side conceded 27 goals from their first 18 games of the Premier League season under Unai Emery and interim boss Freddie Ljungberg. However, there was an improvement on that with just 21 goals allowed from the next 20 matches.
That directly coincided with a gradual rise in the points tally. The club had accumulated only 23 points from their first 18 games, but the backend of the campaign was much fruitful with 33 points gained. Hence, it does not appear a necessity for Arteta to strengthen the backline, but he has personally acknowledged that a new centre-back will be needed with Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers set to miss the start of next season with injuries.
Expectations for the 2020/21 season:
Obviously, the Gunners won’t be expected to challenge for the Premier League title next season, and the focus could be on finishing in the top four. After being a constant presence in the Champions League for two decades under former boss Arsene Wenger, the club have failed to qualify for the elite competition for four years on the bounce.
Arteta, who took charge of the club in December 2019, has already shown that he has the tactical nous to plan every game differently. One prime example was the FA Cup final against Chelsea where there was the effort to find the forwards with long balls such that they can exploit the high-line played by the Blues. The game plan worked to good effect as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the equalising goal in the first-half after winning a penalty off Cesar Azpilicueta, who lost track of him.
Still, Arteta will know that the team need to be more productive in the final third and the potential arrival of creative players such as Coutinho could allow them to kill off games. During the backend of the season, there were a number of matches where the Gunners took a deserved lead, but they were unable to double the advantage with the chances created. That proved costly in the end as they lost valuable points.
The Gunners lost a staggering 21 points from winning positions during the 2019/2020 campaign and only 16th-placed West Ham United fared worse (24). While the defence could be put at blame for conceding, part of the fault should also lie on the forwards, who could not finish off games. Arsenal’s 56 goal tally from last season was their worst since the 1995/96 campaign when they scored only 49 times.
Club-captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has stood out since his arrival with 54 goals from 85 league outings and he appears likely to extend his stay on the back of winning the FA Cup. Still, he needs the players around him to contribute regular goals such that the club can achieve their top four ambition. In the recent league season, the Gabon international netted 22 times, but his regular front partners in Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe only managed a combined tally of 15.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com