By 90Min
August 09, 2019

The transfer window is now closed, meaning we have to occupy our time with actual football from this weekend onwards. What fun is that?

As far as Arsenal are concerned, the real stuff starts with a long trip north to Newcastle this Sunday, as the Unai Emery era enters its second season with a handful of shiny new players. 

How will they get on? Have a read below for everything you need to know.


Last Season

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In 2018/19, Arsenal gave us more or less what we'd expect from a talented manager's first season in charge. Their league form seemed to come in prolonged waves, as defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea in their opening two matches preceded a remarkable 14-game run without defeat which took them into the festive period. 

They tailed off in the second half of the campaign, eventually finishing fifth, and although they generally looked a touch disjointed, a run to the Europa League final showed clear progress from the Wenger years.

It was a long way from the perfect season, but there were plenty of highlights - the 4-2 victory over Tottenham in December the headline - that will fill fans with enthusiasm ahead of the big  kick-off. 


Pre-Season

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File under: mixed bag. The Gunners' preparations started swimmingly in the US, with a Champions Cup victory over Bayern Munich wedged in between routine 3-0 wins over Colorado Rapids and Fiorentina, before things stepped up a gear or two with a 2-2 draw - and subsequent defeat on penalties - to Real Madrid. 

They seemed to leave their pre-season magic stateside, however, as a return to England came with an Emirates Cup defeat to Lyon. A draw with Angers followed shortly, and then pre-season closed out in disappointing fashion when Barcelona came to town on Sunday, registering a 2-1 victory after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had opened the scoring. 


Transfers In

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This is where it gets interesting. It was supposed to be a quiet, understated window for the Gunners, who allegedly had just £45m to spend, but it didn't quite play out that way. 

Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli arrived from Ituano, shortly followed by the loan acquisition of Dani Ceballos and the purchase of 18-year-old William Saliba - although the latter was immediately loaned back to  Saint Etienne to develop.

This was just the tip of the iceberg, however. After attempts to land Wilfried Zaha tanked, £72m was outlaid on Lille forward Nicolas Pepe, with deadline day seeing the defence shored up with the signings of Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and, controversially, Chelsea's David Luiz. 


Transfers Out

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Luiz's arrival was necessitated by the departure of Laurent Koscielny, who caused ructions when he forced through a move to Bordeaux. There was also the departure of Aaron Ramsey to contend with, with Ceballos drafted in to replace the creative spark offered by the Welshman.

Following the stalwart duo out the exit door were Danny Welbeck, Carl Jenkinson, David Ospina, Krystian Bielik and Alex Iwobi, who joined Everton at the last hour for £30m. 

Stephan Lichtsteiner and Petr Cech both retired, with the wage bill now looking a good deal more compact. 


Strengths

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Arsenal scored 73 Premier League goals last term - the highest outside of Manchester City and Liverpool - with 35 of those credited to the clinical pairing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette. Throw the 22 Ligue 1 goals that Nicolas Pepe managed last season into the mix, then it becomes pretty clear what the Gunners' main asset will be for the season ahead.


If they can find a way to get Mesut Ozil involved, then they have an attacking line to be feared by anyone. 


Weaknesses

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Depth in attack may be a slight issue, with only makeshift winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan and youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson on hand to offer relief to the regular starters, but the clear issue for Arsenal lies in their defensive line. 

David Luiz has been drafted in to plug the Laurent Koscielny-sized gap, but his track-record of rash, erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence. Other central-defensive options consist of a not-yet-fit Rob Holding, an ageing, painfully slow Sokratis, the questionable-at-best Shkrodan Mustafi and Calum Chambers. 

Hardly the all-star cast you'd be hoping for in what should be an extremely tight race for the top four.

The full-back areas look less of a problem now Kieran Tierney has arrived, although he may find himself playing more centrally if the Gunners opt to play with a back three. 


Key Man 

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While the arrival of Pepe may take some of the goalscoring responsibility off his shoulders, the form of Aubameyang will be as key as ever to Arsenal's fortunes in the season to come. The Gabon international shared the Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane last season and will be vying to retain it for himself this time around. 

His pace and power at the point of the attack is always an asset, but he can be just as effective coming in from the left - which we will likely see a bit more often now room has to be made for Pepe in the side. 


Prediction

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The title looks a couple of seasons out of their reach yet, with champions Manchester City looking unlikely to loosen their grip on the title while Liverpool look the realistic contender for second place. Last season, however, Arsenal showed last season that they are as good as any of the chasing pack, and their summer transfer business may just be what sets them apart.

They should improve on their showing from last season to make the Champions League places this time around, but may just be edged out by Spurs for third place.

There is no reason they can't better their Europa League showing from last year either, but will clearly need the luck of the draw on their side there. 

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