With Arsenal’s summer preseason officially in the books, let’s take a look at how they fared heading into the 2016/17 season.
Preseason matches grade: A.
1-1 draw against Lens
2-1 win against MLS All-Stars
3-1 win against Guadalajara
8-0 win against Viking
3-2 win against Manchester City
Although wins and losses don’t matter too much in preseason, the Gunners have looked strong on the pitch. Not only has the north London outfit hit the back of the net 17 times in five matches this summer, but the goals came from a wide range of players. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, Chuba Akpom, Santi Cazorla, Rob Holding, Theo Walcott, and Alex Iwobi all contributed to the goal tally.
While these matches are all about gaining fitness, Arsenal have shown that they have increased the quality in depth over previous seasons (especially in midfield). In addition to the improvement in squad depth, confidence is also key and the players should head into the 2016/17 campaign feeling fairly good about themselves.
Injuries grade: D. Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, and Jack Wilshere (to go along with already injured Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson). The injuries to center back duo of Mertesacker and Gabriel hurt the team the most. The German will be out for up to five months, while Gabriel’s ankle issue will reportedly sideline him for up to eight weeks.
Manager Arsene Wenger was already in the market for a center back before these injuries occurred, but he will certainly have to make a move now, and quickly. Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi is widely viewed as the team’s main defensive target, and rightly so. The German international would be a solid signing for the Gunners.
Signings grade: B-. Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, Takuma Asano, and Kelechi Nwakali. So far, Wenger has brought in one top player who can contribute immediately (Xhaka) and three young players for the future. The three youngsters appear to be good bargain buys for Arsenal. Holding has looked promising during the club’s preseason, Asano has already netted multiple goals for Japan in the Olympics, and Nwakali is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in Africa.
With a few weeks left in the summer transfer period, Wenger will have to bring in two more players. A new center back, like the aforementioned Mustafi, seems increasingly likely, but this team also needs an additional forward as well. The Gunners have solely relied on Olivier Giroud for too long. The Frenchman is definitely a capable player, but Arsenal do not currently have sufficient backup for when Giroud is out of form/injured.
Departures grade: B. Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Wellington Silva, Isaac Hayden, and Wojciech Szczesny (loan). Arsenal have done well to replace the outgoing midfield trio of Arteta, Flamini, and Rosicky with Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, and essentially Alex Iwobi. Not only have the departures this summer been manageable, but the Gunners have also cleared up over £12 million in yearly salaries by releasing these players as well.
Overall grade: B-. It’s been a bit of a double-edged sword so far this summer for Arsenal. Although the club have looked very positive and deep on the pitch, injuries have certainly dampened spirits amongst Gunner fans. Nevertheless, if Wenger can bring in a center back and a forward before the transfer market slams shut, to go along with a exceptionally strong midfield, this team will be in hunt for the Premier League title come May.
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