Arsene Wenger is preparing for his 22nd season in charge of Arsenal having signed a new two-year contract in May, but what will his team look like in 2017/18?
The Gunners have started their summer business with the signing of left-back Sead Kolasinac from Schalke, and there are sure to be plenty more comings and goings before the end of the transfer window.
With doubts over Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil and speculation intensifying over reported targets Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe, we put together a potential Arsenal XI for next season.
Arsenal’s season was salvaged by Wenger’s switch to an unfamiliar 3-4-2-1 formation in April. It was the first time in two decades that the Frenchman had fielded three centre-backs, but it paid off as the Gunners won nine of their last 10 games – culminating in their FA Cup final victory over Chelsea.
The extra defensive cover shored things up at the back while giving Arsenal’s forward players a more solid platform from which to attack. Wenger is likely to stick with the winning formula in the new campaign.
Some Arsenal supporters are eager to see Wojciech Szczesny return from his loan spell at Roma, but the Poland international is reportedly more likely to sign for Juventus as Wenger keeps faith with Petr Cech. David Ospina has been linked with an exit, which could see Damien Martinez promoted to second choice.
At centre-back, Rob Holding will hope to have earned himself a starting spot with his impressive performances towards the end of last season, with more senior team-mates Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi expected to make up the rest of the back three.
Per Mertesacker’s impressive FA Cup final display suggests he remains a decent back-up option, while Calum Chambers could also return to the fold having impressed on loan at Middlesbrough last season. Arsenal have also been linked with Virgil van Dijk, but as Liverpool found out, prising him from Southampton will not be easy.
Hector Bellerin will hope to pip Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the right wing-back spot, while new signing Sead Kolasinac will provide competition for Nacho Monreal – with Kieran Gibbs expected to leave. Both Monreal and Kolasinac also have the versatility to play in the back three.
Central midfield has become a problem position for Arsenal, with Wenger struggling to find the right balance in the absence of Santi Cazorla. But while the Spaniard won’t be fit for the start of next season, the Gunners boss might take some encouragement from Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey’s improvement in the new formation.
The versatile Oxlade-Chamberlain will provide another option if Arsenal can resist interest from their Premier League rivals, while the club must also make a decision on the future of Jack Wilshere. Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are unlikely to be more than back-up options. There has been little talk of new arrivals in the position, but Arsenal have been tentatively linked with Nice’s Jean Michael Seri.
The big questions are further forward, with star men Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s futures in doubt as they enter the final years of their contracts. The club are reportedly confident of tying Ozil to a new deal, but there is less certainty around Sanchez, who has emerged as a “key target” for Manchester City.
It would not be the first time Arsenal have lost a key player to a direct rival, but Sanchez is still under contract at the Emirates Stadium and Wenger has insisted he would rather lose him on a free transfer next summer than sell him to a Premier league club.
There are likely to be attacking reinforcements regardless of what happens with Ozil and Sanchez. Wenger is an admirer of Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez and Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, but his most exciting target is undoubtedly Lemar’s Monaco team-mate Mbappe.
The Gunners have already had an £87m offer turned down, according to L’Equipe, and they now face competition from Real Madrid for his signature, with the teenager set to command a world record transfer fee.
Lacazette is probably a more realistic option. The Gunners had a £30m bid for the Frenchman turned down last summer, but the player is eager to move on this summer and Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas has suggested they will sell him for the right price.
The Gunners can also call on Danny Welbeck, but Lucas Perez is expected to leave the club and Olivier Giroud is a target for West Ham. There are also doubts about Theo Walcott’s future after he fell out of favour at the end of last season.
Could they win the title?
With question marks hanging over key players and a potentially gruelling Europa League campaign ahead of them, Arsenal are rated as 11/1 outsiders for the Premier League title by Sky Bet.
They improved considerably with the switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation, but can they sustain it over an entire campaign? Much will depend on the shape of their squad when the new season comes around, but at the moment it’s easy to see why Wenger’s side are seen as underdogs.Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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