The 2021/22 Premier League season is around the corner and for Arsenal, it's the chance to see exactly what Mikel Arteta can do with the pressure turned to a 100. The Gunners will not play in Europe for the first time in over two decades with the fans' faith in the club and manager slowly dwindling.
How well did Arsenal do in the 2020/21 Premier League season?
If fans thought that Arsenal’s 2019/20 season was bad, and it was, then their 2020/21 season was about to stun a few as they finished eighth in the league again. However, the kicker was the fact that for the first time in well over two decades, the Gunners will have no European football this term. They lost to Southampton in the FA Cup, Villarreal in a dull dull Europa League semi-final and Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup. Not a great season to be an Arsenal fan especially given their terrible patch of form between October and December.
It saw the club win just one league game in ten matches with them losing six along the way with things changing from Boxing day onwards. Just five more losses in the next 23 games allowed for a decent tally as they finished the 2020/21 Premier League season with 18 wins, 7 draws and 13 losses to give it a respectable look. But their numbers were far from respectable as they finished as the league’s ninth highest goalscorers (55), had the ninth highest xG per 90 (1.41), the eight best assists per 90 (0.96), the twelfth or ninth worst key passes completed (323), the fifth most touches overall (25217) and the eighth best non-penalty xG or npxG (49)
Defensively is where they improved but again it was wildly inconsistent, which personified the club’s season to a “T” but it was an improvement over their previous season’s total (2020/21-2019/20). They ended up with the third best defensive record (39-48), the third best PSxG (Post-Shot Expected Goals) (41.4-58.5). Furthermore, they produced the joint third fewest errors leading to a shot/goal (6-14), the tenth worst successful pressure percentage (28.4%-26.2%), committed the fewest fouls (346), had the fifth best clean sheet percentage (31.6%-21.1%) and did that while averaging the eighth best points per game (1.61-1.47).
Improvements they’ve made so far
So far, Arsenal have made three permanent moves by signing Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ben White but in doing so, they’ve spent just north of 80 million. For a club without European football that has got to be a massive hit especially given the post COVID-19 affected timeline we currently reside in. However, Tavares is a key back-up for Kieran Tierney, Albert Sambi Lokonga is a highly rated talent while Ben White offers something no other Arsenal defender does.
Furthermore, with David Luiz leaving on a free-transfer and William Saliba sent on loan, the club needs another defensive presence and White is reportedly Arteta’s man. The question is how do they improve a front-line and a midfielder that has struggled to create goals last season? That has to be their key goal this season because defensively, the club improved, even if it was slightly, and now the focus has to be melding a good enough offense to dovetail with that.
Yet, the problem is that given the chasm that the lack of continental football and the ongoing impact of the pandemic causes to finances, the question is how on earth can Arsenal genuinely afford the reinforcements they need to get the club back into the top six, if not the Europa Conference League? That is a serious problem for a club that considers themselves to be a part of Europe's elite sides and yet, for a club whose finances show that they're anything but.
The owners, Stan Kroenke and co, are looking to make up for the Super League nonsense, so that might be their way in and yet, questions have been raised when the owners have spent big money in the past on players like Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey. Two men who haven't quite lived up to their fees or expectations yet.
How well could Arsenal do in the 2021/22 Premier League season?
Tough one but should the club somehow sign someone creative this summer, then the sky is the limit and by sky, we mean sixth place at the very best. Although even that may be pushing it given the fact that the bookmakers have given Tottenham better odds than Arsenal to win the title. But for those hopeful fans around, if Arsenal fans can still be hopeful, should Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool, somehow all disappear from the Premier League, then their chances of a top four berth is definitely possible.
Beyond that improbable, but only slightly possible, scenario, the Gunners have no chance of breaking into a Champions League place and even a Europa League spot might be very very tough for them given that there's always a West Ham and a Leicester City lurking around. Their floor is where the real problem arrives because as their dreadful spell last season proves, this side are capable of playing 10th-15th place football on their worst day. The question is, which Arsenal will the world get to see?
The side that would have finished inside the top four if the results post Boxing Day 2020 were taken? Or the side who wouldn't even make the top ten if the results pre-Boxing Day 2020 were taken into consideration? That is the real question.