So far we’ve looked at the depth chart and assessed the transfer window level of need for the defense and the midfield. Now we wrap up this preseason series assessing the front three positions - forward, left winger, and right winger.
Last season Arsenal only scored 56 times in the Premier League, just under 1.5 goals per match. While that still managed to be 7th best in the league, it was Arsenal’s worst league scoring season since 1995-96. Aubameyang’s new contract remains the most pressing question for Arsenal’s attack, but there is plenty for Arteta to improve this upcoming campaign.
- None as of publishing. However, it is expected that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will make a full move to Roma this summer.
- Technically, we could include Willian here again. But given Arsenal’s lack of options at attacking midfielder, and Arteta’s comments on his addition to that position for the Gunners, we featured him in the previous edition of this series.
Starter: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (31, 6/21)
Backup: Bukayo Saka (18, 6/23)
Academy/Future Prospect: Tyreece John-Jules (19, Unknown) & George Lewis (20, Unknown)
Transfer Window Need: Low. While Aubameyang’s best position isn’t out on the left, he has led Arsenal in goals since his arrival and been among the the league’s top scorers. Arsenal’s best 1-2 on the depth chart with the emergence of Saka this past season, not many teams in the league have the talent of Auba-Saka to deploy out left. If PEA signs a new deal, as expected, Arteta is covered at this position for the next few seasons. The U23s recently picked up George Lewis from Norway and will be one to watch this upcoming season in the Premier League 2, alongside John-Jules unless he heads out on a loan for 20/21.
Starter: Nicolas Pepe (25, 6/24)
Backup: Reiss Nelson (20, 6/23)
Academy/Future Prospect: Trae Coyle (19, Unknown, on loan at Gillingham this season)
Transfer Window Need: Medium. Arsenal spent big last summer to bring in Pepe, and despite three managers and a long break for COVID-19 he still managed eight goals and ten assists. Second highest on the team in Goals+Assists behind Auba. Reiss Nelson seems like a completely viable 2nd choice option and is still only 20. Last year’s choppy season, was his first full one with the senior Arsenal side. Is Nelson the next Serge Gnabry? That’s impossible to say and a huge leap for Reiss to make, but the Gunners would do well to focus on his development this season - whether that is rotating with Pepe or out on loan if Willian and Pepe are to split time at that position. Trae Coyle heads out on loan for his first full senior level season, opening up another spot for another prospect from the U23s to shine this year, or George Lewis who can also play on the right.
Starter: Alexandre Lacazette (29, 6/22)
Backup: Eddie Nketiah (21, 6/22) & Gabriel Martinelli (19, 6/24)
Academy/Future Prospect: Folarin Balogun (18, 6/21)
Transfer Window Need: Medium. The future looks to be in good hands as Nketiah was solid in his return after being on loan with Leeds for the first half of the season. Martinelli shined in his first year in England, ten goals and four assists, but will have a lengthy time returning to full fitness and form. Balogun looks very promising, netting 10 goals with the U23s last season, but with young strikers ahead of him in the first team the worry is that he may leave rather than signing a new senior contract and going out on loan.
Lacazette managed 12 goals in 19/20, but is the most likely attacker on the squad to leave this summer. The odd transfer window and additional matches that come with being back in the Europa League again, may see his departure delayed another season. However, if Arsenal can find the right option, to replace Lacazette or a left winger to add and push Auabmeyang up top, then you get the sense Arteta will go for it. Martinelli very well could be the future #9 for Arsenal, but for this season Mikel needs someone he can rely on up top while Gabriel returns to fitness.
Defensively Arsenal should be better in 20/21. Especially if they secure Gabriel Magalhães and once Mari is healthy. However, can Arteta find a way to utilize these attacking pieces and be more effective in order for Arsenal to return to their typically 70 goal range in the Premier League? If Aubameyang extends his deal, Pepe and Saka take another step forward, and one of the three forwards can bring in 20 goals, then yes. Much like the turnarounds by Xhaka and Mustafi under Arteta, the pieces are there to add another 15-20 collective goals from 38 matches.