Saturday, 12 September 2020

What are Arsenal's chances this season?

Never make predictions, especially about the future. That's what they say.

Of course that hasn't stopped many pundits from doing exactly that because, well, that's their job. I'm going to look at some of the predictions here, with the intention of coming back at the end of the season to see how they got on.

What are the predictions for this season?

The OddsChecker website have Arsenal fifth favourites with the bookies, with Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd above us. Interestingly, Leeds Utd are seventh favourites, admittedly with best odds of 200-1. At least we are more strongly fancied than Spurs, who are sixth favourites.

The BBC have published an article, Premier League predictions 2020-21: BBC Sport pundits pick their top four, in which 25 BBC TV and radio pundits pick their top four for this season. Of these, only two - Joleon Lescott and Ian Wright - predict Arsenal to be in the top four at the end of the season. The BBC's Chief Football Write, Phil McNulty, predicted Arsenal to finish sixth.

According to The Telegraph (via bettingexpert), Arsenal have no chance of finishing in the top four, with 'lucky' wins against Liverpool and Man City towards the end of last season 'papering over the cracks'. According to them, 'there is still the major issue of sorting out the defence while there does not appear to be a natural leader on the pitch'.

Jake Lambourne in the Sun has an article about data analysts at, who have Arsenal to finish seventh, with Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester all predicted to finish above us, based on their statistics.

Interestingly, The Sporting Life pundits have also predicted their top fours. Of the seven pundits, three predicted Arsenal to finish fourth, with the rest all predicting us to finish outside the top four.

In The Express only one of nine pundits, Neil Squires, expects Arsenal to finish fourth, with the rest predicting us to finish outside the top four.

The Mail Online suggests 'a top-four push is not impossible this season... but the club must back Mikel Arteta in the market'.

In short, very few are predicting Arsenal to finish top four, and no one is expecting us to win the league.

But will they be right?

These predictions are understandable. While Arsenal made big strides at the end of last season, Liverpool will be strongly fancied, having won the league by 18 points. Manchester City will also be strongly fancied, under Pep Guardiola.

Elsewhere, Manchester United finished last season strongly and Chelsea have bought very big and very well, with the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz all being added to their squad, and all quality players. You would think that Jose Mourinho will have Tottenham organised, and the likes of Leicester and Wolves will again be competing somewhere near the top of the league. Meanwhile, Everton have also made some quality signing and Southampton also finished strongly last season.

A strong indication of where teams will do is how teams will do this season is how they finished last season. According to this the Premier League table since the restart on PlanetFootball, Arsenal were seventh best after the Covid-induced break, with Man City, Man Utd, Southampton (yes, really!), Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool above us.

So what are Arsenal's chances?

Predictions are especially difficult this season as the transfer window ends on 5 October, with an extension till 5pm on 16 October where Premier League clubs will only be able to trade with English Football League clubs. In addition, several Premier League clubs, including Arsenal, are in what is referred to as a 'transition phase', where their performance is especially hard to predict.

While being seventh best after the restart doesn't bode well, this doesn't take into account the rebuilding job that Arteta was doing after the disastrous period under Unai Emery. Late season wins against Liverpool in the league and Man City and Chelsea in the FA Cup, as well as the FA Cup win itself and beating Liverpool again in the Community Shield give reason for optimism, whilst seeing other teams strengthening and looking good gives reason for caution.

At lot will depend on the ins and outs between now and the end of the transfer window. We have attempted to improve the defence by bringing in Gabriel, Saliba, Mari and Soares, while Willian will add experience to the attack. Mikel Arteta will undoubtedly now look to improve the midfield, with Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar being most strongly linked. We also have a lot of very good young players who will all hopefully have improved since last season.

Sadly and inevitably, some players will also leave. Many pundits are suggesting that Arsenal need to sell players to fund purchase(s) in midfield. Whatever the truth of this, some players will have to go as Arsenal's first team squad is currently 32 players, all of whom will want playing time - which is of course impossible. Arsenal also have 18 overseas players and only 17 are permitted, so at least one of the will have to leave, more if we sign additional overseas players, as expected.

Who is leaving?

In goal, Arteta is keeping his cards close to his chest. Martinez and Leno are both top keepers who will want to be first choice. Rumours are that Martinez will want to leave if he isn't first choice, which would be sad. Several replacements have been suggested, and third choice Matt Macey also looks a good keeper.

In defence, we have eight centre backs (Gabriel, Luiz, Mustafi, Mari, Saliba, Holding, Sokratis and Chambers), as well as Tierney and Kolasinac who can play there. This is further complicated as Luiz, Mustafi, Mari, Sokratis and Chambers are all currently injured, and Gabriel and Saliba are new to the club and will need time to settle. At full-back we have Tierney, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Soares and Kolasinac, as well as Saka who can play there. Clearly some of these will have to leave.

Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar are amongst several midfield players linked with the club, and whatever the truth of these rumours, it definitely seems that Arteta is keen on adding new players in this area. We currently have Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock, Elneny, Guendouzi and Torreira, as well as potentially Maitland-Niles, so again some of these seem likely to leave.

In Attack, we are pretty set, but perhaps youngster Emile Smith Rowe might go out on loan.

So what's the verdict?

Er, yeah, don't be daft, I'm not going to predict. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm not going to predict. You should never make predictions, especially about the future. Weren't you paying attention?

It will be interesting to come back at the end of the season though and see how those daft pundits did.

Enjoy the season. COYG.

Share via Social Network