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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Premier League preview 2018/19 - Arsenal: Aubameyang goals key to hopes of return to top four

Richard Jolly is analysing all 20 teams competing in the Premier League and giving his verdict on how they will fare. Here he looks at how Arsenal will fare as life without Arsene Wenger begins

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goals will be key to Arsenal's prospects. Getty Images 
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goals will be key to Arsenal's prospects. Getty Images 

State of play at Arsenal: The continuity club has undergone vast change. Exit Arsene Wenger, after 22 years at the helm, and enter Unai Emery.

Wenger’s last season was also his worst, with Champions League perennials finishing 12 points off the top four. It indicates the scale of Emery’s task in a season when Arsenal are again burdened with the Europa League and at a point when they cannot be the biggest spenders.

Yet with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan beginning a first full season in London and Mesut Ozil’s attention perhaps focused by his international retirement, Arsenal have the talent if they can ally it with consistency and structure.

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Key player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – The statistics are remarkable. The Gabonese scored 100 goals in his last 118 Bundesliga games. He added 10 in his first 14 in the Premier League, even if Arsenal’s attention was elsewhere by then. Yet if that bodes well, Aubameyang may be used on the left if Alexandre Lacazette is the main striker.

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Manager: Unai Emery – Despite winning Ligue 1 last season, the Spaniard’s reputation may have been reduced during his time at Paris Saint-Germain. Arsenal is less of a superstar vehicle and they could derive encouragement from his record of overachieving with Valencia and Sevilla.

Talking point: Can Emery make Arsenal tougher? The bare facts are that the Gunners conceded the most league goals since 1983-84 and did not take an away point in 2018 until May.

It is obvious they require more resolve and resilience. Emery’s attention has been focused on rebuilding an increasingly porous defence. It is vital new goalkeeper Bernd Leno, centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos and defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira succeed if Arsenal are to have the solid platform top teams require.

But it is also about greater organisation, a stronger mentality and about improving some of the players Emery has inherited and who lost their way.

Prediction: 6th.

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