Premier League 2018-19 Preview: Arsenal - Burnley

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Arsenal

Last Season- 6th; Top Scorer: Alexandre Lacazette (14) FA Cup: Third Round; League Cup: Runners-up; UEFA Europa League: Semi-final

This is the season of…

Change. For the first time in 22 years, the main man in the Arsenal dugout isn’t Arsene Wenger, a situation we’re starting to get used to. This has also resulted in a change in supporters’ perception- they’re entering the season without that sense that things will go up in smoke after winter. Wenger fostered consistency at the club, but the toxicity that accompanied his final couple of years at the Emirates looks to have been erased by his departure. For the first time in a while, Gunners fans can venture into the unknown with optimism, rather than expect the potentially familiar with dread.

Who’s in…

Unai Emery is the new manager at the Emirates, and the Spaniard has wasted little time in making additions, Stephan Lichtsteiner has arrived on a free from Juventus, Lucas Torreira has been acquired from Sampdoria, while defender Sokratis Papasthatopoulos and goalkeeper Bernd Leno have joined from Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen respectively. Signing a ball-winning midfielder, an experienced leader, a centre-back and a goalkeeper? Who are you and what have you done with the real Arsenal?

Who’s out…

After two seasons plagued by injury, Santi Cazorla has been released and joins former club Villarreal. Jack Wilshere has also departed, on a free as well.

The Gaffer (Unai Emery)…

His stint at Paris St. Germain wasn’t as successful as the club wanted, but Emery still boasts pedigree, and a knack for blooding youngsters. Well-known for his video reviewing of games, over and over again, he won the Europa League three times in a row with Sevilla.

Dream season…

Emery and Arsenal prove a match made in heaven, Arsenal win the league title for the first time in 15 years.

Nightmare season…

Arsenal begin with a defeat to Manchester City on the opening day, then a loss to Chelsea in the second, and hardly recover. Another tame outside the top four finish is coupled with timid cup displays, and to cap it off, Tottenham win the league title.

Key man…

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged 10 league goals after joining from Dortmund in mid-season, and there’ll be much expectation as to what he can do with pre-season and a full campaign upcoming.

Need to step up…

Aaron Ramsey continues to bathe in inconsistency, and still won’t convince. Emery stating that the Welshman is a big part of his plans is a huge show of faith from the manager. Time for Ramsey to repay that.

Verdict: The breath of change at the Emirates is welcome, and frankly overdue, but the reality is, unless Emery garners a team greater than the sum of its parts, Arsenal are still comfortably sixth-best in the league. 6th

Bournemouth

Last Season: 12th; Top Scorer: Josh King (8); FA Cup: Fourth Round; League Cup: Quarter-final

This is the season of…

Ambition? Bournemouth have spent each of their three Premier League seasons with a similar theme- bad start, relegation trouble by winter, wonderful form at the turn of the year, then comfortable finish- even though the league positions have varied. There was something a tad underwhelming, though, about last season’s 12th-place finish, like ‘the same old same old is getting boring’. Will Bournemouth give in to ambition and aim higher, or continue with mid-table comfort and avoid what would seem like preposterous expectations?

Who’s in…

It’s been a quiet summer so far at the South Coast, youngster David Brook joining from Sheffield United, and Diego Rico arriving from Leganes to give the left-back spot an upgrade the only new signings…so far.

Who’s out…

No key departure as of yet, loan specialists Benik Afobe, Lewis Grabban and Max Gradel have all been moved on, while goalkeepers Adam Federici and Ryan Allsop have also departed.

The Gaffer (Eddie Howe)…

The should-be Chelsea manager, according to The Sun, Howe continues to occupy the hot-seat at the Vitality stadium. Rumours of interest from other clubs have cooled, but there’s still the sense that it’s only a matter of time before a bigger side comes calling.

Dream season…

The Cherries become the new Burnley and bag a surprise seventh-place finish, with the prize of European football.

Nightmare season…

The Cherries suffer (this is not a thing) Fourth Season Syndrome after Howe is lured away by a relatively bigger club in December, and the campaign is capped off with final-day relegation.

Key man…

There’s more to Josh King’s game than goals, even if he finished as their top scorer in the league with eight last season. Capable of leading the line on his own or acting as the supporting cast, the Norwegian’s versatility is just about Bournemouth’s greatest attacking asset.

Need to step up…

Much was expected of Jermain Defoe, after joining from Sunderland. But four goals last season is underwhelming after 30 in the previous two campaigns.

Verdict:

The fans are starting to expect more, but may well have to make do with more of the same. 13th

Brighton and Hove Albion

Last Season: 15th; Top Scorer: Glenn Murray (14); FA Cup: Quarter-final; League Cup: Third Round

This is the season of…

Continuity. Last season’s survival was as comfortable in the end as it was hard-fought during. Now, Brighton will be looking to plant their foot firmly on the Premier League ground. Survival is still the primary aim, but consolidation is not out of the picture.

Who’s in…

Bernardo has arrived from Leipzig to give the left-back spot an upgrade, Leon Balogun is an excellent addition to the defence as well, while Yves Bissouma has joined from Lille. Up front is where the Seagulls have been most active, though, with Florin Andone arriving from Deportivo, and last season’s Eredivisie top scorer Alireza Jahanbakhsh arriving from AZ Alkmaar. Squad might be starting to seem bloated in that area.

Who’s out…

The departures haven’t been major so far; mostly the lads who were there in the Championship but didn’t quite appear in the top-flight last season, i.e. Conor Goldson, Jamie Murphy, Liam Rosenior, Steve Sidwell and Uwe Hunemeier.

The Gaffer (Chris Hughton )…

Has taken Brighton a long way since meeting them in the lower reaches of the Championship back in 2014/15. His organisational ability is one of the reasons the Seagulls survived last term, more of the same will be expected with a side now used to life in the big-time.

Dream season…

A comfortable top-half finish is matched by an adventurous cup run, and Crystal Palace suffer relegation.

Nightmare season…

The Premier League bubble bursts for Brighton, and they return to the second-tier with a whimper.

Key man…

It’s a tad surprising that there haven’t been rumours of clubs coming in for Pascal Gross, something Brighton wouldn’t complain about. The German remains their creator-in-chief, and with the arrival of more frontmen, the Seagulls may expect to see more joy goal-wise.

Need to step up…

Admittedly Brighton’s style of play shackled him a bit, and playing time wasn’t as much as he would have expected, but Anthony Knockaert will know he’s capable of much more after a rather underwhelming season last time out.

Verdict: No longer venturing into the unknown with the fear of the big guns, Brighton’s summer gives reason for optimism. Consolidation may not come, but survival should be no hard ask. 14th

Burnley

Last season: 7th; Top scorer: Chris Wood (10); FA Cup: Third Round; League Cup: Third Round

This is the season of…

Balance? The allure of playing in Europe is one clubs should always aim for, but Burnley have to play their cards right after finishing seventh last time out. Seventh place means their Europa League campaign would begin from the Second Qualifying Round in July (at the time of writing this, they’ve already drawn a first leg with Aberdeen), which begs the question: do Burnley go for broke in the window, aiming for depth in anticipation of a group stage campaign in Europe (with the dangers of a bloated squad if they don’t get that far), or stick with their rather thin squad (which will be stretched should they go far in the competition)? So far, they’ve opted for the latter, making no signings as of yet, and in previous campaigns they could have the luxury of waiting to see how far they go before acting in the transfer market. But this season, the Premier League’s window slams shut on August ninth, by then they would potentially have a play-off in Europe to play for, and progress from that means group stage campaign from September to December. Risk potential squad unrest or potential squad burnout? Looks like a bit of a conundrum.

Who’s in…

‘So far, they’ve opted for the latter, making no signings as of yet…’. There you go. Does the return of Robbie Brady count?

Who’s out…

The good thing for Burnley is that they haven’t let anyone go either. Well, no one major, that is. Apologies to Dean Marney, Scott Arfield, Chris Long et al.

The Gaffer (Sean Dyche)…

Despite his miracle last season, Dyche still isn’t linked with a bigger club, music to Burnley’s ears. How he fares with the side in Europe will be something to watch out for.

Dream season…

Another season of zero relegation trouble, Burnley also thrill in Europe and stay in the Europa League beyond December.

Nightmare season…

Hull City 2014/15- Control C, Control V. Burnley get dumped out of Europe early on and a season of struggle ends in painful relegation.

Key man…

Burnley are just about the epitome of collectivism, where everyone stands out by no one really standing out, but goalkeeper Nick Pope has become a key figure in the side, earning himself a place in England’s World Cup squad.

Needs to step up…

Again, no one really stands because everyone stands out, but after the chase that he was the subject of last summer, Charlie Taylor knows his second season at Turf Moor has to be significantly better than the first.

Verdict: Europe and transfer inactivity makes things a little certain at Turf Moor, but Dyche and Burnley won’t be fazed by adversity, even if this season won’t be as comfy as the last. 17th

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