Arsenal Predictions 2022/23: Bittersweet Prem finish, best signing, superstar surprise package and more…

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Arsenal attackers Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard Credit: PA Images
Arsenal attackers Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard Credit: PA Images

It’s now or never for Mikel Arteta’s third full season in charge and TEAMtalk’s Steve Pearson has the low down on what to expect from Arsenal this year.

TEAMtalk writers have six different categories to dissect – including where the team will finish in the Premier League table, how the cup competitions will go and who will end the campaign as Player of the Season.

There’s also the surprise package Arteta is ready to unleash, an obvious choice for signing of the season and a Europa League campaign that might be more important than you think.

ARSENAL PREMIER LEAGUE FINISH

The coming season will represent Arsenal’s fifth successive campaign without Champions League football. The streak simply must end and Arsenal’s sole focus this year will be cracking the top four.

Man City and Liverpool look certain to lock up the top two spots once again. Leicester and West Ham have threatened to disrupt the status quo in recent years, though the battle for third and fourth will be contested by Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Arsenal have addressed multiple key areas in the market, most notably centre-forward.

The Gunners ranked fourth in many attacking metrics last season including shots on target and expected goals. However, they frustratingly churned out the second-worst shot conversion rate (10.4%) of any side finishing in the top half.

Gabriel Jesus will give them a more clinical edge and the Brazilian – who we’ll come on to in greater detail later – will thrive on the regular minutes he was starved of at City.

Chelsea’s bread and butter has been their defence, though Thomas Tuchel will be working with a different set of tools next year. Man Utd are impossible to predict, but recent history has taught us their current crop of players can and often do wilt when the going gets tough.

As such, I believe Arsenal will break back into the top four, though unfortunately, not at the expense of Tottenham who will snag third. Nevertheless, fourth and the return of UCL football is a far greater reward than humble bragging rights.

EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN

Arsenal’s late-season capitulation has saddled the club with the Thursday-Sunday humdrum of Europa League football.

The European adventure will likely take a back seat to their domestic efforts and provide Arteta with a chance to feature the fringe and younger elements of his squad.

A seeding in Pot 1 ensures Arsenal will be able to breeze through the group with a minimum of fuss. The knockout rounds after the World Cup are where things will get interesting.

If Arsenal endure a torrid first half of the campaign the Europa League may become their main focus. Let’s not forget the winners of the UEL are granted direct passage into the group stage of the following year’s Champions League. They’re also given a plum Pot 1 seeding.

That is something that will only concern Arsenal if their top four hopes on the domestic front are fading. As such, I expect a weakened Arsenal team to bow out of Europe around the quarter-final stage with the league rightly taking precedent.

DOMESTIC CUP PERFORMANCE

Much of what was written above regarding the Europa League also applies to the EFL and FA Cups. However, Arsenal’s chances in the domestic competitions will also hinge on one thing – avoiding Man City and Liverpool.

The strength in depth those two teams possess mean they’re more than a match for any side when both teams heavily rotate.

City knocked Arsenal out of the EFL Cup at the quarter-final stage in 2020-21. Last year it was Liverpool in the semi-finals.

Arsenal have splashed the cash in the last two summer transfer windows, giving Arteta greater quality among his depth pieces than compared with early days in charge.

Rotation will be the buzz word in the early-mid rounds, but if City or Liverpool are drawn later on, it’ll be game over.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

The only Arsenal star to win their player of the season award three times running is Thierry Henry (2003-05). This time next year, two-time winner Bukayo Saka will have matched the legendary number 14.

Saka is the most influential attacker Arteta can field and has shown he is capable of impacting games against the biggest sides.

Indeed, Saka scored against each of Tottenham, Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd in the league last year.

Jesus will be in with a shout if he’s in the conversation for league top scorer, but Saka’s influence stretches beyond raw data.

If Saka does scoop the award, he’ll tie club legends Liam Brady and Tony Adams with three. Only Henry will be in front with four.

SIGNING OF THE SEASON

Oleksandr Zinchenko and Jesus are the only two genuine candidates for this award at the time of writing.

Zinchenko is a smart pick-up and will give Arteta all manner of selection headaches on the left. Yet the obvious choice is Gabriel Jesus and here’s why.

The Brazilian leaves City with an impressive return of 95 goals in 235 matches. What’s important to consider is Jesus was often made to settle for cameos off the bench during Sergio Aguero’s time at the club. In more recent years he was deployed out on the right wing.

Jesus has already shown in pre-season he is deadly in central areas. That is no surprise given all but one of his goals for City came from inside the penalty area. What’s more, he has a point to prove and will finally get regular minutes to build up his rhythm and sustained patches of top form.

I expect Jesus to land between the 18-20 goal mark in the league this season. While that may not sound overly high, it’s important to note no player has scored more than 23 in the Premier League since the 2017-18 campaign (Mohamed Salah – 32).

Bagging 18-20 will put Jesus within sight of the top scorer. On the back of a campaign where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah scored just 13 league goals combined, 18-20 will do just nicely.

SURPRISE PACKAGE

He might not be an unknown quantity to Arsenal fans, but he is to the rest of the league – William Saliba.

Arsenal centre-back William Saliba Credit: PA Images
Arsenal centre-back William Saliba Credit: PA Images

The 21-year-old has benefitted greatly from three loan spells back in France. His stunning stint with Marseille last year saw him earn a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year while also scooping the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year.

Saliba already mixes it with the likes of Jules Kounde and Presnel Kimpembe for starts with France. Both those players are valued around the £50m mark, and another player of that price he’s likely to displace is Ben White.

Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes struck up a promising partnership in pre-season and the Frenchman has every trait a defender needs in their locker. Pace, strength, height, timing, awareness… you name it, Saliba has it.

He has the air of a young Virgil van Dijk in that he makes difficult moments look routine. The difference there is the Liverpool ace is 31, Saliba is only 21.

Whether it’s from gameweek one or he’s made to wait a little while longer will make no difference. Saliba will be a regular starter for Arsenal this season and once he takes the shirt, he won’t give it back.

The article Arsenal Predictions 2022/23: Bittersweet Prem finish, best signing, superstar surprise package and more… appeared first on Teamtalk.com.

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