Can Arsene Wenger lead Arsenal back into the top-4 this season?by Jack Kitson / 11 August 2017, 08:49Tweet
Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) takes a look at what we can expect from Arsene Wenger and Arsenal during the 2017/18 Premier League season.
FA Cup success salvaged another underwhelming season for Arsene Wenger. A late flourish playing 3-4-3 wasn’t enough to sneak Arsenal into the top four but they exceeded all expectations by putting Manchester City and Chelsea to the sword at Wembley. The campaign had been a prolonged embarrassment prior to that, as fans bickered and brawled over Wenger’s future. The Frenchman stayed silent and waited for the chapter to play out before quietly signing a new two-year deal in the summer. Alexandre Lacazette is the big arrival, Alexis Sanchez wants to leave.
Wenger describes himself as a facilitator and is forever conscious of his behaviour around the players in the build-up to a match, believing the slightest quirk in his conduct can transmit nervous energy to the team. He leaves the players to their own devices, believing they know how best to prepare themselves, and he does everything in his power to cater for their needs throughout the week. He firmly subscribes to the idea that positive energy and relaxation are key elements to unlocking elite performance.
"I love this club and I’m looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement. We are looking at how we can be stronger everywhere. This is a strong group of players and, with some additions, we can be even more successful. We’re committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus. We’ll test many systems. In some games, we will play with four at the back and some with three, but at the start of the season we will certainly play with three."
If you stand still you go backwards, and Arsenal barely alter from one season to the next. Wenger talks about big changes but rarely compromises on his values, so his quiet revolution might be coming too late. Title fights are increasingly token while cup competitions have taken on a whole new meaning. It’s easy to imagine the Gunners being sidetracked by the Europa League in 2018 as their most viable route back into the Champions League, just as it was for Manchester United last season.