Arsenal’s 2016/17 season started with a 3-4 loss to Liverpool FC in the Premier League followed by an unbeaten streak which went until mid-December. But from there over the next 23 matches, AFC lost 8 games taking their total for the PL season to 9 which is their worst total since the 2011/12 season (10). However, the Gunners managed to win their last 5 PL games and went on to win a record 13th FA Cup title.
Meanwhile the Gunners performance the Champions League wasn’t convincing either. After initially topping Group A consisting French giants Paris Saint Germain as well the club went on to suffer the second worst aggregate defeat in CL history (2-10 to Bayern Munich). This was Arsenal’s 7th consecutive round of 16 exit in the UEFA Champions League.
Finally, the season has come to an end with Arsene Wenger signing a new 2-year deal. Let us now analyze the squad strength position by position (Goalkeeper, Defense, Midfield, and Attack).
In order to get a brief idea about what we need to do next season to perform better. This is the first article of a 4-article series.
Arsenal facts from the 2016/17 season:
Final position on the PL table: 5th (2nd in 2015/16)
Total points: 75 (71 points in 2015/16)
UEFA competition next season: Europa League (only team among top 6 to not play in the CL)
FA Cup: Champions (13th title – most successful team in history)
League Cup: Quarter-finals (lost 0-2 to Southampton)
Champions League: Round of 16 (lost 2-10 on aggregate to Bayern Munich)
Clean Sheets: 20 (24 in 2015/16)
Saves: 164 (166 in 2015/16)
The four goalkeepers available at the club for next season are Petr Cech, Wojciech Szczesny (who returns from a loan at Italian club AS Roma), David Ospina and Emiliano Martinez.
Petr Cech is 35 years old and his contract with the club runs through June 2019. The Czech Republic shot-stopper kept 13 clean sheets (12 in the Premier League & 1 in the FA cup) and conceded 38 goals in 37 games this season(as per Who Scored). It was definitely a disappointing season for him considering the fact that he won the PL golden glove with 16 clean sheets in PL alone the previous season.
Cech’s problems with low balls continued this season which is a major concern for Wenger considering that the upcoming season is crucial and there is very little margin for error. But still, the 6-foot 5-inch Czech goalkeeper won us a number of games single-handedly with his exploits at goal.
He came to the Emirates Stadium two years back from Chelsea as Wenger felt that he still had it in him despite being pushed to no.2 by Thibaut Courtois at Stamford Bridge. Hence it very important for Cech to fulfill the 67-year old French manager’s trust by guiding the team to the PL title.
Meanwhile, Wojciech Szczesny is 27 years old and his Arsenal contract runs until June 2018. The Polish goalkeeper kept 14 clean sheets (all coming in Serie A) and conceded 41 goals in 39 games this season. It was an improvement for him over the previous season where he had 8 clean sheets and eventually won the Italian Serie A golden glove award for his performance this season overpowering Italian legend and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to the award.
The 6 foot 5-inch shot-stopper made 116 saves in Serie A this term whereas he made only 100 saves last season in the same number of games. This shows what an improved player he has turned out to be this season. He is set to return to North London as his 2-year loan deal with AS Roma ends this June. However, there is speculation that Arsenal has agreed on a €16m (£14m) bid from Juventus for Szczesny as the Turin club consider him Buffon’s long term replacement. But the fans will hope that this speculation is false as Szczesny was without a doubt the most improved goalkeeper in Europe if not the world last season.
On the other hand Arsenal’s Colombian shot-stopper David Ospina is 28 years old and his contract runs till 2019. He kept 4 clean sheets (2 in the Champions League & 2 in the FA cup) and conceded 22 goals in 14 games. He has played 2nd fiddle to Cech ever since Szczesny went to Roma on a 2-year loan deal 2 seasons back. He did get more game time than last season in spite of a back injury.
Hence the 6-foot goalkeeper is expected to keep playing as a backup for Cech if Szczesny does join Juventus as rumored. To be honest he is an excellent option for a second choice keeper most probably the best in the Premier League. But that might not be an exciting option for him as he is in the peak age for a goalkeeper. Hence he might be having options in his mind over a summer transfer.
Last but not the least Emiliano Martinez is the youngest of the lot (24 years) and is relatively inexperienced. The 6 foot 4-inch Argentine goalkeeper kept 3 clean sheets (2 in the EFL cup and 1 in the Premier League) and conceded 5 goals in 5 games. He is still in the developmental stage and needs little more guidance from the senior shot stoppers to become a future Arsenal no.1.
Thus it seems highly unlikely that both Szczesny & Ospina would be interested in playing as a second choice keeper the coming season. It is because Szczesny is coming off 2 successful seasons as a first choice keeper at Roma and Ospina definitely would want to become the first choice elsewhere. Hence in case of an emergency AFC might be pushed into the transfer market in search of a new goalkeeper.