Why Arsenal will struggle this season
This season marked the beginning of a new era at Arsenal. For the first time in 22 years, a manager other than Arsene Wenger sits in the Emirates dugout.
Wenger's later campaigns witnessed Arsenal lose taste. The Gunners, once highly-competitive under the Frenchman, took their foot off the pedal. They were reduced from a delight to an eyesore.
Arsenal finished sixth in the Premier League last season, the lowest position throughout Wenger's reign. If 'Le Professeur' had left earlier, things might have been better.
The Gunners needed fresh ideas. Unai Emery was hired to bring about change. Returning to the Champions League and winning a domestic cup would represent a good debut campaign. The Spaniard realises the huge task ahead. He is determined to meet expectations.
The summer window proved Emery means business. He recruited five new players, adding solidity to the squad. Silence and indecision regarding transfers were major setbacks under Wenger. That has now been resolved.
Bigger challenges lie ahead, though. Arsenal need to play Champions League football next season, meaning a top-four finish or Europa League triumph would suffice. Are either within reach?
Finishing in the top four looks impossible. The race is between Manchester City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. All five teams have more quality than the Gunners.
In terms of squad strength, Arsenal lag behind the aforementioned sides. They have already gone toe-to-toe with City and Chelsea this campaign, losing both games. Emery's men aren't yet strong enough to mount a serious top-four challenge.
If the Gunners fail to make a satisfactory impression in the league, winning a domestic cup would at least give fans something to celebrate. At Paris Saint-Germain, however, with better talent available and heavy financial backing, Emery failed to deliver the Ligue 1 title on debut. He is now in a more competitive environment, up against some of the world's top managers.
Jurgen Klopp can boast one of Europe's best squads, but he hasn't delivered a trophy to Anfield. Mauricio Pochettino, having had a season longer than the Liverpool boss, also remains trophyless with Spurs. Even Pep Guardiola took an extra 12 months than anticipated to make the Premier League a ‘one-horse race’. Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, is yet to rule English football at Man United. Before next May, a domestic accolade for Emery is simply out of reach.
The Europa League offers Arsenal's escape route. Judging Emery's incredible record in the competition, many expect him to repeat past feats. Supporters will be left disappointed, though. The Gunners aren't Sevilla. They don't know how to win on the European stage.
Although Emery's side will start among the Europa League favourites, they're behind London rivals Chelsea. If the trophy is coming to English soil, Stamford Bridge is a surer bet than the Emirates.
Should Arsenal escape the Blues, teams dropping out of the Champions League will provide stern tests. In the upcoming competition, Groups C, G and H each contain three strong sides, meaning whichever finishes third will storm the Europa League. Atletico Madrid did just that last time out. Diego Simeone's charges took the Gunners' scalp before lifting the trophy.
Arsenal have a long way to go. It will take time. They must wipe out average players and provide Emery with quality strong enough to compete for major honours. As for this season, it’ll be tough going.