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Why Lacazette, Alexis & Ozil can fire Arsenal to Premier League glory

09:00 BST 09/08/2017
Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal
The Gunners had a miserable 2016-17 campaign but have enjoyed an excellent summer transfer market and can silence the critics this season


A season of disruption culminated in an underwhelming finish to the 2016-17 campaign at Emirates Stadium, even if Arsenal did take the FA Cup home from under the noses of Premier League champions Chelsea.

The uncertainty surrounding manager Arsene Wenger’s future caused instability within the squad and the Frenchman has admitted that the "psychological atmosphere was absolutely horrendous" for his players due to the backdrop of fan protests, social media dissent and overall negativity around the club.

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"I believe that since January we have played in a very difficult environment for different reasons," said Wenger.

"Some you know about and that's very difficult for a group of players to cope with that - and some other reasons we will talk about on another day.

"Certainly, my personal situation has contributed to that but you can never question my professionalism or commitment."

Wenger finally signed a new two-year extension at the end of the season following speculation that he could depart north London after 21 years as Arsenal boss.

His team finished a point behind Liverpool in fifth place and are, consequently, now preparing to play Europa League football - but there is every reason to be optimistic this season as the Gunners have - to date - retained their best players and no longer have any managerial instability hanging over them.

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have both yet to sign contract extensions at Arsenal and although the latter has made it clear he wants to play in the Champions League, the decision to keep him at the club whether he signs a new deal or not is one that should be applauded.

Alexis scored 30 goals, conjured up 17 assists and was Arsenal’s Player of the Season for 2016-17. To say it was a one man team at times would be an exaggeration, but the Chilean’s contributions over the past 18 months make him one of the most sought after players in world football.

Sead Kolasinac, who arrived on a free transfer, and Alexandre Lacazette, the club's new record signing (£46.5 million), look like perfect additions.

Kolasinac, who was named in the Bundesliga team of the year last season, is a 24-year-old Bosnian international with bags of potential and has already shown that he can fit seamlessly into the Arsenal line-up, whether that’s with fellow left-back Nacho Monreal or in the middle alongside the Gunners’ centre-back options.

Lacazette scored 37 times in all competitions for Lyon last term and will guarantee goals with Ozil and Sanchez playing alongside him.

Arsenal’s transfer business is by no means finished and the pursuit of Monaco winger Thomas Lemar looks set to go into the final days of the window.

The French club’s president, Vadim Vasilyev, remains adamant that Lemar is going nowhere but Arsenal have identified the Frenchman as their main transfer target and are continuing to push the agenda for the last few weeks of August.

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As far as outgoings are concerned, Yaya Sanogo and Wojciech Szczesny are the senior players to have departed north London.

The latter may be one that Wenger lives to regret, with Juventus having lined up the Polish international to inherit Gianluigi Buffon’s jersey.

Emiliano Martinez’s loan move to Getafe, however, should fast track another budding goalkeeper’s development as he looks to push for the Arsenal No.1 spot in the coming year.

Wenger’s deployment of the 3-4-3 formation last season saw an immediate change of fortunes in results and he is set to continue with the same system.

Kolasinac at left wing-back seems a certainty, while Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appear likely to compete against each other for the right wing-back spot.

Rob Holding’s impressive displays towards the backend of the campaign showed that he has the required quality to play in the Premier League but Wenger’s faith in the experienced Nacho Monreal, who can also play on the left hand side of defence, means he is likely to feature more often than the 21-year-old Englishman.

In midfield, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will be the favoured central midfield partnership until Santi Cazorla returns from injury.

The attacking triumvirate of Alexis, Ozil and Lacazette have many supporters excited about the explosiveness of Arsenal’s attack, with Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all available too.

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It’s crucial that Arsenal get rid of fringe players and ‘dead wood’ before the transfer window closes in order to trim the first-team squad and wage bill, with Lucas Perez, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson all expected to leave.

Loan moves for Calum Chambers and Chuba Akpom look likely, while several youngsters including Cohen Bramall are also expected to continue their development with season-long moves abroad.

If Arsenal can produce the results on the pitch despite uncertainty over whether their star players will extend their contracts, then competing for English football’s major prize shouldn’t be an issue.

It’s imperative that Wenger’s men right the wrongs of last season and cut out the lapses in concentration which have previously cost them so dearly.

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The summer additions show exactly the kind of intent that supporters have called for in the past.

It’s now up to the Arsenal squad to prove their worth by mounting a credible title challenge in a season where the distraction of Champions League football won’t be played on the red side of north London.