When Arsenal runs out at Manchester Metropolis on Wednesday, it is going to be 102 days because the membership final kicked a ball in aggressive motion.
The 1-Zero success towards West Ham on March 7 appears a very long time in the past now, with Mikel Arteta’s constructive prognosis for coronavirus lower than every week later bringing soccer in England to a shuddering halt.
However it is going to return this week, albeit in very totally different circumstances, when the Premier League resumes for the finale of the now-prolonged 2019-20 season.
PREMIER LEAGUE RETURN: What to know as motion resumes
It has already been a dramatic marketing campaign for the Gunners, who sit a disappointing ninth within the desk, and there may be loads of drama nonetheless to come back between now and August.
Forward of the restart, Objective takes a take a look at the burning questions going through the membership within the closing weeks of the marketing campaign…
Can Arteta repair the protection?
If Arsenal needs to have a great finish to the season and a minimum of problem for the ultimate Champions League spot, then retaining issues tight on the again can be key.
Arteta’s aspect has a tough run-in, with video games towards Manchester Metropolis, Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester Metropolis to come back, so the protection can be examined towards a few of the Premier League’s finest forwards.
The Gunners have conceded 51 league targets in every of the final two seasons and have shipped 36 in 28 video games within the present marketing campaign.
Issues have began to lookup since Arteta took over, nonetheless. Throughout Unai Emery’s 20 matches in cost in all competitions this season, Arsenal conceded 29 targets, a median of 1.45 per recreation. In Arteta’s first 15, it let in 12, a price of simply 0.eight per recreation.
That could be a vital enchancment, though the anticipated targets towards tally throughout Arteta’s 15 video games truly sits at 19.9, which suggests the defensive points which have plagued Arsenal lately are removed from behind it.
And it was clear throughout the 3-2 pleasant defeat by Brentford final week, when all three Bees targets got here from horrible lapses of focus, that Arteta has but to eradicate the issue.
Whether or not that could be completed absolutely with out bringing in higher defenders is uncertain, however you’d hope that the Spaniard has had lengthy sufficient together with his squad that real indicators of progress could be seen between now and the tip of the season.
Lacazette or Nketiah up entrance?
This can be a giant choice for Arteta to make between now and the tip of the season.
Earlier than lockdown, Eddie Nketiah appeared to be Arteta’s favored selection for the central placing position within the Arsenal assault.
With Alexandre Lacazette struggling for targets, Arteta turned to Nketiah, and the 21-year-old answered the decision with targets towards Everton within the league and Portsmouth within the FA Cup.
Since getting back from his mortgage spell with Leeds United in January, Nketiah has discovered the web thrice in seven video games and has began every of Arsenal’s final three dwelling Premier League fixtures.
However Lacazette responded nicely to dropping his place within the beginning XI and scored thrice in 4 video games previous to the lockdown, netting after coming off the bench towards Newcastle and West Ham whereas additionally bagging the winner within the 1-Zero success at Olympiacos within the Europa League.
“I’ve two strikers in the intervening time and they’re making life tough for me however on the similar time it is extremely good,” Arteta mentioned after Lacazette struck the late winner towards West Ham in March.
And Arteta’s life has not been made any simpler throughout Arsenal’s two warmup video games forward of Wednesday evening’s journey to Manchester Metropolis, with Nketiah scoring a hat trick towards Charlton and Lacazette scoring towards each the Addicks and Brentford.
So the Spaniard goes to must determine whether or not to go together with the skilled Lacazette or proceed with the youthful Nketiah as he hunts for the targets that Arsenal must push itself into the European spots.
The place does Saka slot in?
Bukayo Saka had ensured he was one of many first names on the Arsenal group sheet by the point soccer went into lockdown in March.
The prodigiously proficient teenager has been a revelation this season, having seized the chance given to him by Emery at Eintracht Frankfurt in Arsenal’s opening Europa League group stage recreation.
In 29 appearances, he has scored three targets and offered assists for an additional 10 — no different participant at Arsenal has arrange extra targets than the 18-year-old.
However the majority of these targets and assists have come when he was taking part in as a makeshift left again within the absence of the injured Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac.
Each of these gamers are actually again match, and Tierney lined up on the left of the again 4 throughout the first half of the pleasant win towards Charlton when Arteta appeared to play the vast majority of his first-choice XI.
In order that begs the query: The place will Saka slot in between now and the tip of the season?
The teenager has mentioned numerous instances that he’s not a left again and that he nonetheless sees himself as a left winger. The problem, nonetheless, is that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been taking part in on the left aspect of the assault and it’s unlikely that he can be moved from that spot and performed because the central striker.
So Saka could nicely discover himself on the bench. For a participant who’s simply 18, that shouldn’t be an issue, nevertheless it have to be remembered that Arsenal is making an attempt to persuade its academy product to signal a brand new long-term contract and to reject the advances of a few of Europe’s prime golf equipment.
Can Aubameyang be satisfied to signal a brand new deal?
“They’ve the keys. It is as much as them to do their work and after that we are going to see how issues go.”
These have been Aubameyang’s phrases Sunday as he mentioned his Arsenal future throughout an interview with Telefoot.
Like Saka, Aubameyang is about to enter the ultimate yr of his contract, and the Arsenal captain has firmly thrown the ball within the Gunners’ court docket in the case of talks about an extension .
It’s as much as the membership to point out it actually needs its captain and that it has comparable ambitions to him.
Aubameyang is blissful in London and has loved his time at Arsenal, however he is about to show 31 and has a number of prime golf equipment serious about him, so he is aware of he has a giant choice to make.
“It’s a turning level in my profession, and I nonetheless haven’t determined,” admitted Aubameyang. “It can possibly be a very powerful choice of my profession.”
The subsequent 10 Premier League video games, in addition to what occurs within the FA Cup, may play an enormous position in convincing Aubameyang to remain.
Can Arsenal present it’s on track below Arteta? Can the Spaniard persuade his star striker that he can begin to flip Arsenal into contenders once more?
With Aubameyang at the moment undecided about what his future holds, the solutions to these questions may very well be key.
Will video games behind closed doorways enhance Arsenal’s terrible away type?
Arsenal’s points away from dwelling within the Premier League have been nicely documented.
Within the 2017-18 season, the Gunners gained simply 4 instances on the street from their 19 fixtures away from the Emirates Stadium. Final season, the variety of away victories rose to seven, however they’ve gained simply twice on the street within the league this marketing campaign.
With six of Arsenal’s remaining 10 league video games away from dwelling, that quantity should enhance dramatically whether it is to problem for the European locations.
It will likely be fascinating, then, to see whether or not taking part in away video games with out followers within the stadiums has an impact. Stadiums is not going to be hostile anymore and residential groups will maybe not play with the identical form of depth that we’ve got come to anticipate. May that play into Arsenal’s arms?
“I hope it’s,” mentioned Arteta when requested if taking part in in empty stadiums away from dwelling can be a bonus. “We have seen we’ve got received a great factor to measure what is occurring with the Bundesliga in the intervening time. So it will assist.
“Soccer is ardour and vitality, and once you lose that, issues stability way more, for my part.”
With Arsenal restarting the season with 4 successive away video games, Gunners followers will definitely hope that Arteta is true.