Arsenal have had a rather poor summer.
They’ve struggled in the transfer market – only managing to add Granit Xhaka, Takuma Asano and Rob Holding, and they’ve been rocked by the loss of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel before their opening weekend clash with Liverpool.
The target for Arsene Wenger is still to win the Premier League, but the Gunners aren’t the most fancied team to lift the trophy come May, given their rivals’ impressive efforts to improve their squads during the transfer window.
Manchester United have made big moves to appoint Jose Mourinho and sign Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Manchester City have a world class manager of their own in Pep Guardiola.
We spoke to Ray Parlour, Arsenal legend turned pundit, and he gave his predictions for the season ahead.
Parlour seemed to be backing one half of Manchester, and Jose won’t be happy:
Guardiola will demand a lot out of a good squad of players and I think his recruitment has been perfect in giving the team the quality they maybe lacked in key positions last time around.
There is no doubt that Mourinho will provide Manchester United with the experience that they will require to win titles at the top level again.
And what about Chelsea?
I think that Conte can get the best out of Fabregas, Costa and Hazard and that they will be back to the attack minded Chelsea we have been accustomed to seeing in previous years.
Parlour spoke about Champions League qualification and said:
Under Wenger, Arsenal remain a team based on consistency and I strongly believe that they will at least make it into the Champions League places.
One or two more signings to add to an already very good squad might see them get closer to title contenders but at the moment I see them propping up the other contenders come the end of the season.
They love gambling – just like Wenger is doing every day he fails to sign a centre back – and possess some of the key personality traits required to separate the Premier League’s elite at the top of the table.
Poker players are used to making decisions on limited information, making them good judges when it comes to predicting the league table.
As the UK’s most accomplished online poker player in history (he’s won $17 million in prize money) and lifetime Arsenal fan, Chris Moorman, predicted the same table topping favourites as Parlour: Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Being an Arsenal fan this wasn’t an easy one for me to predict, said Moorman, who has just returned to the UK from the World Series of Poker Championship in Las Vegas.
Wenger is finally going to make Arsenal miss out on the top four with his ineptitude in the transfer market and tactical decisions to change games.
I think Conte will be huge for Chelsea, stabilising the defence whilst the likes of Costa and Hazard will be back to their best after a challenging 2015/16 season.
For me, Pep Guardiola will take the most time to adapt to the league, even though they have the best team on paper, but with John Stones and Gabriel Jesus coming on board I fully expect them to be in the mix come the end of the season.
From Moorman’s comments, the sense of Gunners fans becoming disillusioned with Wenger’s management is clear, and Parlour thinks that his former manager has a big decision to make at the end of the season.
Wenger has been in charge at the Emirates (and Highbury), just short of 20 years, but is entering the last season of his contract, and his future is in doubt as fan pressure rises and the wait for a Premier League title enters its 13th season.
Speaking about the Frenchman’s future, Parlour said:
At the end of the day, it’s down to what he wants. He’s a proud man.
If it’s not a good season this year, he might walk away and let someone else have a go. It’s a huge call for the board to let him leave after 20 years of service.
Then there’s the question of who replaces him if he does go, is it someone like Eddie Howe? Or do they try and prise Diego Simeone or a top manager from Europe? It’s a huge decision but it will happen at the end of the season when everything’s more clear.
At the minute, he’s relaxed and ready for the season, he doesn’t feel any pressure at the minute anyway.
Arsenal kick off their season on Sunday, as they host Jurgen Klopp’s resurgent Liverpool side.
One thing is for sure, the Gunners will need a good start if they are to banish the negative feeling around the club that has plagued pre season.