Imagining Arsenal Next Season If Arsene Wenger Stays

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2016

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gestures to his players during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham United and Arsenal at Upton Park stadium in London, Saturday April 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Tim Ireland/Associated Press

It appears as if Arsene Wenger will remain in charge of Arsenal next season. Although there had been some dissatisfaction at his performance in 2015/16, leapfrogging rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the final day appears to have improved the mood around the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger has a year remaining on his contract and will be granted at least one more chance to return the Gunners to the summit of the Premier League.

That won’t be easy. Arsenal had a superb chance to take the title this year, but there is likely to be increased competition in 2016/17.

Pep Guardiola is arriving at the Etihad Stadium with the task of rejuvenating Manchester City. Liverpool will be looking to continue their progress under Jurgen Klopp, while Spurs will be looking to claim revenge over Arsenal and the title. That’s without even mentioning a new-look Chelsea, wild card Manchester United or even current champions Leicester City. 

It will be interesting to see how dramatically different Arsenal’s starting lineup is. The system will probably remain the same: Wenger seems somewhat wedded to the 4-2-3-1 formation he currently employs, as it enables him to afford key playmaker Mesut Ozil a relatively free role.

Wenger does not like too much instability in the summer transfer window and has targeted three signings. The Frenchman told ESPN:

We want to keep the squad stable over the summer while strengthening where possible. You want the group to be stimulated and to believe that we have improved the quality. Maybe bring in three players for example. That is the right level for me.

One of those appears to be Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka. According to Dominic Fifield of the Guardian, his arrival at Arsenal is imminent. Xhaka will effectively operate as a replacement for Mikel Arteta and could be tasked with striking up a midfield partnership with Aaron Ramsey.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

The back four and goalkeeper are likely to remain similar to last season, although Gabriel Paulista may be promoted over Per Mertesacker on a full-time basis.

What will be most fascinating to see is how Wenger rejigs his attack. Arsenal did not score enough goals last season, and with Danny Welbeck set to be sidelined for much of the season, it’s essential they add a new forward.

Wenger’s own future is sure to be a subject of discussion throughout the season. The Arsenal manager has said to that he will wait "very late" before making a decision on a possible extension, and it will be interesting to see what effect that has on the team.

At present, there doesn’t seem to be a great appetite for change on the Arsenal board. It’s therefore likely that the end of the season will see Wenger handed a new deal—barring disastrous performances on the field. 

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Predicting Arsenal’s season feels like it has become worryingly straightforward of late—particularly in the Premier League. There is typically some early promise before injuries bite in the winter, leading to a sticky spell before a late rally to secure Champions League qualification. 

Wenger has an outstanding record when it comes to maintaining a place in the top four, and there’s no obvious reason that Arsenal should fail to hit that bar next year.

However, he has now gone 12 seasons without winning the league. Given the increased competition for the title, it feels unlikely that the Gunners will end 2016/17 with the biggest prize in English football. Arsenal fans may have to settle for being also-rans once again.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here.