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How Xhaka can come to Arsenal's aid

Adrian Clarke 17 Jun 2016
New Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka

Adrian Clarke on areas Arsenal need to address to challenge for 2016/17 Premier League title

The release of the 2016/17 Premier League fixtures has whetted the appetite for what is set to be another thrilling domestic campaign on 13 August.

With minds shifting towards the new season, Adrian Clarke looks at the areas where each club might seek to improve upon. Today he takes a look at his former club, Arsenal.

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If they are to compete for the Premier League title this season Arsene Wenger's side will need to score more goals, especially at Emirates Stadium. 

Arsenal's opening six fixtures

MW1 Liverpool (h)
MW2 Leicester City (a)
MW3 Watford (a)
MW4 Southampton (h)
MW5 Hull City (a)
MW6 Chelsea (h)

Sometimes lacking the tempo and imagination required to break down opponents who sat back, Arsenal experienced four shutouts and recorded their lowest goals tally on home turf in seven years.

Remarkably, nine other clubs (including relegated Newcastle United) scored more in front of their own fans.

While the quality of their finishing could have been better - a conversion rate of 15.6% ranked them sixth in the division – the crux of the problem stemmed from the way Wenger's team constructed their attacks.

Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez goes close to scoring against Stoke City
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez goes close to scoring against Stoke City

Moving the ball from side to side, often too slowly and with excessive focus on central areas, Arsenal did not stretch stubborn opponents well enough.

Producing more short passes than anyone, and the fewest long passes, much of their build-up play lacked unpredictability.

The arrival of Granit Xhaka, an expert long-range passer, coupled with the addition of a fast forward, may remedy that in 2016/17.

Team passing stats in 2015/16 Premier League

Team Short passes per match Team Long passes per match
Arsenal 513 Arsenal 49
Man City 487 Man City 56
Man Utd/Chelsea 461 Chelsea 62

Without the ball, Arsenal will also be looking to tighten up. They were vulnerable to wide free-kicks, often leaving a man spare at the far post, and from open play a touch more discipline will be encouraged.

With this in mind it would not be a great surprise if Wenger creates two new first-choice partnerships; one in central midfield, and the other in the heart of his back four.

Arsenal know they must hit the ground running because they have been handed one of the toughest starts in the fixture calendar.

Liverpool, Leicester City, Southampton and Chelsea will all prove stiff opponents in the opening few weeks of their season.

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