first_img Twitter/Arsenal But it will return this week, albeit in very different circumstances, when the Premier League resumes for the finale of the now-prolonged 2019-20 season.PREMIER LEAGUE RETURN: What to know as action resumesIt has already been a dramatic campaign for the Gunners, who sit a disappointing ninth in the table, and there is plenty of drama still to come between now and August.Ahead of the restart, Goal takes a look at the burning questions facing the club in the final weeks of the campaign…Can Arteta fix the defense?If Arsenal wants to have a good end to the season and at least challenge for the final Champions League spot, then keeping things tight at the back will be key.Arteta’s side has a tricky run-in, with games against Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester City to come, so the defense will be tested against some of the Premier League’s best forwards.The Gunners have conceded 51 league goals in each of the last two seasons and have shipped 36 in 28 games in the current campaign.Things have started to look up since Arteta took over, however. During Unai Emery’s 20 matches in charge in all competitions this season, Arsenal conceded 29 goals, an average of 1.45 per game. In Arteta’s first 15, it let in 12, a rate of just 0.8 per game. Getty Getty Images is a significant improvement, although the expected goals against tally during Arteta’s 15 games actually sits at 19.9, which suggests the defensive issues that have plagued Arsenal in recent years are far from behind it.And it was clear during the 3-2 friendly defeat by Brentford last week, when all three Bees goals came from horrible lapses of concentration, that Arteta has yet to eradicate the problem.Whether that can be done fully without bringing in better defenders is doubtful, but you would hope that the Spaniard has had long enough with his squad that genuine signs of progress can be seen between now and the end of the season.Lacazette or Nketiah up front?This will be a big decision for Arteta to make between now and the end of the season.Before lockdown, Eddie Nketiah seemed to be Arteta’s favored choice for the central striking role in the Arsenal attack.With Alexandre Lacazette struggling for goals, Arteta turned to Nketiah, and the 21-year-old answered the call with goals against Everton in the league and Portsmouth in the FA Cup.Since returning from his loan spell with Leeds United in January, Nketiah has found the net three times in seven games and has started each of Arsenal’s last three home Premier League fixtures. Lacazette responded well to losing his place in the starting XI and scored three times in four games prior to the lockdown, netting after coming off the bench against Newcastle and West Ham while also bagging the winner in the 1-0 success at Olympiacos in the Europa League.”I have two strikers at the moment and they are making life difficult for me but at the same time it is very good,” Arteta said after Lacazette struck the late winner against West Ham in March.And Arteta’s life has not been made any easier during Arsenal’s two warmup games ahead of Wednesday night’s trip to Manchester City, with Nketiah scoring a hat trick against Charlton and Lacazette scoring against both the Addicks and Brentford.So the Spaniard is going to have to decide whether to go with the experienced Lacazette or continue with the youthful Nketiah as he hunts for the goals that Arsenal needs to push itself into the European spots.Where does Saka fit in?Bukayo Saka had ensured he was one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet by the time football went into lockdown in March.The prodigiously talented teenager has been a revelation this season, having seized the opportunity given to him by Emery at Eintracht Frankfurt in Arsenal’s opening Europa League group stage game.In 29 appearances, he has scored three goals and provided assists for another 10 — no other player at Arsenal has set up more goals than the 18-year-old. When Arsenal runs out at Manchester City on Wednesday, it will be 102 days since the club last kicked a ball in competitive action.The 1-0 success against West Ham on March 7 seems a long time ago now, with Mikel Arteta’s positive diagnosis for coronavirus less than a week later bringing football in England to a shuddering halt. Getty Images Getty Images next 10 Premier League games, as well as what happens in the FA Cup, could play a massive role in convincing Aubameyang to stay.Can Arsenal show it is heading in the right direction under Arteta? Can the Spaniard convince his star striker that he can start to turn Arsenal into contenders again?With Aubameyang currently undecided about what his future holds, the answers to those questions could be key.Will games behind closed doors improve Arsenal’s awful away form?Arsenal’s issues away from home in the Premier League have been well documented.In the 2017-18 season, the Gunners won just four times on the road from their 19 fixtures away from the Emirates Stadium. Last season, the number of away victories rose to seven, but they’ve won just twice on the road in the league this campaign.With six of Arsenal’s remaining 10 league games away from home, that number must increase dramatically if it is to challenge for the European places. “I hope it is,” said Arteta when asked if playing in empty stadiums away from home will be an advantage. “We’ve seen we have got a good thing to measure what is happening with the Bundesliga at the moment. So it is going to help.”Football is passion and energy, and when you lose that, things balance much more, in my opinion.”With Arsenal restarting the season with four successive away games, Gunners fans will certainly hope that Arteta is right. the majority of those goals and assists have come when he was playing as a makeshift left back in the absence of the injured Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac.Both of those players are now back fit, and Tierney lined up on the left of the back four during the first half of the friendly win against Charlton when Arteta seemed to play the majority of his first-choice XI.So that begs the question: Where will Saka fit in between now and the end of the season?The youngster has said countless times that he is not a left back and that he still sees himself as a left winger. The issue, however, is that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been playing on the left side of the attack and it is unlikely that he will be moved from that spot and played as the central striker.So Saka may well find himself on the bench. For a player who is just 18, that should not be a problem, but it must be remembered that Arsenal is trying to convince its academy product to sign a new long-term contract and to reject the advances of some of Europe’s top clubs.Can Aubameyang be convinced to sign a new deal?“They have the keys. It’s up to them to do their work and after that we will see how things go.”Those were Aubameyang’s words Sunday as he discussed his Arsenal future during an interview with Telefoot.Like Saka, Aubameyang is about to enter the final year of his contract,  and the Arsenal captain has firmly thrown the ball in the Gunners’ court when it comes to talks about an extension .It is up to the club to show it really wants its captain and that it has similar ambitions to him.Aubameyang is happy in London and has enjoyed his time at Arsenal, but he’s about to turn 31 and has several top clubs interested in him, so he knows he has a big decision to make.”It is a turning point in my career, and I still have not decided,” admitted Aubameyang. “It will maybe be the most important decision of my career.” will be interesting, then, to see whether playing away games without fans in the stadiums has an effect. Stadiums will not be hostile anymore and home teams will perhaps not play with the same sort of intensity that we have come to expect. Could that play into Arsenal’s hands?last_img read more