Saturday, 15 September 2012

Arsenal Season Preview

It may seem a little strange to be writing a season preview three games into the season, but it was impossible to do so before the transfer window closed. Arsenal got their transfer dealings done early on with the arrivals of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, but I had hoped they would do some more business in the closing days. There was money there to spend, but it would appear Arsene Wenger couldn't find the right players to spend it on.

Arsenal bought all three of those players before any others left, and I would have been very happy with the squad as it was after Cazorla arrived. Of course Robin van Persie was never going to stay, but the departure of Alex Song was unexpected to say the least. Theo Walcott didn't follow him out the door, but few Arsenal fans can believe he won't now see his contract out and leave for free next summer.

As it stands it's very hard to see the current Arsenal squad genuinely challenging for the league this season. That's not to say there isn't genuine quality in the squad, but the arrivals only really replaced the players who left over the last two years. The squad just doesn't seem to have the depth required to go the full distance in the Premier League.

Don't get me wrong I would love to see Arsenal challenge the two Manchester clubs and probably Chelsea too right up until next May. To do so they are going to have to call on all of their resources, and that's where the problem lies. Both Chelsea and Manchester City have owners with bottomless pockets, and United are the biggest sports team in the world.

It would seem Chelsea in particular have spent a fortune this summer despite the impending arrival of "financial fair play". How they can justify the money they have spent on fees and will spend on wages is anybody's guess. The losses both Chelsea and City make are outrageous but there is little that can be done to stop it.

It means Arsenal must look to sign players both of those clubs are not interested in, or players who are willing to play for lower wages. Arsene Wenger has signed three very good players and all three of them are capable of making the team a much better one. It would be hard to see any of them get into the other teams that are favourites to win the league though with the possible exception of Santi Cazorla.

Since Cesc Fabregas left the club last summer Arsenal have needed a playmaker, and Cazorla certainly seems to fit the bill. He has great vision, control, passing and an eye for a goal too. It is imperative that he stats fit for the whole season if Arsenal are going to progress.

Of course Jack Wilshere has to return from injury before too long hopefully. He is seen as a possible contender for the role played by Cazorla, but he has little experience in that role. Besides trying to recover from his injury he will surely have to get a couple of years experience behind him before he can play that role.

The team has looked very secure in defence in those first three games with Steve Bould's influence on the defence there for all to see. Despite the absence of Bacary Sagna the defence have played as a unit, and they have been helped by the players in front of them. With the sale of Song Arsenal looked like they might be weaker in midfield, but Mikael Arteta has stepped in the defensive midfield role and excelled so far.

The goalscoring duties will have to be shared among the team now that van Persie is gone and there is a lot of pressure on Giroud to get his share. He has missed a couple of very good chances so far but I think the goals just might flow once the first one goes in. It has been a while since Arsenal have had a wide player contribute a lot of goals but Podolski is sure to get quite a few this season.

The Arsenal team has gone through an awful lot of changes in just over a year, but their style of play has not been affected too much. If they can continue to improve throughout the season the Premier League title is not beyond them, but I think a top three finish is probably a more realistic target. Their best chance of a trophy might well be in one of the cup competitions.

Arsenal have a pretty good Champions League group and there is no reason why they cannot progress to the last 16. After that it's really a matter of how much the team has progressed and what teams they draw in the knockout stages. It's not beyond the realms of possibility for Arsenal to reach the last eight or even the semi finals if the draw is good to them.

The Capital One Cup will probably be a chance for Wenger to play his fringe players and a few reserves too. A run to the later stages of the competition is not unusual for that mix of players, but it is on the bottom of the club's list of priorities. I don't think it's worth risking first team players for a competition which has lost a lot of it's sparkle over the years.

The last trophy Arsenal won was the FA Cup in 2005 and that competition is probably their best chance of a trophy again this season. A trip to Wembley is always a great occasion and it's about time Arsenal equalled Manchester United's record of 11 wins. When the FA Cup starts in the new year there are usually an awful lot of games for Arsenal to play.

Wenger quite often has to make decisions on which players to play in which games for the good of the team. The FA Cup side has quite often lost out to these decisions and I would like to see it targeted this season. It only takes six games to win it and a victory would stop those who count the years since Arsenal last won a trophy.

My thoughts on Arsenal's inability to win the league may seem a little gloomy, but I am trying to be as pragmatic as possible. I would love nothing more than to see Arsenal mount a sustained title challenge and I will be happy to say I was wrong at the end of the season if they do. The signs are very encouraging at the moment but the team is still in transition and the season is very long.

It's back to Premier League action for Arsenal with a home game against Southampton on Saturday afternoon. After that their next two league games are against Manchester City and Chelsea, and the level the team has reached might be a bit more obvious when those games are played. Confidence is a major factor in any sport and the right results in those games could be exactly what the team needs to take things to the next level.

My dream is to again see Arsenal sweep all before them aside as they stride majestically towards the Premier League title. If it happens I'll be a very happy man but if it doesn't it won't change my love for Arsenal.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.    

1 comment:

  1. I think transfer business in January will depend on injuries and who is available.