Friday, 5 September 2014

Arsenal Season Preview

With the comings and goings of the transfer window it's almost impossible to write a season preview at the start of the season. For the last few seasons I've waited until early December to give my opinions on how Arsenal might perform because of all of the uncertainty. Now that the window has closed until January I thinks it's time for me to do just that no matter how painful it might be.

On the face of it the summer started really well for Arsenal with the arrivals of Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchey, Calum Chambers and David Ospina while some dead wood was cut adrift. In reality Sanchez was the only addition to the squad with the others all replacing departing players. Of course Sanchez is an exceptional player and can make a huge difference to Arsenal's attacking options this season.

However the obvious need for defensive reinforcements was not being dealt with and I got more and more anxious as the window slowly closed. Despite the hilarity of seeing Sky reporters having dildos and blow up dolls waved at them live on air there wasn't too much entertainment in the closing hours of the window for Arsenal fans. As the night wore on it was obvious that the club were going to nab the signature of Danny Welbeck from under the noses of Spurs, but the last time I checked he was a centre forward.

His arrival has to be welcomed with Olivier Giroud picking up an injury against Everton and likely to be out until early in the new year at least. Welbeck should get a long run in the team which is something he rarely got at United and maybe, just maybe it could be the making of him. How funny it would be to see him banging in goals for Arsenal while a certain Dutch forward suffered in the shadow of Radamel Falcao at United. Of course that could only happen in an ideal world and we all know the one we live in is far from that, but we can at least hope.

With players like Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott along with Welbeck to provide the flair and goals there should be no shortage of attacking options for Arsenal this season. Their problems could come at the other end though with only six defenders listed on the club site in the first team squad. One of those defenders is Kieran Gibbs who cannot seem to put a run of games together without succumbing to yet another injury despite being a very good player. 

If the team are to attempt to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League as well as trying to retain the FA Cup it's going to be very hard to do so with only six defenders. I have no doubt injuries and occasional suspensions will come into play and the Arsenal defence could take on a very unfamiliar look at times. When Thomas Vermaelen was sold we were told he would be replaced but it didn't happen and that was just not good enough given the time left to do so.

Studying the Arsenal squad I find it hard to see how they can put up a real challenge for the league against a Chelsea squad with so much strength in depth. City have a squad to match Chelsea's and will probably be right up there with them challenging for the title. Liverpool could find things a bit difficult without Luis Suarez while it's impossible to know how the all new United will perform after their poor start and star signings.

I think it's going to be another season of a top four finish being "like a trophy" for Arsenal and maybe a run to the last eight of the Champions League if they get out of their group and get a favourable draw. There's every chance of the team having another good FA Cup run too and maybe retaining the trophy while some of the fringe players will again get a run in the fairly meaningless Capital One Cup. I would love to see the team storm the league and win it, but they're already four points off the pace after a very average August.

The start of the season came too soon for Arsenal while the end of the transfer window seemed to arrive in a similar fashion. The team has some magnificent midfield talent even if a lot of the players are somewhat similar and the issue of a top class holding midfielder wasn't addressed before the window closed either. There can be no more excuses though and it's time for the players to step up and make sure they are fully prepared for the rest of the season.

In the next few weeks Arsenal have games against City, Dortmund, Spurs, Galatasary and Chelsea as well as Villa and Southampton. If the team are going to do something this season those games are going to give a real pointer to what is possible. If they can get through to the next international break in good shape in both the league and the Champions League then my perceptions might change a little and I hope that is the case. Until then though I have to stick with my pessimism and predict another season of what might have been for Arsenal.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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