Premier League Season Preview: Arsenal

Ollie Irish

8th, August 2010


By Ollie Irish

First in the alphabet… first come May?

Goalkeepers – Arsenal are a top-four team without a top-four goalkeeper – still. A top-four keeper is one who makes very few mistakes, and therefore one who, crucially, inspires confidence in his defenders. Manuel Almunia can be a wonderful keeper at times, then later in the same match he can flap for a ball like a baby bird; he is not a top-four keeper. Neither is the promising Lukasz Fabianski, who reportedly looks superb in training – but what use is that if he then self-destructs in competitive games? The biggest fear for Arsenals fans going into this season is that Arsene Wenger won’t buy a top-four keeper. It looks likely that Mark Schwarzer will stay at Fulham, on the orders of new manager Mark Hughes, but I wonder why Wenger doesn’t pull out more stops to sign a proper No.1. Perhaps that’s exactly what he’s doing, but I suspect instead that he will shrug and stubbornly stick with the flawed keepers he has. If so, Arsenal will lose precious points throughout the season due to errors under the crossbar, as they did last season. Such a costly drip-drip is corrosive to morale.

Defenders – At centre-back, the divisive figure of William Gallas has been replaced by another Frenchman, in the form of gangly Laurent Koscielny (pictured above). It’s too early to judge Koscielny but from what I’ve seen and heard he’s got what it takes to form a very effective, if inexperienced partnership with Thomas Vermaelen. Pre-season reports say he is composed on the ball and plays with his head up. Good signs.

With Big Sol Campbell now at Newcastle, and Mikael Silvestre also gone, Arsenal really need to sign one more centre-back though, and soon. Bosnian Emir Spahic could join from Montpelier. Germany’s Per Mertesacker, who would have been a very popular signing, will not play for Arsenal any time soon, however – Werder Bremen don’t want to sell him.

Arsenal look strong enough at full-back, with Gael Clichy (back to near his best come the end of last season), Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs and Armand Traore available; Wenger is not one to neglect FBs, but I do think he could find a better reserve left-back than Traore, who is poor when put on the back foot. Utility man Emmanuel Eboue will get his chances too.

Midfielders – First things first: the Catalan elephant just left the room. Cesc Fabregas is staying put, probably for one more season (a la Cristiano Ronaldo). He will skipper Arsenal this year, which is a huge boost for the club – after all, he’s a world-class midfielder with two major international trophies tucked safely in his shorts, so what’s not to like?

Around Cesc, who is obviously the team’s fulcrum, Arsenal have a solid bunch of MFs, though I think they could do with one more experienced defensive midfielder – Emmanuel Frimpong showed great promise in his display in pre-season against Milan, but he is not quite ready for regular first-team action. So Alex Song (greatly improved), Abou Diaby and Denilson will carry the water again, in rotation, with creativity provided by Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin (who can also play up front), Tomas Rosicky (he needs to stay fit or he’ll be shown the door), Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey (who is set to return around October).

Forwards – Marouane Chamakh is in, Eduardo out. That makes Arsenal a more dangerous animal in attack, as it’s sad to say that Eduardo was never the same after the Taylor Tackle. Chamakh is a brilliant talent and I’m really look forward to seeing what he can do. Robin van Persie is the main man though, and he was missed sorely when absent last season. I still shudder at the memory of his devastating cameo against Spurs, when he changed the whole game and almost dragged Arsenal back into the match. RVP’s tendency to break down at random stages is well known, but with Chamakh around, perhaps the Dutchman will get the rest he needs.

The mercurial Nicklas Bendtner is one year older and Arsenal fans must hope he’s learned how to score easy tap-ins, to go with all those crucial goals in big games, at which he became quite a specialist. The Dane won’t want for confidence, and if Chamakh’s arrival gives him a boot up the arse, so much the better.

I feel like I’m forgetting someone… Ah yes, young Theo. No more free passes for Master Walcott. I hope he’s had some extra lessons in self-confidence over the summer, but when he goes and says something like “I shed a tear at World Cup omission”, you wonder if he’ll ever locate his balls. He can do it, he just needs to show this season that he can be more than an impact sub whose pace kills fatigued full-backs. Head up Theo, head up. You’re more than a sprinter.

Throw in Carlos Vela (now rocking the No.11 shirt), who has impressed in pre-season, and Arsenal’s attack looks stronger than it has for a few seasons. There is a nice balance there too.

Formations – The fashionable 4-2-3-1 could work a treat. For example: Denilson/Song sat in behind Arshavin/Fabregas/Nasri, with Van Persie the lone striker. I like that – the two DMs provide plenty of protection to the back four, which is something Wenger’s rampant sides often fail to do. Or a pacey 4-3-3, a la Barcelona, as Wenger often employed last season. For example: Denilson/Fabregas/Song behind Arshavin/Van Persie/Walcott. And the addition of Chamakh means the classic 4-4-2 (or more like a 4-4-1-1 if Van Persie plays off Chamakh) must be more appealing to Wenger than it was last season. Flexibility is the key.

Verdict – This must be the year when Wenger’s long-view youth policy finally pays out… right? The future’s not always the future… right?

Chelsea and the two Manchester teams have deeper squads, but Arsenal’s is probably the richest in potential. You know when you play Master League in Pro Evo and the squad of teenagers you assembled – teenagers with amazing development curves – reaches maturity and suddenly you thrash everyone? That’s where Arsenal could be now. Physical fragility is an issue though, and no doubt big, ugly sides like Stoke and Blackburn will continue to attempt – and fail, mostly – to bully Wenger’s team.

So much depends again on the fitness of Fabregas and Van Persie, the club’s two best players, whilst a better keeper would help calm the nerves, but overall I see no reason why Arsenal won’t put up an even better fight in the Prem than they did last season. Can they win the league? Yes. What are the chances of that happening though? Very slim. At least one of their powerful rivals will be stronger in the long run. Again.

Prediction – Third.

Where do you think the Gunners will finish in the Premier League this season?

Posted in Arsenal, Featured

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  1. Chipo says:

    I think you are spot on with most of that. What I would object to is the comment about our squad.

    I think, barring Defenders, we probably have one of the strongest squads there is.

    Midfield: Fabregas, Song, Nasri, Diaby, Denilson, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Rosicky, Frimpong

    Forwards: Van Persie, Chamakh, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela

    I would say that is considerably stronger than United’s squad, especially in midfield (and also up front given Rooney & Berba are the only recognised strikers – no Owen doesn’t count)

    Priority now though has to be a central defender. Well, and a GK but that aint gonna happen…

  2. Ollie says:

    I think your midfield is deeper than anyone’s in the Prem, agreed. Overall though, I don’t think your squad is quite the strongest there is. But – whisper it – I do think you’ll finish above Man Utd this season.

  3. Homer says:


    Arsene, please buy a Strong,Big and experienced Center Defender and a confident GK. Then the League is ours for the taking. Chamak will be our Drogba. And what more he wants to beat Chelsea more than anything so he may go one better and be called The CHAMAK.

  4. Achey says:

    My verdict is that if (and only if) injuries do not take their toll on our squad, we’ll win the title. Last season, we conceded so many goals, but we were still up 4 d price cos our attack was quite d opposite of our defence.however injury struck & end was very familiar. As 4 GK, i think al is d best we’ve got 4 now as i dont see wenga buyin any1. Lets get behind him & hope he shows d form which saw him replace lemann bw d sticks instead of puttin him under pressure.

  5. deckard says:

    a wise man would think IF wenger is sticking to his stubborn guns and not buying a quality keeper, then there’s no chance of the title, period. but a wise man probably would’ve predicted last season that man utd would win their 4th title in a row, that spurs wouldn’t finish ahead of liverpool, and that barca would be in the champions league final.

    however, it’s a major risk sticking to almunia and then in front of him two young and inexperienced centre-backs. although vermaelen at 24 isn’t “that” young and already has one year of prem league under his belt. plus he’s a belgian international

    i like the idea of a three man mid of arsh-cesc-nasri that’s one serious amount of creativity right there. but i see wenger go the safe and trusted route of 4-3-3 with the less adventurous mid trio of song-cesc-diaby. the frenchman has huge potential and is starting to show it therefore he’d be a starter for me ahead of denilson.

  6. G000ner R says:

    Totally agree with everything you said especially the 4-2-3-1 formation i think that is the best for us might start using that in footie games lol. but we really need a quality keeper. Heard reina doubt it though if it does come off then great but doubt it. steklenberg frey.akinfeev all mentioned. akinfeev said he wants to move 2 arsenal or man u. def need a quality cb seriously now its getting ridiculos we let in 5 goals against warsaw im pretty worried right now vermaelen is quality but he needs a partner and fast so they can have some chemistry in seasons to come if we get those 2 places fixed who’s to say we cant win the league stranger things have happened

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  8. Luke says:

    Buisness as usual- thrid.

  9. haha says:

    since chamak doesnt speak english, i womder how he communicates with non-french speaking people

  10. The 100% Greek says:

    Very good review mate,nice analysis. There are more factors that contribute in winning the league than the players (morale,fans,refs),but i can see Arsenal mounting a serious challenge for the Premiership. Taking a look at the “rivals”,Chelsea is having a bad time pre-season, ManCity is not ready to win it yet(though they will be top4 somehow), ManUtd is always considered a favorite but it feels like there is something missing and Liverpool is a big question mark. I will stake my bet on 15/2 Arsenal.

  11. R-Hops says:

    Everyone seems to be in agreement, Arsenal need a GK and a CB. Almunia is to inconsistent and unreliable. Fabianski isn’t the answer. Personally I think Vito Mannone should be given another crack, or at least sent out on loan to develop playing time. Arsenal need a signing a la Man Utd’s £2m Van der Sar. Stekelenburg is the one I think they should go for. As a dark horse, and I would like to see what Arsenal fans think, Thomas Sorensen? Cheap (probably), experienced and talented.

    As for the CB, if Wenger has the money, they should go for Chiellini of Juve. Very young signing with vast amounts of talent. Again, my dark horses would be Phillipe Mexes or Micah Richards. But again if they are looking for cheap cover, James Collins? Again, I’d be intrested on what Arsenal fans think.

    If they can make the signings, Arsenal will again be right up there, but I think 3rd this years sounds about right.

  12. reuben says:

    I think Vela could have a break out season this year. he has been immense in preseason, in the last game he grabbed two assists, and came close from long range. He has the creativity and eye for a pass to play off someone big like Chamakh, or primarily in place of Arshavin when he’s injured. He also has scored two goals. He’s improved on his right foot and bulked up, which combined with his natural talent, he could leave his mark on the premier League. Assured in possession, and with the speed to run rings around the opposition, like he did against those 3 ac milan defenders, Vela to be young player of the year? maybe.

  13. deckard says:

    mexes and richards always pop out during the transfer season as “guys we oughta get” but in reality, these two players have lost form significantly and aren’t the talented hopefuls anymore that got everyone buzzing. especially mexes looks ordinary at best these days and has fallen completely out of the picture for france.

    sorensen looks great on a great day but i wonder if he could perform for a top side throughout an entire season. wouldn’t be my first choice, even when experience is priority.

    just to throw another name in the mix, i wonder if wenger would pull out all stops to get hugo lloris. better than stekelenburg and neuer but probably a lot more expensive.

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  17. Ross Palmer says:

    Arsenal will finish Fourth at best. They may have a deep squad but there are only 3, maybe 4 top class players in it. The rest are all good but are all at the same level.Its a squad very similar to Liverpools – You’re not quite sure who the best starting 11 is. This was Liverpools downfall. I think Wenger needs to stop signing players he can coach to get better, and start buying a few more ‘ready made’ players like Arshavin and Rosicky. Or maybe just like Arshavin.

    I’m a United fan. A rare one that doesnt hate Arsenal. Although i probably will start hating them if they become a threat again… in a couple of years time…maybe.

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