Manager – Arsene Wenger
Major summer transfers so far:
Alexis Sanchez – 35 million Bacary Sagna – Free
Mathieu Debuchy – 12 million Nicklas Bendtner – Undisclosed
The signing of Alexis Sanchez is an interesting one. He is a world class player, but being primarily a winger I do feel Arsenal perhaps spent an excessive amount for a player who plays in positions which Arsenal already have substantial depth in. Sanchez can play as a forward also however, an role Arsene Wenger might consider deploying him in.
Bacary Sagna’s contract expired. Mathieu Debuchy was bought for 12 million. Debuchy will in all likelihood fill the empty role at right back left by Sagna. Sagna was consistent at right back. I’m not entirely sure Wenger’s thinking in letting him go and spending 12 million on a player who isn’t altogether much better. It’s not necessarily an awful transition. It isn’t a great one either though. They are also close to signing Southampton youngster Calum Chambers for 16 million. This might be a decent signing. Chambers is also a right back who looks like a good prospect.
Last season Arsenal made genuine progression for the first time in what seems like several years. They won the FA cup and finished with their highest points total in the League for six years. Last season Aaron Ramsey is a player that had a remarkable season. A fantastic midfielder who, if he stays injury free, will provide a potent threat. I hold Ramsey in very high regard. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is another who is developing well. Jack Wilshere is obviously a good centre midfielder but needs to continue improving. One of my most positive observations on this team is the solid backbone which has been developed in recent years. The spine of this team is comprehensive, young and full of potential. Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Wilshere, Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott are the prime individuals making up this solid backbone. Having a strong backbone, particularly one where many of the players (as is true in Arsenal’s case) grow up in the squad is a sign of a successful team. Ramsey, Walcott and Wilshere have been in the team since they were teens. Throw Chamberlain and Gibbs into the equation and this backbone is one of the strongest in the league. But for all the progression Arsenal made last year, they have a lot of issues.
Thomas Vermaelen was the captain last season, yet he was not a first choice in the starting line-up. Mikel Arteta played as captain in many games last year. Arteta showed decline as a footballer last year and looked completely exposed when he played against tougher opposition. Vermaelen might not even be an Arsenal player much longer as he is attracting the interest of several clubs around Europe. Whether or not he is there next season, I think it would be prudent of Wenger to review new candidates for the captaincy. It is a difficult decision he is tasked with however. There is no obvious outright candidate for the captaincy. Mertesacker may be the closest to being the ideal captain. I think it would proactive of Wenger to give it to Wilshere or Ramsey. They have both shown leadership potential.
Lack of forwards
The transfer market is still open for around a month. There is still time for Arsenal to purchase a forward. There is every possibility Olivier Giroud will improve and become the goalscoring threat that Wenger hoped he would become when the Frenchman arrived at Arsenal. I am far from convinced of Giroud. He misses easy goalscoring opportunities, he is slow and considering his height advantage, he is surprisingly bad at heading. Alexis Sanchez might be deployed as a forward. It’s difficult to say what will become of that option, but even if that is the intention, Arsenal could do with another forward.
In several seasons of late Arsenal have sustained injuries to important players. But I do not agree with the assessment that these injuries have hampered their chances of winning the Premier League. Every team suffers injuries. What seems to make Arsenal’s injuries more prominent is the lack of cover they have when injuries do occur. For example, last season Manchester City were without key players such as Aguero, Toure and Kompany for periods as a result of injuries. Yet, they had adequate cover for the injuries. The likes of Edin Dzeko, James Milner and Joleon Lescott are all decent players to come in to the team when injuries occur. Arsenal on the other hand do not have cover, in most positions, that is as adequate as some of their competitors when injuries occur. Let’s say Ramsey gets injured (as he did last season). Arsenal don’t have back up options which are good enough to cover for Ramseys absence appropriately.
Arsenal spent a fortune on Mesut Ozil last summer. By most accounts, he had a below par and relatively disappointing season. Often major signings, such as Ozil, take some time to adapt to their new club and their new way of life in another country. If this was the issue Ozil had last season, then I believe Arsenal can look forward to having a top class attacking midfielder in their squad once he becomes comfortable and his form returns. There is no denying he is a top class talent. If Ozil can deliver on the high expectations placed upon him, it could determine much about Arsenal’s season.
This is a team which goes into yet another new season with so many questions being asked of them. Arsenal are one of the most difficult teams to determine how good they actually are. Some say they could have improved on the 4th place finish last season, yet some may suggest they were lucky to finish 4th at all considering Everton had the final Champions League place in their own hands until the final few games.
My assessment is that Arsenal are making gradual progress. I think they are on the right track. It is a flustering yet exciting time to be a fan of this side. If all things fall into place for them this upcoming season, then we could potentially see a dangerous and threatening team for the Premier League title and a team capable of going far in the Champions League. But relying on everything falling into place with little or inadequate back up options is dangerous.