9 big questions that will define Arsenal’s season

Our season preview takes on a slightly different form.

First things first: an apology for delaying my season preview. I was waiting to see how the Robin van Persie situation ended up (not well, argh) and then along came the harder-than-concrete Alex Song to Barcelona rumors.

I didn’t want to write a wishy-washy preview full of ifs and buts and that’s why this is coming to you at the eleventh hour. It is also why I am making the assumption that Song will go to Barcelona — as I trust this source highly (even if ANR’s opinion pieces are often way off the mark) — and writing about our team without him in mind.

Secondly, rather than a general overview at our squad and how it is shaping up (you can find them all over the place, I particularly liked Jimmy Gooner’s) I wanted to write a more focused piece that looked at the 9 big questions I feel will define our season.

So let’s hop to it…

1. Will Szczesny kick on from a promising start?

Wojciech Szczesny has the potential to be a great goalkeeper. He’s young, confident and blessed with a presence that we’ve lacked since the days of Jens Lehmann. His teammates respect and trust him, he has the backing of the supporters and he seems like a genuinely nice guy, honest and direct in his assessment of himself and the world he lives in.

Yet Szczesny has not quite made it yet. He’s the undisputed #1 now — a shirt switch officially confirms that a year after it was already fact — but the feeling must be there that he can go up another level. Mistakes crept into his game last season — a couple of odd shots from range got beyond him, a few times he was caught wandering outside the area — and those little wobbles were compounded by a horror show in goals for Poland in their Euro 2012 opener against Greece where he was sent off.

I have no doubts about Szczesny’s ability to become an absolute superstar for Arsenal but an improvement on last season is a must if we are to challenge for honours.

2. Who will partner Vermaelen?

The news that Thomas Vermaelen has been made captain of the club — a position he appeared destined for after a rip-roaring first season with Arsenal — means he will be the first name on the team sheet, with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker (not to forget Johan Djourou) competing for the second slot. Who will Wenger choose?

The answer might be that he doesn’t have to choose. Koscielny and Mertesacker are such different options that Wenger’s choice may be made based on our opponents or indeed, in the case against Sunderland for our season opener, for which Koscielny is injured, who is available at the time. There is a natural ebb and flow regarding injuries that suggests Wenger might not ever have to decide who his best partnership is, just which will work best at a particular time or against a particular opponent.

It is worth noting that for all the goals that we shipped last season our central defence looks to be a particularly strong area of our team. Koscielny has developed into one of the best pure defenders in the league, Vermaelen has a drive and presence about him that accounts for his occasional positional lapses while Mertesacker’s organisation skills have been highly-regarded by teammates and undervalued by supporters.

3. Are the wing-back positions our biggest weakness?

We have a very interesting situation brewing with regard to our wing-back positions. With Bacary Sagna out of action for another month due to injury there is a lot of questions marks about our quality in these spots.

On the left Kieran Gibbs is better-than-talented but injury-prone and inconsistent while Andre Santos is a player that defends by attacking, something that probably won’t sit well with new assistance coach Steve Bould. On the right Carl Jenkinson is athletic and positive going forward while behind him is Nico Yennaris, an inexperienced but nippy player in the mould of Phillip Lahm.

All four are good options but nobody is comparable to Bacary Sagna and our opposition will know that.

4. How will Song’s absence be handled?

Alex Song has been one of our best players over the past three seasons, incrementally improving his game and winning a lot of fans in the process. However a misconception has formed that he is our only out-and-out defensive midfielder and that his exit will leave a huge gap in our squad.

I don’t believe this to be true for two reasons. Firstly, that he is not an out-and-out defensive midfielder (he was given far more license to room last season and actually struggles a bit with his positional play) and secondly that wedo have players of this type. Wilshere and Arteta played more defensively than Song when they were paired together.

It has also become clear that a holding midfielder is not a priority of Arsene Wenger: he wants a fluid system where the midfielders rotate and share roles. His willingness to part ways with Song suggests he seen the value of a player like Arteta and is confident in the options in his squad. And my goodness there are options: joining Arteta and Wilshere is upcomers Coquelin and Frimpong, Ramsey, Rosicky, a fit-again Diaby, new boy Cazorla and the very-likely signing of Nuri Sahin, who played in a Xabi Alonso role during his time at Borussia Dortmund.

In other words: I think we’ll be just fine.

5. Is Arteta, Carzorla and Diaby an unlikely trio made in heaven?

Relying on Diaby to stay fit is risky but he is a player that I rate incredibly highly and one that, given guidance from two intelligent thinkers like Arteta and Cazorla could flourish. It is only my opinion and I’m not sure many people will agree, but this trio is one that is impeccably-balanced and would function remarkably well.

There is of course the small matter of integrating Wilshere into the team (as well as keeping the likes of Rosicky, Ramsey and Co happy via rotation) but as with the central defenders, the natural ebb and flow of injuries and availability means this will happen comfortably. Midfield is an area of the pitch that we are spoilt for choice and the current crop of players give us variety, intelligence and the ability to out-possess any other team in the league.

It would be foolish to underestimate the signing of Santi Cazorla too. This is a player that the manage was desperate to replace Cesc last season and can do absolutely everything: score, create, pass and lead from the front. Less optimistic supporters may draw parallels with the likes of Andrey Arshavin, who has not achieved success at Arsenal despite coming to the club with similar attributes. However the fact that Cazorla will be given the opportunity to dictate play from a more central position should solve the problem.

6. Can Podolski and Giroud cover the loss of van Persie?

The loss of van Persie is obviously a huge blow for us but by recruiting Podolski and Giroud, two proven goalscorers at international and club level respectively, our response has been excellent.

Podolski is a player who is almost anti-Arsenal in his style of play: direct, not hugely technical and completely unafraid to take a pop when given even the slightest opening. Supporters in the “SHOOT!” club will need to come up with something else to say when the ball is at his feet. What’s more German manager Jogi Löw has been quoted as saying that Podolski’s biggest strength is his running off the ball, something that will be appreciated by our more creative players.

Giroud is not somebody I know a great deal about but at 6’4 and a great scoring record in his breakout year at Montpelier, his physical presence could be a pleasant surprise to supporters and offer the team a stronger focal point than in previous seasons. Van Persie had a wonderful season last time around but the combination of Giroud and Podolski, two players that are all about scoring, leaves us in a strong position to cover his absence.

7. Is unpredictability our biggest weapon?

I’ve already covered this in some detail but I believe our unpredictablity in attack this season could prove to be our strongest weapon. To quote from my previous article:

Le Professeur has openly admitted that he is unsure of how he will accommodate experienced German striker Lukas Podolski and powerful Frenchman Olivier Giroud into the team. There has been talk of a return to 4-4-2 with Giroud and Marouane Chamakh rotating as the target man and Podolski, Gervinho et al providing support from a classic support striker role.

Throw in the superbly-gifted Santi Cazorla into the mix and Arsenal’s attack has a thrilling air of unpredictability around it going into the new season.

Unpredictability has always been and will always be a critical facet of the attacking side of football because it creates chaos for the opponent. In more modern times where statistics are analysed and video footage is scrutinised it has arguably become even more valuable. How can one plan to defend if they don’t know how they will be attacked?

Along with the new signings we also have a tricky, unpredictable attacker by the name of The Brain Gervinho who has been excellent in pre-season and could be set for a special year. With his brilliant dribbling skills — even watching on TV I have a hard time predicting which way he is going to go, I don’t even think he knows half the time! – and a season of English football behind him he is absolutely one to watch.

8. Do we have a deep enough squad?

Assuming that a signing is made to replace Song we just about have a deep enough squad. Our central defensive options are excellent while we have an abundance of midfielders who can play in multiple roles. There are two areas that we could strengthen further, however: at left or right back and up front.

Injuries are an absolute inevitability at this club and should be treated as such. I do have a fear that losing a key-position player like Giroud or Sagna for a decent spell would leave us looking a little weak. As I mentioned earlier our other wide defenders are still to convince while the thought of being stuck with Chamakh or Park up front for a run of important games does not fill me with confidence.

I thinking further signings in these two positions would leave us looking primed for the new season?

9. Will Wenger be able to establish a style?

For a number of seasons this team has given mixed messages to supporters relating to how it wants to play the game. There have been a handful of reasons for this: key position players often leave, there has been a gradual shift from tippy-tappy possession football to a more direct approach and injuries forced the abandonment of the zonal marking system that the team attempted to install at the beginning of last season.

The situation has gotten so strange that when I speak to an opposing fan about Arsenal’s style of play it seems to change every three months depending on the circumstance. This is an unsustainable way to run a football team and Wenger will know it. The challenge he has this season is to get this group of players onto the same wavelength and establish a style that permeates throughout the squad.

Just playing fast, technical football is not good enough. If we are to rock the boat and compete for the top honors we need to have attacking and defensive principles and systems that the players stick to on impulse. We need to have plans for set pieces, an understanding of the roles of our teammates and a desire to transition quickly from defence into attack, something that has become an absolute necessity in the modern game, particularly in England.

It takes hard work, good communication and a united vision but with a lot of intelligent, experienced and willing players now in this team it is an achievable goal. I am absolutely fascinated to see whether Wenger can create something akin to the Invincibles with regards to our playing style and achieve the sort of success that we all crave.

So there you have it. I would love to hear from absolutely everybody out there about how they are feeling about the new season, whether they feel it will be successful and what you are excited about. Leave a comment below and join the chat happening on Twitter too.

It’s great to have football and more particularly, Arsenal, back in our lives again and hopefully the season will be a journey that we all enjoy!

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33 Responses to “9 big questions that will define Arsenal’s season”

  1. darragh
    August 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    Van Persie to injure himself scoring an own goal. You heard it here first.

  2. Andrew Weber
    August 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    I love you, Darragh.

  3. Wez
    August 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    A good piece of writing, and not influenced by the extremely negative press that often comes when writing about Arsenals ‘demise’. I am hugely excited about this season, we have the stability and depth we haven’t had for a long time. What people fail to understand when writing off our chances is that Wenger often makes players look a lot better than they really are by playing to their strengths. Last season Van Persie was excellent, but only because Walcott, Song and Gervinho were playing to his strengths, and not necessarily their own. Top 3, even top 2 is not unfathomable this season.

  4. Dan
    August 18, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    I like your thoughts on Diaby. I too rate his mercurial talents and for whatever reason it seems people are talking as if he’ll be able to string a number of games together for us this year. If you place him in front of or alongside Cazorla and Arteta, two midfielders who absolutely know what they’re doing, then they could bring out the beast in him.

    Likewise agree that Arsenal need to find their style again. I watched a couple of old Carling Cup clips of Carlos Vela after he left and the way the youngsters were one-touching the ball around was a joy to behold and something that the first could not emulate at all last year. The key to tippy-tapping working, in my opinion, is players that can find the ultimate killer ball. I hope with two pass-masters like Arteta and Cazorla, we might just have enough to establish our beautiful football again.

    Having said that, in the past it has often made strikers who are less technically gifted look out of sorts. Chamakh never quite looked comfortable with the ball played so rapidly to his feet and Bendtner looked so clunky I’m sure Arsenal’s own players phased him out of games as a viable option to pass to. I hope the same doesn’t happen with Poldi or Giroud.

    Overall I’m dead excited though, what a turnaround from this time last season.

  5. JayD
    August 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    It’s great to be back on this blog and it’s great to see you posting again Andrew.
    I think a critical part in those questions is the style that Wenger would like to establish. Sustainability needs to permeate through solidity and I think I’ve seen what Wenger’s trying to do, he just hasn’t been able to factor in and account for the variables like all fullbacks injured and star players leaving; more importantly the timing of their departure, but I think he’s got the latter right, finally with the exit of the Lying Dutchman, I think Wenger can focus on his tactics now.

    I’m waiting to see if we fill in those positions you mentioned and full back and up front because I’ve been saying that for a while now, at least since the Dutchman’s pathetic statement. The difficulty is finding a striker that will come into the team knowing they’ll sit behind Giroud and perhaps Podolski in the line-up. Perhaps Wenger will be looking at someone like Aneke to step up if Giroud was injured, while placing Podolski centrally. If Podolski is injured then, play the Ox or Gerv in Podolski’s position. As you mentioned, we are spoiled for choice somewhat.

    I’m still anticipating a 4-2-3-1 system as adopted during pre-season, with my reckoning being in the long-run the 2 will be Wilshere and Arteta however, for now, it would most likely be Arteta with Diaby/Song. The 3 is slightly more difficult to pick (considering every player) there’s Walcott/Ox/Gerv-Ox/Cazorla/Rosicky/Ramsey/Diaby/-Ox/Gerv/Podolski with a total possibility of 36 combinations with those players.

    Up front, I’d anticipate Giroud to play prominently and perhaps Podolski to step from time to time.

    Whatever Wenger decides, we’re in for one cracker of a season.

  6. faneye oluwatobi
    August 18, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    i love everything about this article i think arsenal of this season will actually deliver something am sure of that dont let us say much abt that any more

  7. Retsub
    August 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Good article Andrew, it’s going to be a great season, really looking forward to today.m if the team wins I will be a happy BBQ person if they lose a miserable sod.

    I too like Diaby, if he can stay fit he could have a Vieira like presence

    The unpredictability of the team is both a plus and a minus. Injuries aside, we know we can rely on Tv, Kos, Sagna, Arteta, Szc and I suspect we can add Santi to that list.

    If the likes of Walcott, Diaby, Ramsey, Gervinho, Gibbs/santos giroud,
    Podolski play at the top of there game I really think we can challenge city, united etc. nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see Rvps face if Arsenal took the title

  8. delano
    August 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    I still insist we need a cover up for Song.If the rumours are to be true which i wish are not true Song must be replaces with Yamvilla.Nothing more nothing less.
    Much as it is good to be optimistic about the squad in real truth am not and ca’t be convinced with what is on paper. We needed physical presence in the midfield. A yaya Toure, a Viera type of play so as to protect or back four if we are to ship in less goals. Arteta is 30 plus and injury prone, Rosicky a complete joke and not up to the challenge, Ramsey am just tight lipped,Diaby i dont count so much on him as he has always disappointed but loks to have arsenal at heart.Chamakh is a complet jike around. I would on any day pursuade Bendtner to stay than Chamakh who even seems to attarct no interest from any club.Wishere’s size and mould can’t suit him for a defensive midfileder i hope we remedy that mistake earlier. It is placing him on such burderns that he is broken and taking years to heal. He is best suited as an attcking midfielder for sure. He can’t out muscle a Dejong,Tiote or a Yaya Toure for the ball. All we need is a descent shiled for the back four(AGilberto kind of) and we shall complete in the top four. Otherwise i expect a challenge from Liverpool for top four. Spurs seems abit out of the race. But a mifield of Ox,Carzola,Walcott,Gervinho,Arshavin is indeed awesome.

  9. Jammathon
    August 18, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Excellent review, Andy. And I never saw the plug to my blog coming. Much appreciated!

  10. Brendan
    August 18, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Andy you beast,was waiting on this season to start,GUNNERS!!! HERE WE GO!!

  11. Opus
    August 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Welcome all to the new season.. Here we gooooooooooo

  12. ^_^GUNNER^_^
    August 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    Nice post. Come On You Mighty Gooners !!!

  13. Amit
    August 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Hey Andrew

    Its Nice to see a very nice bog among all the doom and gloom articles regarding our beloved club.
    I totally agree with our midfield depth but i still am sceptical about Diaby’s fitness and JW will be coming back from a long injury and will need time and if song departs we would have to get Sahin,Capoue or Mvilla
    We do need Additional striker cant rely on chamack or Park
    But Overall the squad looks excellent.If we are fortunate and have less of injuries we will definitely win something for sure.
    Man to man comparision our squad looks much stronger than Manure and well balanced

  14. Robin
    August 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    A very well analysed post Andrew. I most especially like your description of LP (Lucas); and yes, I am one of those ‘SHOOT’ fans, hopefully Lucas would help me save my voice and prevent me from screaming that word.

    For us to cover our weaknesses in defence, (our wing backs and sometimes centre backs when Verm and Kosc are injured) the team should learn to defend as a unit. It’s true that defending is the defenders job but, when you know that area of your team is weak everyone should fall back and help, not strolling around and basking in the sunshine or whatever weather that’s going on at the moment.

  15. Li Ming
    August 19, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    Great article! Arsenal look really strong this season, but I reckon it’s going to be next season which will be the one where they really challenge for the title.

  16. shambo
    August 19, 2012 at 2:08 am #

    Was highly in agreement with the unpredictability thing until I watched that game and it was just like everything weve seen the last few seasons at home ..careless and lacklustre with chances through the first two thirds of the game and then scrambling at the end.
    Most wasteful team in football as far as chances to conversion goes.
    The fact that Arshavin was called upon was quite sobering for me in rekation to where we are right now.
    Worried and dissillusioned right now.

  17. seandi
    August 19, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Watching this game I am hopeful that in a game or two our new signings will link up together and create some magic. It look like the only player who had the pace and creativity to create chances was cazorla and gervinho at times. I think the shock of loosing RVP didnt help. I hope Arsenal can work more as a team and focus on possession and creativity going forward.

  18. voley_gun
    August 19, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    Well for me Giroud looks like more to replace VanPersie goal scoring record .His positional sense and movement is excellent compared to Podolski.Hope is finishing too.May be giroud can start and podolski can come as substitute next game.

    Podolski needs to gel more with the Gervinho ,Cazorla and Walcott.

    Cazorla is our next nasri.

    Gervinho is very lively but holds too much and is trying too much to score ,more than his usual game to give the final pass.

    Jenkinson is superb today.

    Arteta – look at the way he plays as DMF with his ball control and excellent positioning. He is pulling the strings and guiding the game play,still keeping our defence intact .That’s why i need one more signing similar to Arteta but with physical strength and less injury prone to replace Song.For me he is perfect.He should be given the armband .

    Diaby looked good but holds too much and slows the play.
    Gervinho and Diaby should not play together.They are slowing the game too much.

    Great to see Arshavin. I hope he has a big part to play and i don’t want him to leave.He looks very good when playing in the centre and should start in Diaby position.His confidence level looks high.

    We have many positives from the game . I am confident this team will score more in the coming matches and will go for a title run.They need more play time together and adapt to the new game style without VanPersie.

    The midfield looked good when Ramsey,Arteta and Cazorla played together more than Diaby.

  19. cain
    August 19, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    send me report i like were much

  20. Alex
    August 19, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    Its good to have this blog back, its by far the greatest arsenal blog. We should have won today’s game against sunderland but we kept on missing the few chances that we had which really worrie me bacause if we are to challenge for honours we will have to take our chances, giroud will be kicking himself for not scoring when he had a great opportunity to do so.

  21. rehan siddiqui
    August 19, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    No wonder rvp left. He knew under the present board and arsene in the saddle there is no chance of trophy so he left and I dont blame him. Another frustrating start to the new season with a draw against a mediocre sunderland. On this performance I once again say with certainty no silverware for the eight consecutive year. Arsene choice of players largely to blame for the barren years. It is too early to pass judgment on the latest signings but to see the likes of diaby, gibbs, jenkinson, geninho and walcott in the lineup inspires no confidence. They are simply not good enough for EPL.

  22. jet
    August 19, 2012 at 5:25 am #

    come on… one game and you’re writing off EVERY trophy out there? one game for new signings to find there form together and figure everything out? give them a little time, please. sure it sucks for RVP to go, but that’s football. i feel a little worse about song going actually, he’s been one of my fav’s for a while now and we don’t really have anything like him, would definitely like to see someone brought in as i don’t see diaby lasting too long (but hope i’m wrong there, i’d love to see what he can do for a full season). happy to see the hot scum and pool lose today. i think we’re gonna be fine.

    and btw andrew… love the b&w photos.

  23. jet
    August 19, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    also… if walcott wants to go, let him go. he’s way to patchy a player. i know he’s still young, but i say clear out what doesn’t want to be around. i’m sure we can get someone to pay too much for him.

  24. leftcoastgooner
    August 19, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    Good article Andy however, our performance today hasn’t done your piece full justice.
    The captain gone,Song to follow on the morrow and a scoreless home-draw with Sunderland to start the season.
    Boy am I jazzed… or is that jizzed?
    In Arsene we trust.
    No really, I mean it this time.

  25. maltagooner
    August 19, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    More of the same! However much Arsenal re-invents itself, it still remains the same frustrating team. And we have no answer when confronted by a team whose idea of success is 38 goalless draws, and who park their bus in front of their box and all we can do is pass the ball from side to side and occasionaly backwards. I look forward to another nail-biting season.

  26. seandi
    August 19, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    @Jet

    Well we are due to make roughly 40 million pounds from Song and Van Persie. Lets see that money invested in some more creativity like a Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid, or hey how about a rock solid defender. Lets not forget Dempsey is for sale and with how badly he wants to leave I bet we could get him on the cheap, might be a solid pickup.

  27. Opus
    August 19, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Just the first game of the season and a lot of supporters already started complaining. Those already complaining are high in weeds.In Arsene I truly trust.

  28. Great White North
    August 19, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Ref: RVP

    Once again another thoughful analysis Andrew!

    I agree with darragh! Cannot wait for first Man U match. Go Arsenal!

  29. Terry
    August 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Don’t think you can read too much into the first game but it’s obvious the team is going to need a few games under their belts to gel. But I am really impressed by my first sight of Cazorla. I think he and Arteta will be the automatic first selections in midfield and the third spot will be up for grabs with Ox-C my choice until Wilshire returns. I also thought Gervinho looked lively but his finishing is woeful!

    Welcome back everyone!

  30. Gunfest
    August 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    It is still early days…
    The best we can hope from Gervinho is how he played yesterday. He is not a good finisher and never will be ! he can create chances for other players .
    We need Giroux and Podolski to score at least 15 each,
    Carzola,Arteta, Theo , Ox have to give us at least 10 goals each for us to be competitive for a champions league spot .

  31. dchoi
    August 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    First off, Giroud, not podolski is the answer to replace RVP. podolski against Sunderland showed that he is not fit for a central forward role in AW’s scheme. At least not yet, by far. His touch wasn’t efficient and he lacked the intelligence and movement to play fluidly with Arsenal’s trademark midfield possession game. Giroud, on the other hand, made his mark in Montpellier with his off the ball movement and quick, precise touch. These are qualities that Arsenal needs desperately in a central forward, and Giroud brings it in spades. The only gripe is that he lacks pace, but RVP in his last season didn’t play with much pace either.

    Secondly, if and when sahin comes in, i could see a complete arsenal offensive front coming together. Sahin’s ability to move the ball forward from a deep lying position is reminiscent of Fabregas’s linking play in years past. It’ll help utilize Gervinho and Walcott’s pace down the wings and also provide Giroud with more opportunities to get behind the opposing back line. Arteta and Diaby never look for the quick, long balls downfield, and this is a quality that really hurts these two midfielders. With Arteta and Diaby, we will not escape middle of the table play. But with Sahin joined by Cazorla and Wilshere’s ability to maintain possession and generate creative opportunities, we will finally be able to bring back the attacking prowess and fluidity of the old beautiful game.

    With that said, we do lack depth in midfield. AW’s claim that we have enough in midfield is utter bullshit. Yes, we have midfielders, but not those of true quality to make us title contenders. AOC is great and will prove to be brilliant at times, but he needs time to mature to compete with the best in the league. Ramsey is highly overrated – no pace, no physical presence, no ingenuity; he dribbles prettily and makes easy passes look fancy (not fancy passes look easy), but does not offer an IOTA in terms of threading chances together. Rosicky has industry but lacks precision in passing and is another year older. Coquelin is a joke and Frimpong is too raw and lacks intelligence. We needed to keep Song AND bring Sahin in. I hope that somehow AW will bring another midfielder in that will give us better quality in the depth chart to ensure we will have enough to contend.

    Our central defense is awesome this year. I really believe in Verm and Koscielny’s partnership. Mert is a capable backup, though not the primary choice. He is tall and capable, but definitely lacks pace and tenacity to be effective in the Premier League. Sagna will be solid as is his backup, the young Jenkinson. But Gibbs can be streaky and Santos is a defensive liability. However, if our midfield can play to its potential, the defense can suffice because of our strength in central defense.

    Can’t say with confidence that we can contend for silverware this season, but if we sign Sahin and get Wilshere back, we have the kind of squad to challenge for the FA cup and secure Champions league spot again. It’s sad to see the club diminished so much. I can only wonder the kind of position we would be in if were to have kept Fabs, Nasri, RVP, Clichy and Song with reinforcements in defense and midfield. We would be title contenders for sure. It’s hard to blame the abandoners, they have or will have gained better opportunities to win, but had they kept faith in the system, they would have attained a better glory.

    It was painful to see Arsenal vs. Sunderland. So predictable with no cutting edge and nearly nonexistent intricate team play (with the exception of Cazorla). I hope that AW can bring back the days of old somehow and give us the beautiful game that we all have grown to love from the gunners.

  32. Ryley
    August 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Our squad is not nearly as bad as some people think.

    Firstly the central defence is in good shape with Verm and Kosc starting alongside each other. These two have formed a solid partnership over the last two years and are likely to build on that under Steve Bould. Next with Per and Djorou coming off the bench we have two solid backups who may not be world class but can definitely fill in when injuries come (and they will come). Our fullback situation is a little weak right now as both Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs are talented but inconsistent and injury prone. On the right Jenkinson is not good enough to start at this level and he probably will be starting as Sagnas injury situation is quite bleak. However Yennaris and Coquelin are both solid players and could fill in at this role from time to time.

    In the Center of Midfield we are looking strong. Arteta and Diaby are both solid players who can play an important role. When Wilshere is back to full fitness he should start alongside one of those two. However we do still need to add depth in this position as Diaby and Wilshere really can’t be trusted to play for long periods of time this season. M’villa and Tiote are both good options there and are both good enough to start. This leaves us with a rotation of Arteta, Wilshere, Diaby, Tiote/M’Villa for the two holding midfielder spots in the 4-2-3-1. Coquelin and Frimpong could also fill in these two roles at times.

    Attacking Midfield is probably Arsenal’s strongest position at the moment, a sharp contrast from last year when it was possibly the teams weakest position. Cazorla will usually start there but if fatigue/injury catches up to him this role could also be filled by Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Arshavin or Ramsey. All these players are solid options and give us good depth.

    Out on the wings, we will probably have Gervinho on the left and Walcott on the right. AOC will regularly fill in at both positions, and Poldi will fill in at the left. Another option is to play with a false winger, in the role that Benayoun played last year and Nasri the year before. This player would cut in from the wing and be a playmaker. Options for this role are Arshavin, Rosicky and Cazorla. Overall we are well equipped on the wings and another buy such as Navas is unnecessary.

    Lastly we have the striker position to fill. Here Giroud is probably the best option as his movement off the ball fits our formation well (as he played in the same formation at Montpellier). If Giroud is hurt Poldi is very capable at leading the line as well. Park and Chamakh can fill in here as well. We are fairly well equipped at striker right now, but another buy would be nice as most big clubs have at least three solid strikers. This player would not have to be expensive, or very well known just someone who could fill in, and score goals.

    Besides these positons Arsenal does need to sell some of the deadwood like Bendtner, Squillaci etc.

    If we do all of these things and sell no more key players I feel that Arsenal can legitimately challenge for a top 3 spot and cup trophies.

  33. D.
    August 26, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    I don’t understand you guys.

    1. We have lost the best player in EPL
    2. We have lost a midfielder who is considered to be good enough in the best team of the world.

    EVEN IF…. we manage to replace them…
    then we will have to evolve 19 points (the 1 third of all we have gathered last year!)….

    JUST to be as good as the 2 Manchester teams were – last year !!!

    I don’t think that “…we’ll be just fine…” will be enough.

    Even if our priority will be or is the CL membership again…
    But as far as I’m concern for a team like Arsenal
    for a team with history like ours
    for a team of the 5th highest Revenue in the world (in 10/11 season)

    it would be disappointing.

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