Arsenal 2007/2008 Season Preview (Part Two)

Arsenal 2007/2008 Season Preview (Part Two)

Abou Diaby is set for a massive season with ArsenalThe Arsenal Squad (Central Midfield)

Midfield is the position that will cause most debate amongst Arsenal supporters. On one hand the side has an abundance of talented central midfielders in Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby, Mathieu Flamini and Denilson but on the other hand the side lacks genuine width with Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Eboue, Theo Walcott and Alexander Hleb the players likely to occupy the wings. It is a problem that has been spoken about numerous times on the blog but one that just won’t go away – Arsenal need another wide player if they want to challenge for the Premier League title this season. At this stage manager Arsene Wenger seems reluctant, but in my mind it is a necessity.

Granted that the side plays with two central midfielders then once Brazilian captain Gilberto returns from his extended pre-season break he should form a settled partnership with Spanish schemer Fabregas. I say ‘should’ because a couple of events have occurred recently that suggest this may not be the case. Firstly, William Gallas being named captain may suggest that Gilberto’s responsibilities in the team may be faded out and the likes of Diaby or Flamini will be playing a much more prominent role than expected. That may also explain Flamini’s decision to stay with Arsenal rather than pursuing opportunities with other clubs this season. Secondly, Johan Djourou has been loaned out to Birmingham until January, suggesting that Gilberto may be used as defensive cover this season. This is backed up by persistent rumours linking the club with Chelsea’s Lassana Diarra.

Regardless of Gilberto’s role this season, the fact is that he will be out until September and his absence will give an opportunity to a number of other midfielders to prove their value to the club. I personally think it will be Diaby who takes up the position next to Fabregas due to his more intimidating presence and some impressive performances during last season and in pre-season. There is a general buzz that Diaby is set for a big season with Arsenal and I feel this will be the case.

For matches where an extra midfielder is required or Fabregas is unavailable then Flamini or young Brazilian Denilson can be brought in. I feel that Flamini’s contribution is often underestimated by Arsenal supporters and I am personally delighted that he has stayed on with the club. He offers a good second option in midfield and has an excellent understanding about how the team functions. Denilson looks an exciting prospect, but I just feel that this season will be a quiet one for him. He is likely to star in the Carling Cup but I am not expecting him to make much impact on the starting team for big Premiership or Champions League matches.

Alexander Hleb may play in a variety of positions next seasonThe Arsenal Squad (Wide Midfield)

Out wide is where things get interesting for Arsenal. Although Hleb played most of last season on the right wing, all indications suggest he will be challenging Tomas Rosicky for a place on the left or Eduardo da Silva, Emmanuel Adebayor and Niklas Bendtner for a place up front behind Robin van Persie. The structure of the current Arsenal midfield means that whoever occupies the left side of midfield will look to cut in towards the penalty area to attack while Gael Clichy bombs forward to provide the width. It is a plan that I think will work – barring any injuries to Clichy – and will allow the likes of Rosicky and Hleb to play more centrally, something which suits both players. I also think it will allow Rosicky and Hleb to score more goals, something that was desperately lacking from their game last season.

Things will be slightly different on the right. Converted right-back Eboue will start the season as first-choice with young Englishman Theo Walcott providing competition for the position. There has been a lot of talk about whether Eboue is the answer to Arsenal’s lack of width and his exhilarating pre-season performances have given every indication that he might be. Unlike the role of the left-sided midfielders, Eboue and Walcott’s job will be to get outside the opposition left-back and provide good service into the area for the likes of van Persie and Adebayor. Eboue has shown in the past that he is capable of delivering a good ball into the area and it will be interesting to see how many assists he can provide from the right. Van Persie recently suggested that this will be a big year for Walcott but I think he is still a little bit too young to have the impact that everyone expects and I think it will be another season of transition for him. As such, I would still like another winger to join the club and provide back-up for the current wide players before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Robin van Persie is Arsenal’s outstanding attackerThe Arsenal Squad (Attack)

There is little doubt that Arsenal’s strength in attack going into the new-season is brilliant. In the past two or three seasons Arsenal have relied so heavily on the performances of Thierry Henry that the players around him often suffered if the Frenchman had a poor game. With the options Arsenal now have up front I just cannot see that type of thing happening again. Robin van Persie will go into the season as first-choice striker and the likes of Adebayor, Eduardo, Hleb and Bendtner will be competing for the second attacking position. Van Persie had a wonderful 2006/07 season, scoring 11 Premiership goals before a broken foot against Manchester United ended his season. He has looked as sharp as anyone since his return and looks set to score over 20 goals this season. If he can do so, then Arsenal have every chance of challenging for the title.

Although he is doubtful for the opening game against Fulham I see Adebayor as van Persie’s first-choice strike partner. The Togolese forward has polarised opinions during his time at Arsenal but I have a feeling that his third season with the club is going to be a big one. He has the technical ability and fitness to lead the line on his own if van Persie becomes unavailable and just needs to improve his finishing to become a truly world-class player. He has shown his height is a threat from set-pieces and his ability to hold up the ball is second-to-none in the Arsenal squad. Eduardo or Hleb will provide fierce competition for Adebayor in games where Wenger favours a smaller, sharper option in and around the penalty area. Eduardo comes with a reputation as a master finisher from his time in Croatia and Hleb has looked revitalised in a central role during pre-season. I don’t think Wenger will want to rush Eduardo into the side too quickly this season and with Adebayor carrying a minor injury into the season I actually believe it will be Hleb who starts as support for van Persie in the opening fixture against Fulham.

And then there is Nicklas Bendtner. I have to say that of all the young players in the squad Bentdner looks perhaps the most promising. Wenger has been quick to play down the role that Bendtner may have this season – calling him a ‘raw’ prospect – but I just can’t help but think that Bendter will become more and more important as the season progresses. He is like nothing that Arsenal has ever possessed in a striker, tall and strong and bursting with such confidence that he could step in against a side like Chelsea and get a goal. I am predicting big things from Bendtner, although they may only come in the second half of the season.

How Arsenal’s first-choice team will operate tacticallySummary & Predictions

If I had to use a one word to describe how I feel about the current Arsenal side going into the new season it would be ‘excited’. I am confident that despite the spendings of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool that Arsenal are going to challenge higher up on the ladder in 2007/2008. I see the keys to the clubs success being the partnership between new captain William Gallas and Kolo Toure in central defence, the width that Gael Clichy will provide on the left, and the variety of attackers the team possesses in support of the irreplaceable Robin van Persie.

Although Manchester United won the Premiership last season and have strengthened significantly, I feel that Chelsea will pose the biggest threat to Arsenal winning the league. Chelsea underperformed badly last season and if manager Jose Mourinho returns to a 4-3-3 with new signing Florent Malouda on the left then they will improve out of sight. I felt that Manchester United played at their absolute peak last season and the likes of Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo will struggle to have such phenomenal seasons second time around. As for Liverpool, I see Fernando Torres as an outstanding signing but there is just something about the rest of their squad that doesn’t worry me too much. Liverpool always drop points against smaller sides and there is nothing about their current side that suggests to me that they won’t do the same.

So when it’s all said and done I see Chelsea as champions next season with Arsenal and Manchester United running them very close behind. Liverpool will most likely finish fourth but will face tough competition from the likes of Tottenham, West Ham, Newcastle and even Sven Goran Eriksson’s new-look Manchester City team. I’m tipping Robin van Persie to be Arsenal’s Player of the Season and Alexander Hleb to surprise a lot of people and grab around 10 Premiership goals. I don’t think the side is ready to challenge for the Champions League at this stage and I think making the Quarter Finals could be classed as a success. All that’s left to say is – bring on the new season!

What do you think?

Have your say on the new season by leaving a comment.

Read Part One of the Arsenal 2007/2008 Season Preview here.

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Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy Premier LeagueArsenal FC Blog Fantasy Premier League update

Just a quick word to say thanks to everyone who has joined the Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy Premier League so far. There were some problems a couple of days ago but they have since been fixed and there are already over 30 readers who have joined the league. I still encourage any other readers of the blog who want to get involved to join the league – just follow the link I’ve included below. I thought it would also be a fun idea to do a weekly update on the Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy Premier League to keep tabs on who is dominating (hopefully me) and who is struggling (probably me). If I get around to it I can probably provide a prize for the winner at the end of the Premiership season, but I’ll see how it goes.

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24 Responses to “Arsenal 2007/2008 Season Preview (Part Two)”

  1. Jay
    August 11, 2007 at 1:37 am #

    I just want to say I think this site is the best site ever. I like what you hav done and its good to talk about something that you have so much passion for. i would also like to say. Denilson will step up this season in my eyes and come january evryone will be looking at our spanish wonderkid fabregas. Champions League is beyond us i agree but i believe that the premiership title will be sitting at the Emirates Stadium Trophy Cabinet next May, i am confident of this. Eduardo Da Silva will start on Sunday i’m sure of it. once again, brilliant site!!! Has anyone got msn???

  2. Spanish Fry
    August 11, 2007 at 1:55 am #

    Thanks Jay. You’re subscribed, I imagine? Have you joined the Fantasy League?

  3. Andrew
    August 11, 2007 at 4:06 am #

    Even though there’s no point in speculating, I think the side for tomorrow will be as follows:

    ——-Lehmann
    —Gallas—Toure
    Sagna———Clichy
    —-Diaby—Fabregas
    Eboue———Rosicky
    ——–Hleb
    ——-van Persie

    Looks pretty solid to me. If they can stay relatively injury-free there’s no reason they can’t challenge for the title, especially with Adebayor, Gilberto, Senderos, Walcott, and Eduardo as well.

  4. Spanish Fry
    August 11, 2007 at 4:25 am #

    I 100% agree with your starting line-up. I think Hleb will start in front of Eduardo simply because it is less of a gamble. If Hleb has a good first match then the world becomes his oyster. 🙂

  5. doobie
    August 11, 2007 at 6:25 am #

    I wish I could share your optimism, my friend. But I believe in looking at the numbers. And the numbers say that to win the Premiership, you must score at least 80 goals. How on earth are we going to do that?

    I peg RVP for 20, but Adebayor? A dozen, maybe. He makes good runs and plays with terrific bottle and energy, but he simply does not have a finisher’s instinct; moreover, he is just not a clean striker of the ball. Eduardo will take time to adjust, and cannot be counted on for more than 10 goals. Gilberto is good for half a dozen, mostly from penalties. Hleb is not a goal scorer, and will give you perhaps three. Rosicky, Fabregas, Clichy, Flamini, Diaby, Bendtner will give you 20 all together. Which is 70.

    We are simply ten goals short. Which equates, roughly, to 4 victories, or 12 points.

    And if one or two of our strikers are injured for any substantial period of time, we are certain to fall further behind.

    We need a winger. We need one more striker as well. Man. U. will win the Premiership, and here’s why: they can score by the bucketful. Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo will give you 50. Scholes and Giggs will combine for another 20. Nani, Anderson, Solskaer another 10. That’s 80 right there. It is easy to look through the Man U. lineup and see another ten from the likes of Vidic, Ferdinand, Hargreaves and Neville. Now we’re talking ninety.

    If you don’t score goals, you don’t win. And then there’s our historic problem of wearing down at the ends of games and letting up late goals.

    I’m hoping for Champions League, folks, but it will be tough. I’m not being a Cassandra. It’s just that without a few more scorers, we won’t get the job done.

  6. gunnershabz
    August 11, 2007 at 8:12 am #

    andrew am going with your line up, but i got a feeling flamini will play instead of diaby.

    but adebayor is out, so i guess hleb will play there and well i cant wait.

    il be watching sunderland vs tottenham because i miss football that much.

    watch liverpool later on, see whats what

    spanish fry, we need more members of this site, why dont u erm publish it on newsnow

  7. Joshua Asante
    August 11, 2007 at 8:19 am #

    Could this be another Wenger dream and masterpiece about to come true.!How long can the spuds keep using the departure of Henry as a problem for Arsenal,or maybe they know that we will be more of a threat to them so they are just trying to block the truth.
    ”Can anyone name out of the new spurs recruits that is capable of pushing rhem into the top 4 ”.
    ?
    Oh well the season kicks off today and we will see who genuinely wants to win the little.

  8. gunnershabz
    August 11, 2007 at 8:44 am #

    the spuds, they go missing during the season…. thats why they cant compete, man utd thrashed them at white hart lane, which team who wants to come 4th gets thrashed like that.

    they only beat chelsea and they got so happy.

    am not worried about tottenham at all, they may do good in spells but nothing more than that

  9. Samuel
    August 11, 2007 at 8:47 am #

    doobie: we got 60something goals without our two main strikers and no midfield goalthreat last season. if each midfielder scores 3 more goals (not an insane figure), we would score 80odd goals. If Van Persie stays fit and Ade/Eddy start hitting the net early, we will also get a lot more goals than we did from having Ali/Baps/non-scoring Ade as our strike force for half a season. Sometimes when I think about RVP/TH being out and our midfield not scoring, did our fucking defence score ten goals each?

    Stability will be the key to our season. Assuming we have less injuries (no world cup) and Eddy and Phil settled before January, this should be sorted.

    Theo should have more responsibility! 18 is old enough to start proven yourself as a great footballer when your team need you: Rooney, Owen, Fabregas, Ronaldo, Messi… great players are great players no matter their age.

    My predictions for this season:
    Chelsea have even more players go to the ANC, they don’t have a team to start the season, Mourinho is slowly being pushed out the door and the players know this and are now not signing new contracts (Lampard etc.). Second or third.

    Man Utd: First. Not as easily as they will be focused on Europe, Anderson to flop, Nani to be just as ok as Ronaldo was first season, Carrick to kick the shit out of Hargreaves for a place (not literal, well maybe), Ronaldo not to be as good, Rooney to be great, Tevez to have a season like last (shit at the start after copa and this summer) and awesome at the end when they need him).

    Liverpool: You know who has never had serious injury problems? Gerrard. It’s almost as if it’s just gotta happen soon. I don’t know why I think this but it just seems close to happening. Without him, 5th easy, the team will fall apart. With him, 4th. Torres to flop, Babel to flop, Kuyt to become cult hero picking up the pieces.

    Arsenal: Similar to Sevilla last year. A team spirit of growth and love to bring them to the last couple of weeks still in competetion. Maybe not our year but we can prove the doubters wrong and do wonders for the state of english football. Depends on injuries and I’m certain, the january transfer window and also when Arsene decides to sign the bottom line. Also, the problems would only start if we lose to…

    Spurs: 4th at the expense of Liverpool. All of their team to rest on the coattails of the best attack in the premiership and lennon.

    City: To start shaky, pick up when they start to learn the language and each other, then to sink without a trace when Frank Sinatra becomes the biggest scandal when his charges come up guilty but the premiership is too lame to deport him. Bianchi and Elano and Richards to then leave at January. Close to relegation this year, down the next.

    West Ham: The most uninspired check collectors ever? 13th and a lot of people turning over when they’re on match of the day.

    Down: Wigan, Bolton, Derby.

  10. Harlan
    August 11, 2007 at 10:51 am #

    doobie

    You don’t need 80 goals to win. We scored the same goals as Chelsea but they came close to winning why? They conceded few goals. If we can score 70 and go up north, close up and win 1.0 then the title will be ours. Last season, we fought back against lesser teams while 1.0 down and let in first goals. If we can also stop the first goals against us and win all our home matches, then the title will be ours. Drogba can’t score the same goals as last year and I think Lampard too so Chelsea will fall short. Manchester has a lot of tired legs now and don’t think the new signings will make an impact this year. For pool, even in our terrible situation, we still scored more than them and their style of play don’t allow them to score a lot of goals.
    SF-I’m convinced Arsene will play Dudu against Fulham and push Hleb on the left to give us width. Hleb played on the left while at Stuttgart and so is comfortable there. Mind you, he did well playing there against Salzburg. He must share the LW with Rosicky, if he’s played in the centre. We’ll find it difficult to score as the passing will never end. Ade and Bendtner will be useful when we play the northern teams. Ade’s finishing is so poor that he needs 5 chances to score 1. Of course Arsenal can’t afford to miss those chances this season. That opens the door for Bendtner to show his worth which he has done in pre-season already. I’m sure Bendtner will be coming in the later stages to score some goals. However, I trust what Arsene wants to do.

  11. Spanish Fry
    August 11, 2007 at 12:52 pm #

    “spanish fry, we need more members of this site, why dont u erm publish it on newsnow”

    I’ve tried – they keep knocking me back. It must not be up to scratch yet!

  12. Spanish Fry
    August 11, 2007 at 1:42 pm #

    Just watched Sunderlund knock off Tottenham 1-0. I wonder how quickly all those people saying “Spurs for top four” will head back into their holes??

  13. gunnershabz
    August 11, 2007 at 1:54 pm #

    lol spurs kill me, i was celebrating as if arsenal won.

    spurs aint going to do nothing, gallas laughed at them last time

  14. Joshua Asante
    August 11, 2007 at 2:03 pm #

    It’s always good to see spuds lose!
    On the evidence of that ” game”they will finish in the bottom half this season so Jol will need to spend E50Million next close season.
    Chopra scores in stoppage time Sunderland 1-0 Tottenham.

  15. Spanish Fry
    August 11, 2007 at 2:04 pm #

    Hilarious. Nice defending by Chimbonda too :P. I found a good website for streaming football and am going to watch the West Ham-Manchester City game. Very interested to see how Ljungberg and Martin Petrov play.

  16. Joshua Asante
    August 11, 2007 at 2:20 pm #

    4th!,Did spuds mean 4th from bottom?
    Yes!
    Same old Tottenham!
    We will overtake Arsenal,
    We will break the top 4,
    We will beat Sunderland!
    Spur???Your having a laugh.

  17. Harlan
    August 11, 2007 at 5:23 pm #

    SF-Really impressed with Petrov’s game. He was shooting at the least opportunity. His touch and hold of the ball was excellent; another great guy we didn’t look at. There’s something about Spurs that they lack, however much they spend. They’ll be struggling this year to be in the top 7, they created nothing in their game. I’m anxiously looking forward to our game tomorrow, it’ll give us a signal of how the season will work out for us.

  18. Samuel
    August 11, 2007 at 8:45 pm #

    It’s great Spurs lost but remember we lost to a keeper-less team that went down last season and still came fourth. One defeat doesn’t shape a season.

  19. Samuel
    August 11, 2007 at 8:46 pm #

    Also, does anyone know how Freddie did? I was at work and only found out the Spurs score because our boss is a Sunderland fan.

  20. Demetrio
    August 11, 2007 at 9:23 pm #

    Freddie was average. It was just a bad preformance by the West Ham team. He had his moments but didnt really do much. He missed a clear chance to equalise in the 2nd half when the ball was crossed across the face of the goal but other then that and a few runs he went on, he didnt do much.

  21. Spanish Fry
    August 11, 2007 at 11:40 pm #

    Samuel – That’s true – but I guarantee that if Arsenal lost in the same way that the papers would be crying out “Crisis!”. It’s just funny because everyone thought Tottenham have improved out of sight and this performance suggests they’ll be very similar to last season.

    Harlan – Yes, Petrov went straight into my Fantasy team and he got a 3-point bonus. How did everyone else go in Fantasy?

  22. Andrew
    August 12, 2007 at 1:49 am #

    I don’t quite understand the hype surrounding Tottenham. Yes, they have 3 very good strikers. But after that it’s a bit bleak. A midfield with Jenas, Zokora, Huddlestone, and Lennon is always going to let the game pass them by. There’s just no substance there. Their defence is frankly awful without the permanently injured King, and their depth is nowhere close to any of the Top 4’s. Everton look like they have a much more complete squad in my view. Spurs will fight it out with Newcastle, Man City (who look shockingly good), Blackburn, and Aston Villa for 6th. Keep in mind that it’s only one game, but it seems they might have been found out.

    West Ham were let down by Curbishley, and his decision to bring on Ashton for a psychological boost and allow Manchester City the space that he took away from them at halftime. Sadly, I don’t think Freddie will be the same ever again. Bergkamp was the only player who could consistently pick out his runs, which were really quite unconventional. He’ll always make the same runs, but Bowyer and Parker aren’t going to be able to tell where he’s going, much less pass the ball to him.

    Isn’t it interesting that when Tottenham buy young players, they’re always “going forwards” and “buying players with potential” but when Wenger finds a genuinely talented player, it’s always “going backwards” or “transitional”? I just laugh at that.

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