The European football season couldn’t come soon enough to help us football fanatics get over our World Cup withdrawal. For Arsenal fans like me, the Premier League will hold special interest.
The end of the 2013/14 season has created a new-found belief for everyone at Arsenal, and the fans. After almost a decade of failed title attempts, selling star players and generally being the butt of jokes around the football world, Arsenal won the FA Cup.
While there’s still cynicism around the club despite that success, Arsenal has made moves this summer to show they intend to progress and return to winning ways.
Here’s a preview of Arsenal’s 2014/15 season, including a look at transfers, preseason play and expectations for the next season.
In: Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina, Calum Chambers(there have been a few youth transfers as well but our focus is the first team here)
Out: Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna, Nicklas Bendtner, Park Chu-Young, Johan Djourou, Thomas Vermaelen, Carl Jenkinson(loan)
After surprising everyone with arguably the biggest move of the 2013/14 season upon signing Mesut Ozil, Arsenal made just as big a splash this summer with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. I’m sure it’s safe to say that Arsenal fans were deliriously excited with the move. I know I was.
Finally, someone who can lead the line with mobility, creativity and a good finishing touch. Can you tell I’m not a fan of the incomparable Olivier Giroud? Needless to say, Sanchez is who I would like to be our primary forward. Hopefully that happens soon.
The other signings weren’t blockbusters by any means but filled needs, increased depth and added quality. Sort of.
Mathieu Debuchy replaces Sagna, and hopefully won’t be a big drop in defensive solidity. David Ospina provides Wojciech Szczesny with his toughest challenge for a No. 1 spot, and Calum Chambers is an exciting young British talent.
The issue with Debuchy and Chambers is that they are replacements, not additions. Arsenal is left with only six first-team defenders(Gibbs, Monreal, Debuchy, Chambers, Mertesacker and Koscielny) after the departures of Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen(always going to happen) and Johan Djourou.
Soo, how exactly are we going to win the title, or anything else for that matter, with six defenders in the group?
There’s still time before the transfer window ends so I would hope for at least one more signing to make it three experienced center backs with Ignasi Miquel as the fourth. At least eight defenders are needed, if only for depth but also hopefully with quality. I’d throw in a quality defensive midfielder as well but that may be too much to ask.
We shall see. In any case, the results, and mainly the play, during preseason was promising.
Arsenal had a short preseason due to the World Cup, and we’ll see what sort of effect it has to start the season. There were only four( I guess we could count the Community Shield to make it five) games in 2014 compared to seven in 2013.
Versus Boreham Wood: A bit of a throwaway game here, and one which I’m not too ashamed to say I didn’t watch. There were some good showings from both the senior and youth members based on the match report and highlights. The result was expected.
Versus New York Red Bulls: Thierry Henry being my favorite player added to my interest in a match where I expected to see more first-team players in the lineup. While that was the case, the fact that Tomas Rosicky was the furthest man forward meant it wasn’t going to be too memorable a performance where Arsenal was concerned. That was exactly what happened as Henry stole the show, and the Gunners had positive play in spurts.
Versus Benfica: The highlight of the preseason where performance and goals are concerned. Two of the new boys(Sanchez and Chambers) played and both looked good. Yaya Sanogo got a major confidence boost with his four goals while Joel Campbell showed his World Cup wasn’t a flash in the pan deal. The fluidity of movement and passing was another good point in this display.
Versus Monaco: A sluggish performance when compared to Benfica the day before, but again the onus was more on fitness. That Radamel Falcao was left all alone to nod home a confidence-boosting goal is a slight cause for concern. Again, the good outweighed the bad but sterner tests will show what we are all about.
Versus Manchester City: The naysayers will point to Manchester City’s lack of strength and attitude when looking at the 3-0 result. The team as a whole, as well as certain individuals, ensured it was a very comfortable win for the Gunners who still faced some top talent. A definite psychological bonus that I hope we build on.
Players who Impressed:
Sanogo – broke his duck and looking confident, hopefully Wenger’s faith will be rewarded
Chambers -Played center back and was very solid, doesn’t make up for a lack of depth though
Sanchez - We got to see him in an Arsenal jersey, that’s enough for me
Campbell – Continued an impressive summer by showing he could add skills that Arsenal’s attack needs
Wilshere – Breakout season? Who cares if he took a puff? Showed some good touches and energy
Gibbs – Quietly introducing himself as another in a long line of solid Arsenal left-backs
The starting lineup that was trotted out against Manchester City on Sunday is arguably the strongest XI for the Gunners at this moment, and that will probably be the group that entertains Crystal Palace this weekend.
I say probably because there are some minor injury doubts surrounding Laurent Koscielny with reports from Squawka and Arseblog News, though the Frenchman doesn’t show up on the team injury news. That would leave us with the possibility of playing a tanned Per Mertesacker beside the still not-really-a-center back-yet Calum Chambers. Marouane Chamakh must be rubbing his hands together with glee.
That type of situation is exactly the reason we need an extra center back, though I wouldn’t mind a versatile player capable of filling in there and elsewhere as mentioned in the Arseblog News article.
Arsene Wenger will obviously rotate players throughout the season given form and fitness but it will be interesting to see who are the preferred 11 once ze Germans and Theo Walcott are fit. Pretty much all the positions are filled.(There won’t be a star DM seeing as Arteta is now captain)
The positions in question are right-wing and forward. What you see below is the most likely starting lineup once everyone’s at full fitness and so forth. Not what I’d prefer, of course. Switch Giroud and Sanchez and bring in Walcott and we’re all good. Alternatively, you could place Walcott and Sanchez on the wings but out of those four I’d rather Giroud be the substitute.
Whatever the lineup, I think many will agree we’ll be seeing a more dynamic Arsenal attack next season.
With Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and, hopefully, Campbell the Gunners now have four speedy, direct, skillful(not so much Walcott) attackers as opposed to two last season. There’s also Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi if they don’t get loaned and Wilshere and Ramsey to add thrust from midfield.
Hopefully we’ll see an improvement on the 68 Premier league goals as a result. The fluidity of movement and quick passing on show against Manchester City is hopefully a sign of things to come.
Where my problem lies is on the right side of the defensive unit(Mertesacker and Debuchy) coupled with Arteta and, even Flamini to an extent, as the defensive-minded midfielder.
Debuchy seems more aggressive moving forward than Bacary Sagna and could be caught out of position in key moments, leaving the slow as molasses pair of Mertesacker and Arteta to deal with any attackers. Not good. Flamini is more mobile than Arteta but he’s not going to be a major player except in the case of injury. We’ll see how that all works out.
Obviously, you can find a more in-depth look at Arsenal’s tactics in various places across the web but the Tactics Column at Arseblog isn’t a bad place to start.
How the Summer Impacted Arsenal
World Cup winners, No big departures and a blockbuster transfer. This summer has been a, mostly, good one for Arsenal. The FA Cup victory provided a boost to those in and around the club, prompting a period without much negativity.
From the World Cup, Arsenal’s younger players, and even older ones as well, can now look to the World cup winning experience of three players(Ozil, Mertesacker and Podolski). Ozil may have been the only one to really have an effect, mainly in the latter stages, but the trio will be oozing with confidence and mentally stronger through their shared experience.
They can certainly give some extra oomph to Arsenal’s mentality as they are coming off a high but it doesn’t mean they can push the club to Premier League title.
The one negative from that journey is that Ozil’s fitness may be a problem in the coming season. While he was surprisingly robust in that category during the World Cup, having played through so many hard-fought games may come back to affect him at some point in the season. Hopefully the new fitness coach can make sure that doesn’t occur.
Can Arsenals German World Cup Winners Push the club over the edge?
Other players involved in the World Cup did enough to suggest they were worthy of a spot in the squad(Joel Campbell) or further excited fans battered by rumours(Alexis Sanchez). Mathieu Debuchy or David Ospina may not have excited but proved capable.
On the transfer front, the good news continued.
Arsenal captured the aforementioned trio of Sanchez, Debuchy and Ospina while adding young English talent, Calum Chambers. They all fix areas of need and keep the squad quality at a good level, Sanchez certainly improves it.
As with almost every season during the trophy drought, there is still a clear weakness in the Arsenal squad.
The attack has been fixed but now the defense is the main worry. Thomas Vermaelen was a loss but the Belgian hasn’t been an important member of the squad for some time now. The major story is the lack of center back cover, which will hopefully be addressed appropriately soon.
Overall, it’s still all good for Arsenal. The Gunners have had one of the best summers of any top club. There is definitely a good feeling heading into the season.
So, what are the expectations for Arsenal heading into the 2014/15 season?
More silverware, of course. Given the adventures of players in Brazil, the outlay on transfers and the improvement of players fans will be expecting to continue the return to winning ways. Which trophy that is remains to be seen.
The Capital One cup would be seen as a disappointment and the FA Cup wouldn’t be much cause for celebration considering last season. The tough nuts, Premier League and Champions League, are looking tougher than ever to capture.
Around the twittersphere, and elsewhere, Arsenal fans are more positive than ever about the chance of Premier League success.
Does the fact that Arsenal spent a good amount on a few transfers and that some players won the World Cup give ample cause for such positive vibes? Maybe. It seems though that some are still overlooking the major deficiency in defensive midfield as well as depth at center back.
Add to that the level of competition from teams who have also improved(Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham) and you see things won’t be easy at all. While the first four clubs would be considered major contenders, Tottenham and Everton have shown they can put forward a very strong challenge to these teams for European spots, and could derail a club’s hopes.
Arsenal did this in 2014. Can they push on for further silverware in 2014/15?
Manchester United won’t be involved in European play this season and, like Liverpool last season, they will benefit. They even have enough title-winning experience to not falter at the last stages like the Reds did last year. The squad may not be as strong as it has been in the past but they are still Manchester United.
I’m not going to head into the realm of predictions here but, ultimately, I still don’t see a Premier League title heading to the Emirates. I won’t even bother to consider the Champions League either, though I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to look for a quarter-finals or semi-finals appearance.
If the center back position is strengthened, and Wenger and Steve Bould can adjust things tactically so Arteta isn’t too exposed, then I’ll have a more positive outlook.
The summer is finally over. Can’t wait for August 16th.