It has been a long six years in the lives of Arsenal supporters since the”invincibles” won that unprecedented Premier League trophy in 2003/04. Since that side went the thirty-eight league games unbeaten, it’s been a case of so close yet so far for Arsene Wenger and his sides. This season, not one starting member of that title winning team remains at the club, after Sol Campbell’s brief return ended this week.
With no representation of that immortal season left in the squad, it really is time for the next generation of Arsenal to step it up. Every year we hear the same excuses – that the side is inexperienced, and that Wenger’s young troops are still going through a transition period. This season – that needs change.
Last season was quite possibly Arsenal’s best chance for a league triumph since their last victory. They were breathtakingly good, mesmeric to watch at times and devastating in front of goals. However harsh luck with injuries, particularly Robin van Persie, and Arsenal were resigned to third place. There was a period when it was looking increasingly likely they would push Chelsea all the way, having gone eight matches unbeaten through Spring, but some poor form afterwards including three losses in four games meant it wasn’t to be for another season.
Last Season: 3rd
Manager: Arsene Wenger
In: Marouane Chamakh (Bordeaux, free), Laurent Koscielny, (Lorient, £8.5m), Kyle Ebecilio (Feyenoord, free), Phil Roberts (Norwich City, free)
Out: Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk, £6m), Luke Ayling (Yeovil Town, free), Fran Merida (Atlético Madrid, free), Philippe Senderos (Fulham, free), Alie Sesay (Leicester City, free), Francis Coquelin (Lorient, season-long loan), Luke Freeman (Yeovil Town, six-month loan), Sam Byles (released), James Dunn (released), William Gallas (released), Rhema Obed (released), Mikaël Silvestre (released), Sol Campbell (released)
Well, it’s been a weird transfer window for Arsenal. When they’re not fighting off the arms of Barcelona for Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal are surely pondering over which goalkeeper should they sign, if any, and whether or not they have enough in three centre-halves to cover the position for next season.
It appears they have beaten off blood-hungry Barcelona for another year, who as expected, where keen to bring the boy back to his first home. Now a World Cup winner – Cesc is expected to hold onto his Arsenal jersey for another year before the Barcelona contingent persuade, most likely successfully this time, him to try it on one more time.
Elsewhere, Arsenal welcomed the arrival of 25-year-old central defender Laurent Koscielny from Lorient for £8.5m. The French native, with Polish connections is expected to be third choice behind Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou – if the Swiss international stays fit. However with four defenders gone (Senderos, Gallas, Campbell and Silvestre), it’s almost necessary that Wenger adds to his options before the window closes shut.
A big name to hit the Emirates this summer is Marouane Chamakh, the Bordeaux striker who has been followed by Arsenal for some time now. The big Moroccan international joins Arsenal on a free transfer having scored seventy nine goals at the French club in his eight-year spell. Going the other way in the same position is Eduardo, who joins Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk for around £6million.
Also in the door at Ashburton Grove are Kyle Ebecilio and Phil Roberts, who will initially be a part of the youth academy. A number of young players have left, mostly on loan deals to gain some valuable match time and experience in other leagues.
Tactics: As there are plenty of Arsenal blogs out there, many true fans will provide a much greater insight into the Arsenal tactics compared to myself, including the great Arsenal Column. With Fabregas looking like he’ll stick around for another season, you might see an advanced version if 4-4-2, with Fabregas and Alex Song in the centre and Arshavin pushed very high up on the left hand side to cater for van Persie and Chamakh. It wouldn’t be particularly sound when out of possession, but if Arshavin can mix attacking with defending appropriately, it is a deadly looking set up if you consider Samir Nasri on the right, and the attacking influence of Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy from each full back position. In Chamakh, Arsenal finally have some height in the centre forward position that will create reason to swing the ball in from wide positions. This would all be complimented with the magnificent Alex Song staying deep in the midfield.
Key Player: Cesc Fabregas. The name explains itself when it comes to Arsenal. He is a very special player, and one that they rightly fight to hold onto. Another big season is expected from him, fresh from his World Cup winning exploits in the summer. An injury free campaign and it’ll be a great one.
Fixtures: It’s not a nice start for Arsenal, but it does come in a ground that they will be delighted to get out of the way early – Anfield. Arsenal have had a good recent record against Liverpool, a win would be a massive confidence booster to all. It’s then onto a more reasonable home game against Blackpool, before an away trip to Blackburn, a home game with Bolton and trip up to the North-East to play Sunderland. It could have been a worse start, Arsenal should aim for at least twelve points from their opening five.
First Five Fixtures: Liverpool (A), Blackpool (H), Blackburn (A), Bolton (H), Sunderland (A)
Where will they finish? I have no doubt in my mind that they will finish, again, in the top four, but where in that quadruplet is a tough question. All things going well, this side is capable of actually winning the league. But they need to keep their big names fit, particularly Fabregas and van Persie. I’m expecting Wenger to strengthen at the back and bring in a good goalkeeper, at last, before the summer is out. If everything goes well and they can remain injury free… 1st