Thoughts on Arsenal’s Title Chances Ahead of the New Season
Seven points. That was the difference between Arsenal and their potential 14th League title.
The Gunners were at the summit of the table longer than any other team last season but they buckled under immense pressure to drop all the way to fourth place. Losing 3-0 to Everton even put the Gunners in a rather precarious situation, albeit temporarily, but the crumble showed how bad things got for Arsene Wenger and his team.
With Premier League fixtures and markets taking center stage, Arsenal is set to begin the new campaign with a home clash against Crystal Palace and the fans are hoping that it wouldn’t turn out to be another debacle like how things panned out against Aston Villa at the start of last season.
Some of the Arsenal stars performed superbly at the World Cup and three Gunners went home with the trophy but they have had extended leaves and with the trio of Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski set to miss the season’s curtain raiser at Wembley against Manchester City, one must wonder if they’d be fully fit for a grueling campaign ahead.
Why did Arsenal’s title surge go down the drain last season? Some say it can be attributed to the long-term injuries suffered by Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and at some point Mesut Ozil. Others say that despite his 22 goals for the club last season, Olivier Giroud failed to turn up against the big teams. In fairness to that claim, Giroud scored only one goal against the top six last season both home and away.
I’d say that Arsenal’s title surge crumbled because of the Gunners performances against their fellow title rivals. At the Emirates, Arsenal failed to beat Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United but they ousted Liverpool and Tottenham. However, Arsenal had a shocking away record, as they were pummeled with resounding losses against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton. The defeat to Manchester United was narrow but disappointing nonetheless because that was the poorest Manchester United team in decades and they still managed to get four points off the Gunners.
This season, Arsenal has shown intent in the transfer market with the captures of Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy but everyone knows that there’s still much work to be done in other playing positions. Wojciech Szczesny is a great goalie that even won the Golden Glove last season but Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that an air of complacency creeps into his game when he’s not challenged. With the imminent arrival of World Cup hero, Davide Ospina, the Polish keeper would have to be on his toes because the Colombian shot stopper isn’t coming to Arsenal to complete the numbers.
In defense, there is so much speculation regarding the future of the club’s captain, Thomas Vermaelen, and Arsenal fans can be in alignment that the defense is always somewhat weaker when he plays. Vermaelen will certainly not want to play second fiddle to Mertesacker and Koscielny this upcoming season, so he may be on his way out with Manchester United huge favorites to capture the Belgian Verminator. To challenge for the title, Arsenal has to have sufficient depth and signing a good center back that can play alongside Mertesacker or Koscielny will be key.
In my honest opinion, Arsenal’s title hopes would hinge on their potential capture in holding midfield. For a team that attacks so much using the full width of the pitch, the Gunners are always prone to counter attacks and despite the fact that I’m appreciative of what Mikel Arteta has done for the club since arriving from Everton, he’s not the answer to Arsenal’s defensive midfield problems. Arsenal needs to find a ‘traditional defensive midfielder’ that would hover in the center of the pitch, breaking up play, making inch-perfect tackles, offering a physical presence and he should have a good distribution as well.
Once all these positions have been adequately reinforced, the Gunners can confidently push for their first title in 11 years. It’s been a long while since the Gunners won the Premier League, and it requires depth, determination, tactical discipline and footballing excellence for a team to go through 38 weeks and cross the finish line.
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