Can Arsenal Challenge for the 2014/15 Premier League Title?
Last season, Arsenal began the Premier League campaign with a lot of transfer activity conducted during the summer of 2013. The club managed to sell Vito Mannone, Andre Santos, Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho while a lot of fringe players were released. On the other end, the club secured loan deals for Emiliano Viviano and Kim Kallstrom (January), the French duo of Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini arrived on free transfers and on transfer deadline day, a marquee signing, Mesut Ozil, arrived.
Arsenal began its Premier League campaign with a disappointing defeat to Aston Villa and all Hell broke loose. This was followed with wins over Fulham, Tottenham, Sunderland, Stoke and Swansea before a draw against West Brom. The Gunners picked up form in October before losing to Manchester United at Old Trafford in a warm November afternoon. Wins over Southampton, Cardiff and Hull set the tone for a good December but the dropped points against Everton proved costly as the Gunners surrendered a chance to go seven points clear.
Another disappointing defeat was suffered in hands of Manchester City and this was followed by a nervy draw against Chelsea. The Gunners ended the year with wins over West Ham and Newcastle but the injury suffered by key man, Aaron Ramsey, was a bitter pill to swallow and this was followed by another long-term injury suffered by Theo Walcott. Losing these goalscoring threats without any adequate cover would come back to haunt the Gunners. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski also suffered long-term injuries at the early part of the campaign and Mesut Ozil had a spell out injured too.
The second half of the season was marred by hot and cold performances with the Gunners losing some key fixtures against fellow title rivals and after leading the league table for a considerable chunk of the season, the Gunners finished the campaign in fourth place, which was regarded as a disappointment. However, the blow of the Premier League campaign was softened with the fact that the Gunners won the FA Cup, their first trophy in nine years.
What Went Wrong for the Gunners in the 2013/14 Premier League season?
- As earlier identified, failure to find a player that would ease the goalscoring burden Olivier Giroud with Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott out injured.
- The atrocious performances in the away fixtures against their fellow title rivals
- The unfortunate injuries to key players.
- No attacking alternative to Olivier Giroud
At the start of this season, the Gunners have done well to replace the departed Lukasz Fabianski and Bacary Sagna, and they also added the versatile Calum Chambers, that would add depth to three playing positions. In attack, the Gunners made some massive improvements via the transfer window, signing Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.
The Gunners have had a shaky start to their 2014/15 Premier League campaign with a nervy win over Crystal Palace and this was followed with two draws against Everton and Leicester City. While the Gunners can pat themselves in the back for grabbing a draw at Goodison Park, the result against Leicester City would be regarded as two points lost rather than one point gained.
So the million dollar question remains – can Arsenal challenge for the 2014/15 Premier League title?
In Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, the Gunners have a rock-solid foundation to build from the back. Both defenders played a lot of football last season and with Thomas Vermaelen sold to FC Barcelona, the defensive duo have relatively inexperienced Calum Chambers as their cover with Nacho Monreal serving as a make-shift center back push comes to shove. With the ever-capable Wojciech Szczesny between the sticks, the Arsenal defense kept 16 clean sheets last season and they would want to build on this success for the campaign ahead.
The Gunners are also relatively stocked in midfield even though many fans have raised their concerns about the club’s failure to secure a holding midfielder. The Independent reports that the Gunners offered a late player-plus-cash bid for Sporting CP’s William Carvalho on Monday, but were told that the Portugal international was not for sale. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are aging but with Arsene Wenger stating that he sees a future for Chambers in the role, we would have to see as things unfold in that position but the key thing here is that there’s adequate depth.
Aaron Ramsey is a player that would be instrumental to the Gunners hopes this season and he has already picked up where he left off with two goals to his name. However, with Jack Wilshere also adept in the box-to-box role, Wenger would have to monitor Ramsey’s fitness this season in his bid to avoid another long-term injury outlay. Mesut Ozil is a player that has settled into life at the Emirates but he has been playing from the left flank this season and I truly hope that this won’t be his position on the long term because it would limit his creativity. Then there’s the diminutive magician, Santi Cazorla, that offers an attacking threat too.
Arsenal would go into the new campaign with more confidence in their attacking options and in Alexis, the Gunners have a superstar they can count on to come up with the goods when the chips are down. In the Gunners most important game of the campaign thus far against Besiktas, Sanchez didn’t need a second invitation to score the goal that sent his club to the Group Stages of the Champions League. Meanwhile, Yaya Sanogo had seven attempts on target against Leicester and he was ineffectual.
The Gunners have also purchased Danny Welbeck, a player eager to prove himself to everyone. The fans have already shared their opinions on his signing and as expected, there were mixed thoughts on the Englishman. Welbeck is a superb athlete with raw reserves of pace, good technique and an eye for goal. At Arsenal, Welbeck will play in his favored position and the fans would be looking forward to what he can offer.
Going back to the reasons why the Gunners Premier League surge faltered last season,
- As earlier identified, failure to find a player that would ease the goalscoring burden Olivier Giroud with Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott out injured. – Arsenal has signed Alexis Sanchez and he would mitigate this.
- The atrocious performances in the away fixtures against their fellow title rivals – The Gunners have played an away game against Everton were they suffered a 3-0 loss in the previous campaign but this season, the Gunners gained a creditable draw at Goodison Park
- The unfortunate injuries to key players. – With Giroud and Arteta already injured, Arsenal would hopeful that there would be no more injuries.
- No attacking alternative to Olivier Giroud – Arsenal now have Danny Welbeck, that offers a different dynamism in attack.
Despite the fact that Arsenal’s rivals have made their own fair share of investments this season, I’m confident that the Gunners are going to challenge for the Premier League title this season. Those that watched their progress last season would know that despite dropping from the summit to fourth place, the Gunners were just seven points below the champions. With that extra quality at Arsenal’s disposal, they can go all the way.
Don’t you think so?
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