Daily Archives: May 22, 2023
Can Arsenal Assemble a Title Winning Squad?
Following Arsenal’s tepid showing at the City Ground, Manchester City won their third consecutive Premier League title without having to kick the ball against Chelsea. It was meant to be the game they needed to finally seal the deal, but Arsenal’s actions the previous day allowed Pep Guardiola to make wholesale changes to the squad, bringing on the likes of Stefan Ortega, Aymeric Laporte, Kalvin Philips, Sergio Gomez, Rico Lewis, Cole Palmer, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez.
The World Cup winning forward, Julian Alvarez, scored the only goal of the game against Chelsea (had one more cancelled after a VAR check) and Manchester City went into party mode. With two games left to play for Guardiola’s men, they were on 88 points while their challengers, Arsenal, are currently on 81. Arsenal’s final game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers is a dead-rubber game, as we wind down on what has been a good season for the Gunners, but all eyes would be on the likes of Reiss Nelson and Granit Xhaka, who have been speculated to have one foot on the exit door.
Arsenal was in pole position for a considerable chunk of the Premier League campaign, so it must really hurt to see Manchester City carry that trophy as the champions, which brings me to an all-important question – can Arsenal assemble a title winning squad?
One way to ascertain that is to have a review of the squad of the Premier League title winners, Manchester City, to see how they edged past the challenge of Arsenal to win their fifth League title in six seasons.
Ederson Moraes has been a mainstay in the Manchester City squad since his arrival from Benfica in 2017. He hasn’t had any real challengers to his position, after ousting the likes of Joe Hart and Claudio Bravo. In Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal has a goalkeeper capable of making important saves to aid a title challenge, like he did this season, rightfully earning his place in the Premier League Team of the Season.
Pep Guardiola played an orthodox formation that saw his right full back invert and provide an additional body in midfield, which is akin to what Oleksandr Zinchenko does for the Arsenal team. Jurgen Klopp tore a page from the Guardiola manuscript and in recent weeks, we have seen Trent Alexander-Arnold in the central midfield slot alongside Fabinho.
In terms of quality, Manchester City boasts of great defenders like Ruben Dias, John Stones and Nathan Ake, and in Manuel Akanji, they added another intelligent defender to their repertoire. Laporte was an ever-present in the yesteryear, but his injury worries has seen him lose his starting berth, but it takes nothing from the fact that he remains an excellent defender. Kyle Walker is a full back with loads of experience at center back on club and international level, so he fits in adequately to the Guardiola philosophy.
At Arsenal, the defense proved to be their undoing, following the unfortunate injury suffered by William Saliba in the Europa League Round of 16 clash against Sporting CP. Gabriel remains a hard worker and has done well to improve himself, but if we are being honest, he still lacks the consistency required to be a top level defender, as he makes the occasional odd error here and there. However, he forged a great understanding with Saliba, and with more consistent game time together, they can be our Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, who were standout performers in their time for the Gunners.
Beyond Gabriel and Saliba, Arsenal doesn’t have the required quality at the heart of their defense to stand up and be counted when the chips are down. Jakub Kiwior just joined the division from Spezia and is still acclimatizing to life in the Premier League, while Rob Holding is… let me stop right there. Feel free to insert your own thoughts of Holding. There’s also Auston Trusty that will be returning to the team after a great spell at Birmingham, so it will be interesting to see what he has to offer.
Arsenal has another great defender in Ben White, but he moved to full back, shunting Takehiro Tomiyasu out of the team and was a model of consistency in that position. Arteta and Edu have to make a critical decision regarding the center back / right full back conundrum. Tomiyasu has shown yet again that he can’t be trusted to stay fit, so Arsenal has to go for genuine quality in the center back / right full back position, if they want to be title challengers.
There has been some chatter linking Arsenal with Joao Cancelo, and I hope those rumors are true. Cancelo’s versatility will be a major plus for Mikel Arteta.
Manchester City has some midfield juggernauts in the forms of Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Foden and Ilkay Gundogan that have played together for a considerable number of years turning into a very well oiled machine. These midfielders are stacked with creativity, which has allowed a world class forward like Erling Haaland to score 52 goals this season.
At Arsenal, Martin Odegaard has been tasked with the role of being the chief playmaker while the likes of forwards like Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka providing support in the final third. While de Bruyne created 97 chances and provided 16 assists with 1,333 passes, Odegaard created 73 chances and provided seven assists with 1,640 passes, showing off Arsenal’s poor conversion rate.
Arsenal would need better protection in the middle of the park to allow the attacking talent strut their stuff, as well as give stability to the team, as it became evident in the business end of the campaign that needed improvement in that area of the pitch. With Granit Xhaka close to a move out of the club, Thomas Partey in very poor form and Jorginho in the September of his career, Arsenal would need some freshness in the middle, and the acquisitions of Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice would be next level stuff.
Erling Haaland is a monster of a player that is pretty much the model for a ‘complete’ striker. At Arsenal, we have Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah, who are no where close to Haaland in terms of his attacking output, but Jesus tends to offer a bit more with his all-round play. However, strikers are judged on goals, and this season, Jesus hasn’t delivered as expected, even though we would need to factor the fact that he missed close to five months out with a knee injury he suffered at the World Cup.
Arsenal can actually do better than Nketiah as a backup for Jesus if they want to really challenge for the title, and I would have loved an Ivan Toney, but his ban will not make him an attractive proposition anymore. One striker I wouldn’t mind is Dusan Vlahovic from Juventus, and I hope that Arteta and Edu can make some improvements in this regard, because in my honest opinion, you can’t challenge for the Premier League title if you don’t have a 20-goal striker within your ranks.
In conclusion, it has been a stellar campaign by Arsenal’s standards based on the start of the season expectations, but I can understand that the expectations changed in the course of the season, following the mesmerizing football on display from Arteta and his lads.
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