Welcome to my first rival preview, in this I will go over the Arsenal team and how they stack up.
Everything was looking up for Arsenal heading into the season, they had won back to back silverware after years of just missing out and their star players Ozil and Sanchez looked to be on scintillating form. The addition of the world class Petr Cech looked to be exactly what they needed to shore up their defence. Despite a disappointing opening loss to West Ham they started the season well picking up 7 wins in the first 10 games leaving them 2nd in the Premier League only by goal difference. Mesut Ozil was in scintillating form, providing an assist almost every single game, even the inconsistent Giroud seemed to have found a run of form. The run to the new year saw more of the same and despite a few disappointing losses managed to beat Bayern 2-0 and progress in the champions league. They ended the first set of fixtures top of the table, leading the eventual champions Leicester by goal difference. The second half of the season was a comparative disaster, crashing meekly out of the FA cup and Champions league, even with a late surge in form they only managed 8 wins from 19 games and finished the season 2nd by 10 points.
Following the departures of Rosicky, Flamini and Arteta Arsenal started off the transfer window with the £30 million arrival of central midfielder Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach. A versatile and well rounded player, he possesses great stamina and tackling as well as the ability to carry the ball forward to link the defence and attack, he will no doubt play a key part in a midfield brimming with talent. Also brought in were Asano, a relative unknown and 20 year old Bolton player of the year Rob Holding. Holding was impressive in an otherwise dismal Bolton team playing mainly at CB but also has the ability to play at RB and occasionally LB. Realistically he will play a limited part in the side, being used mainly for depth and resting of the first team, but could become an important part of the team if Arsenal suffer their usual injury woes.
Arsenal fans feel, however, that these signings are not enough. With an aging Mertesacker and Chambers and Gabriel still young, the defence does not look as solid as it once did. Signing a strong and expirienced centre half could be vital to their chances for silverware, without one a single injury or difficult run of from from one of the centre half's could derail their campaign. Potential targets are Howedes and Mustafi, both excellent players that had a large part in the German world cup win and would provide the extra ability and depth needed at the back.
On the other end of the pitch, it seems that Giroud has run out of chances with Arsenal fans. Starting with 12 goals in the first half of the season it looked as if he'd found his feet but instead followed a 14 game drought that he did not break until penultimate game of the season. His main issues are his inconsistencies and relative one dimensionality compared to the top strikers in the modern game. His hold up play can be fantastic at times but inconsistency in front of goal and lack of technical ability mean he simply is not good enough to lead the line of a team capable of winning the league. Higuain and Morata, once linked heavily to Arsenal, have both made high profile moves already leaving only Lacazette as a realistic option in terms of price and ability. An extremely well rounded forward, he would likely cost £45 million+ but the question remains as to whether Wenger will spend the money and make a signing they desperately need.
| | Cech | |
Bellerin | Koscielny | | Mertesacker | Monreal
| Xhaka | | Ramsey |
Alexis | | Ozil | | Cazorla
| | Giroud | |
Largely similar to the team last year, Xhaka will slot in and play alongside Ramsey/Coquelin/Wilshere/Elneny sharing defensive and offensive duties in differing amounts depending on his partner. An alternate line could see Ozil pushed out into the wide playmaker role and Coquelin coming in to play the holding role in a midfield 3. Arsenal are well stocked with central midfielders, having arguably the best depth in the league, injuries in this position would not be a huge concern as the replacements are of a very similar quality. Monreal and Bellerin are arguably the best full back partnership in the league, largely due to fantastic consistency and Gibbs, Chambers and Debuchy are more than sufficient as cover. Where depth is more of an issue, as covered earlier, is at the back and front where a single injury would be a huge blow and while there is depth on the wings the quality of these players at the current time is questionable and they could do with some more signings here.
Players to watch out for
Xhaka, Alexis and Ozil will be key to any success they may have. Alexis had a difficult season, starting poorly before getting injured through Christmas and new year but finished the year on a high, netting 7 in the last 10. Xhaka is coming into a new league at a fairly young age and his inexperience could see him struggle to adapt to start with, he has looked imperious in pre season however, if he can keep the momentum going he will be a dangerous player and one to watch out for when we face them. Ozil had one of the best starts to a season in recent times with 16 assists before new year but only 3 after. This can largely be attributed to the misfiring strikers he was partnered with as his chance creation remained fantastic the whole season and the signing of a top quality striker would show off his ability even further.
Of the younger players the ones to watch are Iwobi, Chambers, Holding and Joel Campbell. The playing time available will be limited but as is tradition with Arsenal, injuries will likely crop up and they will need to be ready to make the step up. Hit and miss first season aside Chambers is the only one that I feel is ready to make the step up, he performed well at Southampton and showed glimpses of even more at Arsenal. Experience is one of the most important attributes for a defensive player and Chambers still has a long time to improve and find his feet. Campbell and Iwobi both have bags of pace and technical ability and showed flashes of it when called upon last season, the potential is there but it remains to be seen how much they will improve with gametime looking to be a premium.
Years of being just that little bit away from the title have left Arsenal fans justifiably jaded about their chances for the title. General consensus is that with a quality signing at CB and ST, they will challenge for the title but if not it will be the same story as it always is, finishing somewhere in the champions league places. Presuming they sign the players they need I still don't think they have the depth of mentality for the title and would finish 2nd at best. As it currently stands I predict they will finish 3rd or 4th but are in danger of slipping lower behind Spurs or
Liverpool and unexpected high flying team if injuries hit them at inopportune times.
This is the first time I have written a post like this so any critisism/requests/advice is welcome!
Also I'd like to say a big thank you to some of /r/gunners for helping me out, especially /u/biscarat, /u/SwitchBack1337, /u/SuperWenger, /u/zenitor and /u/thehonorablechad who provided some excellent detailed responses.