Had I written this piece four days ago, it would have looked a lot different. Arsenal’s prospects ahead of the 2012-13 season are now up in the air just days before the season is due to begin following the sale of Robin van Persie this week to arch-rivals Manchester United.
Arsenal’s primary concern was always about dealing with van Persie’s future. The Dutchman had confirmed he would not sign a new contract, so they can surely not afford to let him sit out his final year before leaving for nothing.
Arsene Wenger seemed determined to hold on to his captain but with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules to be considered, the club were forced to bite the bullet and sell their talisman as soon as possible. However, an initial fee of £15 million may allow them to draft in a top quality replacement such as Robert Lewandowski and keep their books balanced at the same time.
Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud both look like good signings but with this season being their first experience of the intense challenge of English football, they should not be burdened with the task of scoring the goals to help the club mount a title challenge.
In defence, players such as Sebastian Squillaci and Johan Djourou have shown that they are not at a top-four standard, while Per Mertesacker’s first season at the club was hardly impressive but he is likely to be given more time to prove himself in the Premier League. Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Vermaelen are certainly a solid partnership that has pace, strength and technical ability, but the lack of quality beyond those two is something that must be addressed.
In midfield, while keeping possession is not at all a problem with the likes of Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere extremely comfortable on the ball, it seems Arsenal are still lacking a top quality central offensive midfielder, in the mould of Juan Mata or David Silva, who could give the side greater penetration in attack. It will be very interesting to see if Wilshere is handed this responsibility; clearly both his distribution and vision are outstanding but goals are something his game has lacked and he may be more comfortable remaining in his deep-lying playmaker position where getting on the score sheet is less important.
Equally, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has the potential to take on the role after impressing in a more central area against AC Milan last season. Indeed going into the new season Arsenal’s central midfield is looking the stronger than it has done for quite some time, particularly with strong rumours that Nuri Sahin is set to join the club on a season-long loan which would provide important competition for Alex Song.
It is not just central midfield which will give the Arsenal fans grounds for optimism; the signing of Santi Cazorla is an impressive one. The versatile winger will not be a superstar, but he will weigh in with his fair share of goals and assists, offering a consistency that Arsenal have lacked from the likes of Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Gervinho on the flanks.
Arsenal fans will go into the new season with many reasons to be excited and their squad has a greater strength in depth than it has done in years. However, I have serious doubts over whether the Gunners will win any silverware this season as I feel there is a real lack of desire at the club to win a ‘less important’ trophy such as the Capital One Cup or the F.A. Cup. Despite potential hopes of European or domestic title success, beating Chelsea into 3rd place is perhaps a more realistic target.
Season Prediction: 4th. No trophies.
Tweet the author | @GStarkeyMidha
Back to Football
Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits? We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.