Arsenal’s famed nine-year trophy drought ended in May when the Gunners defeated Hull City in the FA Cup and on Sunday, the north London club beat Manchester City 3-0 to win the FA Community Shield. Can Arsenal continue their trophy hunt by adding a Premier League title this upcoming season?
Before we go any further, I must admit that I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was 10-years-old because Thierry Henry was my favorite player and I grew to love the club passionately throughout my formative years. There are many levels of supporters and I can be described as a die-hard pessimist who stays tuned-in to all news surrounding my teams but I always expect the worse to happen because of previous experiences. This year, I don’t have many complaints surrounding the team and appreciate Arsene Wenger finally spending cash on acquiring established players instead of bargain developmental projects.
The Gunners did great business, so far, bringing in Calum Chambers from Southampton, Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle, David Ospina from Nice and Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona. Chambers is a young player with technique and versatility as he can play right-back, in the central defense and as a defensive midfielder. Debuchy is a direct replacement for Bacary Sagna, and while Wenger and fans wished Sagna would stay, Debuchy is a solid player with Premier League experience. In the preseason, the French international did well to contribute in creating chances while working with Chambers to interrupt forwards and wingers. Ospina had an excellent performance in the World Cup as he helped Colombia reach the quarterfinals and he’s a vast improvement over Lukasz Fabianski who left the Gunners for Swansea City. Sanchez is the marquee signing of the summer for Arsenal and Wenger believes the Chile international can be developed into an out-and-out striker but Sanchez has to get acclimated into playing in England first. His ability should shine through and provide the 13-time league champions an elite talent in the prime of his career.
Shad Forsythe, the Gunners new fitness coach, has an important role due to Arsenal’s notoriety of players breaking down after January. Forsythe was working on Germany’s staff as a performance manager since 2004 and his experience with the Germans on the squad will help along with his methods on maximizing players to fit a manager’s specific system. Arsenal famously were on top of the table last season for 128 days, the longest of any team, and still finished fourth due to injuries and failing to beat the top teams on the road. Forsythe will help with one of those issues.
A glaring weakness last year was striker. Olivier Giroud was overworked last year due to the lack of depth and with Sanchez arriving, Joel Campbell not going on loan for a fourth straight campaign, Theo Walcott returning from injury later in the year and Yaya Sanogo having a year in England under his belt, maybe things will improve. That being said, it still would’ve been a coup to sign Mario Balotelli for a discounted price after his World Cup performance but Wenger believes the position is solid enough to be successful so we’ll see soon enough.
The defensive midfield is where Arsenal remains weak. Mikel Arteta was the most dribbled past player in the league last season and his ability is waning as he moves on in age. Mathieu Flamini is a decent backup option but there’s a reason the Gunners signed him from the free market last year. Jack Wilshere is looked at as an option but the England international is better suited playing farther up the pitch. Sami Khedira was linked heavily to the club all summer and was looked at as the anchor to fill the void but Khedira is a box-to-box player like Aaron Ramsey and Wenger dismissed the prospects of signing the German international. Morgan Schneiderlin was deemed as a solid player to be the man to protect the back four but Southampton has put an embargo up after their club was raided in the transfer window. William Carvalho from Sporting CP looks to be the best option available as the 22-year-old is a physically imposing player and has the technical ability, as he was a former attacking midfielder, to view the pitch to see where he should pass to dictate the attack. Wenger should look to seal a deal before the window closes and Sporting CP looks ready to do a deal for the Portugal international.
Thomas Vermaelen going to Barcelona also opened up a hole as the central defense has no backup currently other than Chambers. The Belgium international started at Arsenal playing at a high level but injuries deterred him and he eventually lost his spot in the starting lineup.
Arsenal remain two signings away from being able to battle Chelsea and Manchester City for the title. The improvements made to the squad will be beneficial in continuing the hunger for more silverware but unless Wenger can sign players to fill the voids in the central midfield and central defense, Arsenal will be battling Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United for the remaining Champions League spots. At least all the trophy jokes are over.