After years of stubbornness from manager Arsene Wenger hampered Arsenal in pursuit of the Premier League title, the cerebral Frenchman seems to be learning overdue lessons that will enrich a renewed charge towards top spot in 2015-16.
The first signs of which came during Arsenal’s fine run to the finish last term. Wenger was happy for his team to relinquish possession in the marquee matches—most notably, in a wonderful 2-0 win away at Manchester City—and stumbled upon a system which enabled the Gunners to make a late run for second position; eventually they fell just short and into third.
These emerging altruistic traits are vital if the men from the Emirates are to challenge the might of the Premier League’s elite. As is the new man between the sticks, Petr Cech, who will provide Arsenal with the the sturdy foundations that have long been lacking. His qualities, tangible and intangible, represent a major boost.
So often Arsenal have started seasons with a flourish before fading away when it comes to the crunch, or rallying late after stuttering out of the blocks. But, with a squad that possesses a festering fortitude and some of the most vibrant attacking talent in European soccer, maybe this season will be the one that ends Wenger’s long wait for another Premier League title.
Reasons to be Positive
The importance of Cech’s acquisition cannot be understated. With the 33-year-old on board, the club have filled a longstanding void in their side with a genuinely world-class operator and a player who knows what’s required to win the biggest honors in the game.
Going forward, the squad looks in magnificent shape. Olivier Giroud is a tremendous foil at the point of the attack for the polished midfield talents of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla. A direct edge comes from Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, while Alexis Sanchez amalgamates all the aforementioned talents in spectacular fashion.
Reasons to be Negative
Although Cech is a player that’ll add a dash of winning mentality to a squad renowned for coming up just short in the Premier League, psychologically, Arsenal need to make strides if they’re to finish top of the pile. Understated attributes like focus and consistency must be on show throughout the season, otherwise it’ll be another case of what might have been.
In terms of personnel, at the time of writing, there are still a few gaps in the squad. A holding midfielder of genuine class is still scarce, the full-back positions still represent an area of concern and there’s still no top quality forward to call upon. Subsequently, opposition sides will look at Arsenal and feel as though they have a soft center that can be exploited.
Key Player – Mesut Ozil
After a turbulent beginning to life at the Emirates Stadium, Ozil assumed his role as conductor of the Arsenal orchestra with distinction in the latter stages of last term. Now, with a full pre-season with the club under his belt, the German schemer looks ready to finally make good on the £42 million Arsenal paid to land him in the summer of 2013.
At his best, there’s no better No. 10 in world soccer than the 26-year-old and he showcased exactly what he’s capable of in 2015. His performance in Arsenal’s FA Cup final win over Aston Villa was mesmeric and if he can continue to thrive in big games for the Gunners, it’ll be a major aid for Wenger’s men.
Prediction – 2nd
There’s plenty of promise exuding from Arsenal’s pre-season displays and belief amongst the club’s fanbase that this is a group of players capable of delivering the ultimate prize. And they’ll go close this season, but will come up just short.
Wenger has deviated from his entrenched principles and if he continues to do so, that’ll be to the club’s benefit in the crunch clashes this term. The lack of a top-class midfield enforcer will still make this group vulnerable on the road, though, and while Cech will do plenty to drag them out of trouble, even his assured influence won’t be enough to bridge the gap to the very top.
Expert Opinion – Chris Moore (World Soccer Talk):
With the Gunners finishing the 2014-15 campaign winning 20 out of their final 26 matches, and firing on all cylinders so far this preseason (scoring 14 goals and only giving up one), the team will look to continue their hot streak heading into the new season.
Although the team has not exactly broken the bank during this summer’s transfer market (yet), Arsenal did pluck Petr Cech away from rivals Chelsea. Despite Cech’s age, the Czech international is a world-class goalkeeper and could make a major difference in the team’s Premier League title hopes.
Right now, the Gunners are probably runners-up on a lot of people’s Premier League predictions, but an addition of Karim Benzema or Robert Lewandowski (both rumored to be transfer targets) could very well put Arsenal over the top.
If Wenger stays with his current group, the north London outfit will still compete for the title with Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs. Regardless, Arsenal fans should be excited heading into the 2015-16 season.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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