Progress report for Arsenal’s first four games of the Premier League season

arsene-wenger

The Gunners began August on a high note, as they beat Chelsea to collect the Community Shield for the second consecutive season.  Despite the big win at the start of the the 2015-16 campaign, confidence at the club was quickly shattered one week later, with Arsenal dropping their first league match to West Ham.  The north London club, however, followed the defeat with two victories and a draw over their next three league matches.

While Arsenal have only scored three goals (two of them being own goals) in four league games so far this season, the Gunners do have players that will put the ball into the back of the net and will start to fire on all cylinders shortly.  Although Arsenal has seemingly sputtered out of the gate, there are still only two big clubs ahead of them in the table (Manchester City is leading the league and Manchester United is level with the Gunners).  With 89% of the Premier League season remaining, there is obviously plenty of time to get kinks straightened out before it’s too late.

Best starting XI: Čech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, and Giroud.  It was extremely difficult to leave Aaron Ramsey out of the starting XI, however, the Gunners need Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace down the right flank.  Arsenal have looked stagnant quite often during their first four matches of the campaign and could use some speed to open up play a little more.  In the Liverpool match in particular, the Gunners practically abandoned the right side all together.  While I’m choosing Chamberlain right now, manager Arsene Wenger should use squad rotation with Chamberlain, Cazorla and Ramsey to mix things up a bit.  All three players are quality and it is tough to exclude one of them from the starting lineup.

Best performer: Francis Coquelin.  The 24-year-old defensive midfielder has picked up where he left off after an outstanding 2014-15 season.  Coquelin has won more tackles than Fernandinho, Nemanja Matic and Morgan Schneiderlin.  Also, despite his reputation for being reckless, the Arsenal man has the fewest amount of fouls committed out of the aforementioned quartet so far.  Coquelin gives Arsenal a strong backbone in the middle of the pitch and is becoming immensely important to this team.

Most improved player: Nacho Monreal.  Hector Bellerin could have been a choice for most improved player as well, however, because the right back in 20-years-old, he frankly should be improving.  Monreal, who will be 30 by the time the season ends, has been extremely consistent in this Arsenal defense this season.  While some (including yours truly) were not totally convinced of the Spaniard’s ability following his arrival from Malaga in 2013, Monreal has overthrown Kieran Gibbs as the club’s starting left back and performed admirably ever since.

Injury news: Tomas Rosicky is the only player that will be out for an extended amount of time.  Mesut Özil missed Arsenal’s last match at Newcastle due to a minor knee issue, but the German should be good to go when the Gunners resume play after the international break on September 12th.  Danny Welbeck could also be available for selection on the 12th as well, and Jack Wilshere will most likely be back on the pitch by the end of the month after recovering from an ankle procedure.

Best business completed in transfer window: Petr Čech.  There obviously aren’t many options with this pick, but that is no swipe at the Czech Republic international.  Čech is the exact type of player that the Gunners needed last season.  In fact, many suggested that this Arsenal team needed a proper number one goalkeeper more than anything at the end of the 2014-15 campaign.  The 33-year-old gives the Gunners experience, leadership, and not to mention an undeniable top-level keeper between the posts.

Rating the manager:  C.  Wenger is one of the greatest managers during the Premier League era, however, many Gooners are not happy that the Frenchman did not splash the cash for a “world-class” striker during the transfer window.  Although, to Wenger’s defense, it is impossible to buy a player if his team refuses to sell.  It is also worth noting that bringing in a player such as Aleksandr Kokorin would have essentially been pointless.  Most, if not all, pundits would agree that Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck are all more talented than the Russian as of now.  Nevertheless, this season could be a massive one for Wenger.  A disappointing campaign and the 65-year-old may be in trouble for not strengthening the squad.

Weaknesses: The center-forward position.  Giroud is a very capable player up front, as evident by his 42 goals over his first 100 Premier League matches with the club.  England duo Walcott and Welbeck are solid options as well, but questions remain whether they work better on the wings or through the middle.  Wenger would have done well to add an additional striker, but that ship has sailed until the January transfer market opens.

Forecast for remainder of season: As of right now, a top three finish in the Premier League, retaining the FA Cup yet again, and a trip to the Champions League knockout stage (perhaps the quarterfinals) are all realistic goals for this Arsenal team.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5.

 

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