We didn’t have long without football this summer did we? Perhaps that’s why it’s caught us cold this season and we are only all back on the BackPageBanter sofa now, the first time since that glorious day at Wembley last season. But back we are. No departures you’ll be pleased to hear, just a few wage increases that have tied our hands in the transfer market. The lads are worth it of course and they are on good form already after their summer lay-off.
So, a few games into the new season. What do we make of Arsenal? What lies in store in the wake of FA Cup triumph?
You’re about to find out…
Where to begin? Sanchez’s signature early in the summer certainly launched a wave of expectation that Arsene may finally be ready to crank open the creaky war chest and spend the big bucks. The usual torturous transfer window was made even more tumultuous with the feeling that top targets were well and truly in reach. Messi claimed he liked Arsenal’s playing style. “Snap him up Wenger” were the calls.
Then the window closed, with the customary Jim White sign off and agents and ITK’s everywhere were left to shut down their Twitter accounts and prepare for next January’s dramas under a different name. And what of us Arsenal fans? Well, there is no doubting that this is the strongest squad assembled in some time, not least due to some serious money being spent by the board. A hesitant start to the season hasn’t helped confirm that just yet, but the signs were there against Manchester City that the gears are starting to turn.
Very true. The signing of Sanchez was one of real intent by the boss – even if photos of him on a beach in Brazil did little to suggest that! But it wasn’t just the Volleyball court where Wenger was flexing his muscles; Sanchez, Ospina, Debuchy and Chambers were all brought in nice and early. Unfortunately, much like the World Cup, the early enjoyment dried up and we were all left clamouring for more. Why do you do this to us Arsene!
For your average Gooner the transfer window proved a frustrating affair again, with key business being done (and not done) at the death. Danny Welbeck could prove to be a really astute piece of business but the “Viera” like figure and another commanding CB to replace the outgoing TV were still missing.
In a transfer window where the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United spent big on numerous players, Sanchez and co were made to look like pocket fluff signings by the end, a real shame. Of course, that’s not to say that Manchester United’s outlay is to be admired. Far from it. Theirs was one of supermarket sweep-esque desperation, but it’s hard to fault Chelsea and City as they addressed problem areas from last season. In my eyes there remain holes, holes that were poorly concealed last year and are already evident in the season’s early exchanges.
True, but despite not playing to full potential, points are on the board and Champions League football is assured again. Over the last decade Arsenal have been beaten in the title race by teams who can grind out points from a poor performance, even the Invincibles from time to time had to nick a late goal to keep their famous record in tact and Arsenal remain unbeaten this season.
A lot has been made of the fact the Gunners have lacked a midfield enforcer for some time now. Pundits worsen the problem, with their habit of flinging around the usual list of names (Keane, Viera etc) every time a more physical outfit undoes the Arsenal team. But for me, Flamini can still marshall the midfield, provided those around him are willing to do the hard work. If you look at where some of the goals we have conceded have come this season, you wouldn’t say that they came as a result of not having a Matic, or a Fernando. No, the problem has been individuals switching off. Ramsey against City, Ozil against Everton, Koscielny against Leicester (not aided by his head injury mind). Of course, Flamini has to make sure he swats a little harder to stop the likes of Navas picking up the scraps, but he will always need the support of those around him and our midfield will function best the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey and Flamini all sharing the responsibility.
So far for me, it’s player of the month Callum Chambers who looks to be the real steal of the transfer window and someone who may be that long-term DM. Already he had proved incredibly versatile and looks as though he has been playing the game for years. With Debuchy now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, our season could well hinge on the performances of the young lad.
We finished last season 7 points off the top after a tricky run of fixtures saw us slide down the table, but ultimately we finished with the FA Cup. This season we have added some real quality and there is plenty to be positive about. We have so much speed in the side with Walcott still to come back into the fold.
Danny Wellbeck for 16 million is a bargain in today’s market, whatever you say about his world-class status. At 23, with pace and power and a hungry attitude to succeed, there is no way anyone can write him off. His debut against City almost saw him score an exquisite chip and I felt pundits were too quick to pull him up. I remember watching Suarez hit the post on numerous occasions, before it all started to fall for him. Time under Wenger’s tutelage will no doubt help him improve. Comparisons with Henry maybe too soon, but the attributes are all there.
And he’s only bloody English!
I don’t know about you, but it’s been great to see so much young English talent at Arsenal. The Ox hasn’t yet hit top form just yet, but with Walcott coming back into the fold and Gibbs looking to have a season without injuries (alright, 1 down so far) it’s exciting for fans of the national team. The British contingent could become a big part of the team for many years to come. The desire to go abroad isn’t as great and they will quickly develop an understanding on and off the pitch. I don’t think this season will see Arsenal finish with the Premier League, but I do think we will improve and kick on from last year. It’s a young squad, not too young to be called kids, but young enough to secure attractive football at the Emirates for seasons to come.
It will be interesting to see how we get through the next few weeks with a depleted back line. Hopefully fortune favours the brave. Wenger was undoubtedly brave not to sign any cover. Time will tell. Our other option? Score more than the opponent. And with the likes of Sanchez, Cazorla, Walcott and Ramsey, hey, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. So settle in lads, it’s a long season ahead, with much discussion to be had on the sofa and plenty banter that’s for sure.
Until next time
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