It has come down to this, Arsenal’s talismanic striker for last season, Robin van Persie has finally decided to join our perennial arch rivals Manchester United for a sum of £24 million. This was a shrewd piece of business by Sir Alex Ferguson, not only did he signed the best player of last season, he even bought it from another title challenger! Arsenal’s voodoo jinx of handing the captain’s armband to the player most likely to leave continues, although I have to say, Vermaelen would most probably be the one who breaks the jinx come next season.
After the transfer fiasco of losing Nasri and Fabregas last season, Arsene Wenger has wizened up this time around, signing 3 quality players before van Persie left. Although in reality he has already ‘left’ us since making that announcement in July. Unfortunately for him, United were the only suitors, no thanks to his ridiculous wage demands. If I am not mistaken, he doubled his salary by joining United. With Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski in the team for this season’s challenge, I am pretty sure we will be challenging for honours this season, domestically and continentally.
Looks like my transfer predictions were only 30% accurate, I managed to predict that Podolski would arrive. Although that was not too hard, since we have been linked with him at the start of the year. We might still see some new signings if Wenger is to be believed from his latest interview. But with the season starting tonight, I am betting that the next few signings would most probably be for the future. Youngsters and some unknown player plucked from some obscure European league. True to the mould of Mr. Wenger.
To avoid jinxing the team, I prefer to keep my predictions to myself, but here are my thoughts about the team for the season ahead.
Szczesny will be our No.1 this season and hopefully last season’s experience will catapult him into the category of a good shot-stopper for this season. Hopefully he stays injury-free and build up on last season’s momentum, this could be the coming-of-age season for him and for Arsenal, defensively. The only sour note would be that for his backup, we have Fabianski and Mannone. Both have shown glimpses of potential but still not quite the finished product that we wanted. Hopefully, they can prove us wrong in one of the Cup runs.
Probably our weakest point and the one most open for debate. Some would say that the defensive pairing of Koscielny and Vermaelen looks solid and after a couple of seasons together, they should be a rock at the back. Mertesacker would fit in just as well in case either one of them should be injured. Injuries seems to be the keyword for our defence last season, losing Sagna, Gibbs and Jenkinson at various stages. I felt that we should have added at least one more fullback to the squad but I think Wenger has something up his sleeves, probably he sees some potential in Yennaris and Miquel. Who knows? If we can have a fit back four for more than half of the season, and with Steve Bould’s defensive training, I think we could finally break our duck since 2005.
At the time of writing, Song’s future is still in doubt. I for one would hope he stays. But with the lure of Barcelona, I doubt anyone would say no to them. The only thing left for him would probably be — how regularly will he play for them? Anyway, on paper we have possibly one of the best midfield in the Premier League. We have finally found a replacement for Fabregas in Cazorla. Arteta has finally found his calling in the deeper midfielder role. As long as we get Wilshere back in one piece and hopefully he starts to get his form back right when the going gets tough (during the title run in *cough cough*), this is one area that I’m the least worried about. And I still haven’t mentioned Walcott, Gervinho, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey. Hopefully with this increase amount of talent in midfield, Wenger would be able to deploy different tactics against different teams. Oops, I forgot to mention Arshavin.
With the departure of van Persie, we are now left with Giroud, Podolski, Chamakh and Bendtner. I have great faith in the Frenchman to produce his magic for us in his debut season, he has shown in preseason (albeit just one game) that he has the touch and height if we ever want him to be our targetman. Podolski could also feature here and it was fun to watch him score 2 against his old team, Cologne during the preseason. Hopefully they settle fast into the demands of the Premier League, spreading the goals around and sharing the burden of scoring. Hopefully, they could bring back the wonderful attacking football during the time of Pires, Henry, Ljungberg and Bergkamp.
After 7 trophy-less seasons, I am finally feeling that this could be our breakthrough season. I have ultimate faith in Wenger and his dream of entertaining football, I think it is time the players do the talking on the pitch rather than through Twitter. I am very excited about this season and what it could mean for Arsenal come May next year. Even with the loss of van Persie (I hope he gets familiar with the United treatment room), I still feel that we have it in the team to push for the title. Everyone writes off Arsenal’s chances each season, and from what I read so far, our most realistic target predicted by them would be 4th place. They predicted the same doom and gloom last season, see where we ended up?
Come on you Gunners!