With the Premier League season just one week away it is safe to say that many Arsenal fans are in full-on panic mode.
So far this season Arsenal have sold Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh [well, he's as good as gone with his medical at Crystal Palace being reported as taking place today] while Andrei Arshavin ran down his contract and Denilson and Andre Santos had theirs cancelled. Sebastien Squillaci also left and while it’s fair to say that, apart from Gervinho, none of those players had any real impact on the Arsenal squad last season, with only Yaya Sanogo coming in, the squad is thin.
Last season Arsenal put together a late run to snatch fourth spot away from Tottenham. At a time when many pundits predicted Arsenal would implode and Andres Villas-Boas said we were on a ‘negative spiral of results’ we went to Germany and defeated Bayern Munich, kickstarting the Champions League charge. Arsenal won their last five away games of the season, their best away record since 2004. It was an ending which covered over the dodgy beginning.
Despite selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United, the arrival of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla more than covered what we had lost in the goalscoring/creating department and no other ground saw more goals than the Emirates last season . Four Arsenal players scored more than ten goals last season [Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud, Podolski] making Arsenal only the fourth side in the history of the Premier League to have four or more goalscorers break the ten-goal barrier.
Of course, as we know, there were as many, if not more, lows than highs. The cup exits to Bradford and Blackburn will long be remembered and accompanied with a shake of the head. To do it once was bad enough but to fail to learn the lesson and repeat the feat again was embarrassing in the extreme.
A good start to the league is what is needed and what I’ve noticed this pre-season is the higher tempo of the team and their insistence on pressing all over the pitch, even against the lowest of opposition – Arsenal Achilles heel for sure in recent seasons. Keep that up and they have a chance.
22 times last season an Arsenal player made a last-ditch tackle, more than any other side in the league for the second year running. On the one had that’s great we’re able to do that but perhaps higher concentration levels in the midfield/defensive area would lead to this number being reduced. Individual errors which lead directly to goals are another weakness that Arsenal need to cut out.
Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate.
It remains to be seen what players come in before the window closes on September 2nd and it’s insane to believe that we won’t strengthen after weakening what was already a brittle squad. Before the window closes Arsenal will have played Aston Villa, Fenerbahce twice, Fulham and Tottenham. A more important August I can’t remember, well, since the last one.
This summer has been infuriating. Finally in a position to not only spend but without the distraction of losing our best player, we should be ready to go with new signings in place who have had time to settle in to the squad. That hasn’t happened and while I understand what Wenger means when he says this team will be better this season – young players are a year older and new players a year wiser – there is no doubting that we are an injury or two away from a crisis and that’s simply no way to approach a new season.
The chase is still on for Luis Suarez but goal scoring really wasn’t our problem last season. I’m not debating the need to bring in a striker [although we won 12 games by two or more goals last season in the league] but I think other parts of the team need strengthened more urgently.
Will that happen? Only time will tell but it seems as if the lessons of the last few summers have not been learned at all and that is painful.
What I do know though is that Arsene and the board have left themselves absolutely no room for error – and that is coming from an Arsene supporter.
By September 2nd we will have a lot more answers than we have now to what lessons Arsenal have decided to pay attention to.
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