Major transfers IN: None
Major Transfers OUT: Andrei Arshavin – Free – Zenit; Andre Santos- Undis. – Flamengo; Johan Djourou- Loan – Hamburg; Gervinho – undis. – AS Roma; Marouane Chamakh – undis. – Crystal Palace
This season looks to be a defining one for Arsène Wenger even though he is now the longest serving manager in the whole of the football league and managed to yet again secure fourth place last season.
Last autumn/winter things looks very bleak for “Le Professeur” as he saw his team win only 3 games from the 15th of September until the 8th of December, a run which saw embarrassing results such as losing at Norwich, at home to Swansea and drawing at home to Fulham, and away to an Aston Villa team at the depths of their season, along with early title hopes being crushed by losses to Chelsea and Man United.
It could be argued that Wenger may have even been out of his job had one of those 3 victories not been a stunning 5-2 victory over Tottenham.
This early season form saw Arsenal take just 1.4 points per game in their first 15 games, which if they had kept up for the whole season would have seen them finish around 8th in the league. Then came a run of results which may give us a glimpse into the type of Arsenal team we can expect to see this season.
A 23 game run starting on December 8th saw Arsenal establish a record of W16 D4 L3 which saw them pick up 2.43 PPG (Points per game) and ultimately secured them their cherished 4th place, but (and it’s a HUGE but) if they had secured that kind of PPG for the whole season they would have finished top, which illustrated what a remarkable turnaround they achieved.
Although this is an unbelievable run of results for the second half of the season, 6 of their 7 games that they didn’t win were against those who finished in the top 6 last season, as they lost to Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham and drew to Everton and Man Utd (also Southampton).
This second half of the season record suggests that Arsenal really can be somewhat of “flat-track bullies” in seeing off teams in the lower half of the table, and this is something that became more apparent during the second half of the season, but even in the first half of the season their inability to secure wins against their rivals in the top 7 saw them fall fell short of the top 2, as they only managed two victories against the top 7 all season (the Tottenham home win and an away win at Liverpool).
This season looks like it could be a familiar story in my opinion for Gunners fans, winning the games they should be winning and falling short in the “big” games that will no doubt be the focus of many a “Super Sunday”, leaving them yet again short of their target to really challenge for the title and battling to secure their Top 4 birth.
Champions League progress was halted by eventual winners Bayern Munich last season which is certainly no disgrace but when you compared the two teams starting line ups last season you can see how far Arsenal have fallen as a team from the days of the Invincibles as Bayern substituted Ribery for Robben whilst Arsenal substituted Ramsey for Rosicky, a show of the gulf in class if one was needed.
Arsenal’s midfield looks pretty strong in the middle with classy creative players such as Wilshere, Cazorla and Arteta but it is at the back where the problems seem to lie.
Koscielny came on leaps and bounds as a players last season and Per Mertesacker played a big part in the second half of the season push but he is all too prone to mistakes and it says something about Thomas Vermaelen’s fall from grace that he can’t get into the team ahead of him, and a strong centre back in front of the improving Szczesny would no doubt improve a defence which was already very strong last season.
Of course, the main talking point about Arsenal is their lack of starting strikers and whether Theo Walcott should be playing up front. Walcott scored 21 goals last season in all competitions which is an excellent return and if Arsenal don’t sign a striker he could be more than capable of stepping up anyway.
This season they will inevitably get through the group stage as winners and beat a poor group runner up before exiting in the quarter finals at the hands of a team with real class and quality.
The domestic cups are Arsenal’s most realistic chance of silverware and despite the Capital One Cup being largely ignored by Wenger over his Arsenal tenure I’m sure Arsenal fans would love a day out at Wembley and the competition is very winnable if given enough attention.
The FA cup is much harder to win as it is seen as a more important trophy to win and as with any cup run they would need some luck to avoid any of their rivals but once they inevitably do, it’s hard to see Arsenal beating a couple of good teams consecutively to win it.
The 11/1 on Arsenal looks ridiculously short when you consider the gulf in class between their squad and squads such as Chelsea’s and Manchester City’s which is littered with star quality in all departments, but Arsenal do have the foundations of a very strong team, and Wenger has started to shift out deadwood such as Djourou and Arshavin but still needs a few quality players to give them the depth that other top sides have.
There doesn’t seem many bets that jump out at me wanting to back anything to do with Arsenal but with no major transfer activity happening and other sides below them such as Tottenham doing good business I think the 5/4 with Bet Victor about them not finishing in the top 4 seem a fair bet.
I also foreshadow another tussle with Tottenham being very close again this year and their could always be a surprise package in the form of Everton or Liverpool, which leads to a 4-way fight for the last Champions League place making the 5/4 seem attractive.
Recommendation: 1pt Arsenal NOT to finish in the top 4 – 5/4 (Bet Victor)
Written by Alex Evans
Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexWeemEvans
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