Why Arsenal won’t win the Premier League Title this season
by Danny Austin, Guest Contributor
Can they? Of course they can, as long as everything goes right.
Will they? Of course not, because this is Arsenal we’re talking about, and more often than not whatever can go wrong, does go wrong.
If Arsenal are lifting our first Premier League trophy in 12 years at the end of the season, please feel free to relentlessly remind me that I said it wouldn’t happen, but for now let’s break down what’s standing in our way.
- 12 points
This one’s obvious, but it can’t really be ignored. At the end of the season, Chelsea were a full 12 points ahead of us. They won the league with three games to play and were comfortably in front of the pack with months remaining in the season.
The addition of Petr Cech will undoubtedly help Arsenal, but his departure from Chelsea probably won’t hurt our rivals — in the league, at least.
As Arsenal supporters, none of us are going to go out of our way to say anything nice about Chelsea, but if we’re being honest with ourselves we’d admit that overthrowing them at the top of the league is a monumental task. Chelsea probably won’t get significantly worse over the summer, so surpassing them is going to take a massive improvement on our part.
They only lost three games all season, and the third of those came in the second last fixture of the year against West Brom, when they’d already been crowned champions. Do you know when Arsenal lost their third game of the season? Nearly six months earlier, on November 22nd against Manchester United.
For those who would point out that we were a significantly improved squad in the second half, that’s a fair point. But we still lost three games between January 1 and the end of the season. Chelsea? They only lost two.
- Squad depth
Here’s where Jake and I differ a little. Where he sees a strength, I see a weakness.
To be fair, we’ve got more cover in attacking midfield than almost any other club on the planet and — for the first time ever — we’ve got lots of options in defence.
Elsewhere, though, we’re an injury away from catastrophe.
Okay, maybe catastrophe’s an exaggeration, but what exactly happens if Francis Coquelin gets hurt? I love Mikel Arteta as much as the next guy or gal, but while he may still have the best hair in professional sports, he sure looked like he’d lost a step before he got hurt last season.
Coquelin’s emergence was one of the keys to our impressive run of form in the back-half of the 2014-15 and there’s no need to spend big on someone who’ll replace him in the first-team. But if we struggled so badly when Flamini and/or Arteta were manning the defensive-midfield position last year, there’s no reason to believe we won’t do the same if they’re forced into action this year.
I’m a big believer in Oliver Giroud. He’s strong, handsome-as-hell, a great passer and provides some structure for our attack-minded midfielders to build around. No, he’s never going to be the world’s greatest finisher, but Arsenal is a better team when he’s on the field.
But guys, can we talk for a minute about Danny Welbeck?
Seems like a nice guy, right? Works hard, tracks back defensively, can play on the wing and celebrated like a normal human being when he scored against Manchester United — I hate it when guys don’t celebrate scoring against their former clubs.
But strikers gotta strike, and our man Danny’s not exactly lighting the world on fire with his goal-scoring record. Welbeck only scored four times in the Premier League last season, and that’s just not going to cut it. We spent a lot of money bringing him in from United in 2014, and if we’re going to spend $25-million on a striker, we need him to score.
There’s an argument to be made that after Theo Walcott’s late-season heroics he might be an option, but Theo’s been talked about as a striker since he arrived at the club. If we’re still unsure whether he can play up front after a decade with the guy, isn’t that a sign that he’s probably not quite up to snuff?
- Copa fatigue
I’ll admit in advance that this could be a moot point, because there are times when I genuinely believe Alexis Sanchez is a super-powered extraterrestrial who is incapable of feeling any form of fatigue.
But let’s be serious, our Chilean wonderman has played a whole lot of soccer over the past 13 months.
First, he led Chile deep into the World Cup. Then, he singlehandedly kept our team in the hunt for the first half of the 2014-15 season — and mostly kept it up in the second half, before leading his country to the championship at the Copa America.
At some point, that’s going to catch up with him.
Last season, the #antiwenger trolls were out to tar-and-feather Mesut Ozil in the early-going, despite the fact that he was clearly suffering from fatigue following Germany’s World Cup win.
As essential as Ozil is to our title hopes, there’s no one more important than Sanchez.
If he comes back into training and needs some rest, I sure hope we give it to him, because a tired Sanchez is an injury-prone Sanchez — I believe Wenger refers to players being in the red-zone — and if he gets hurt our title-hopes go up in smoke.
With all of that being said, there’s still plenty to look forward to. We haven’t won the title in over a decade, but for the most part we’ve still had fun.
What constitutes a successful season? Everyone has their own definition, but there’s every reason to believe we’ll show plenty of progress in 2015-16. From my perspective, I’d like to see us finish second and narrow the gap between ourselves and Chelsea, advance to the round of eight in the Champions League and win the FA Cup again, because I do love getting day-drunk at the Pig and Duke in Calgary at the end of May.
Winning the title? That’ll have to wait a year. I’ll still be around, and I can’t wait.
Written by Danny Austin. Follow him at @SUNDannyAustin.