By Peter Kennelly, @
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very positive and upbeat supporter. I always have a good outlook on the club and how they can compete for the league title. I am humbled to be able to support the greatest team in the world.
I still feel the same way….just maybe not on the whole league title thing.
To recap, the Premier League was blown away by a class 5 hurricane called Leicester City. A rock solid defense with a whirlwind counter attacking force completely overwhelmed all they faced. They were a joy to watch and thoroughly deserved their title. a true fairy tale story.
But like all hurricanes, they pass.
I can’t see the foxes carrying on where they left off. Ngolo Kante’s departure is a hammer blow and speculation over Ryad Mahrez’s future will be a distraction to start the season.
But what about the Arsenal. Arsenal were the best of a chasing bunch in claiming second spot but were disappointingly 10 points behind Leicester. After a wonderful come from behind victory at home to the foxes, we had all the momentum and the quality to go on with it and win the league. But with horror results against Manchester United and Swansea the title challenge fell away without a whimper.
But whats done is done. Lets focus on this upcoming season.
As I write, off field additions have been limited. The only real first choice addition has been Granit Xhaka, captain of Borussia Monchengladbach. To me, this is a very bizarre signing. As it doesn’t fit the Arsene Wenger mould. He loves to play long passes when we are about maintaining possession with short precise passing and is quite a reckless player. He received 3 red cards last season in the Bundesliga. Hopefully he can be less reckless and more steel man, as we do lack a tower of strength and a sense of fear in our midfield. He will be part of our midfield two in front of the back four. I hope he fits in but I do have my doubts.
We have had two young signings come in, Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers and Takumo Asano from Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Holding looks a very capable centre half as shown in the pre season and Asano is a young pacy striker with a good finish. But both are probably going to be out of the first team picture for large amounts of the season and may be out on loan to assist development.
Our current first team squad is very good on paper. We do lack an experienced centre back, a genuine left-sided forward and a striker which I do hope will be addressed in the near future. But it’s still a more than capable squad. Cech and Ospina have the goalkeeping category well and truly settled. We have probably the best wing back pairing in the league in Hector and Nacho. Nacho offers stability and class while Bellerin is explosive and powerful. Koscielny is still a wonderful ball playing centre back. Gabriel and Chambers have question marks but are still young and hopefully at least one of them can have a breakout season to fill the other centre back position. They are more then capable of doing that.
Our pivots in midfield looks settled with a great amount of depth. Elneny was a very solid contributor when he came in January and with Santi Cazorla coming back to full fitness to add to the likes of Xhaka and Coquelin, there should be no problems at all in this area.
The attacking midfield trio also is a joy. Mesut Ozil in the hole is simply madness. The best player in the league. No one creates like he does. We need him fit and firing as much as possible. Alexis had an up and down season last year. He looked a bit more predictable cutting in from the left and became less effective. He then switched to the right and became his old self again. It also allowed the emergence of Alex Iwobi, who looked ready-made for such an intense league at only 19. I cannot wait to see him develop further this season. Aaron Ramsey presents a problem for me and has for some time. He was superb for Wales playing the number 10 role at the Euros.
That is his best position and he broke out in that position in 13/14. But with Ozil in that role, Ramsey can’t be effective. He can do a job on the right but has said in the past thats not where he wants to play. And you can’t play him in front of the back four as he can give the ball away and can get too far forward leaving the back four slightly exposed. So it certainly is a problem for Wenger and it will be interesting to see how he plays him. Jack Wilshere will still need time to get match fitness so don’t expect too much too early. A player who can lift us to another level is Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. The Ox has been a symbol of frustration for a little while now. He can drive through teams in any part of the pitch and has an explosive shot on him. But injuries and lack of confidence has so often got the better of him. He has had a good pre season so lets hope this time it continues through the whole of the season.
Up front, Olivier Giroud will carry a big work load again this season. He has a wonderful work ethic and has really improved his attitude. I would like us to use the wings more and get crosses in to get the best out of him. But he does link well with the likes of Ozil which makes him a very valuable asset. When he gets on the score sheet we genuinely win. We have options behind him but not of notable quality.
Danny Welbeck is recovering from Knee surgery and Theo Walcott continues to knick a living. Theo needs to look hungry, he needs to look interested and he needs to get involved in matches not go missing. If he can get some form he does become a genuine option to Giroud. But based on pre season don’t hold your breath. Maybe Alexis can come in and add a real cutting edge up top. He will be a pest and will cause defenses a huge amount of problems. Scoring has never been a problem for him and he may flourish in that position.
So where will the Gunners finish this season? We will certainly compete for the title. I believe we can sustain a really good title challenge as I think our squad would have learnt a lot from last season. We do need luck for a change. Weather it be poor refereeing (Liverpool at home last season) or injuries. You need luck to win the title. Manchester City and Chelsea look the real threats. Both have invested heavily in their squads and certainly in management. And don’t rule out Manchester United. Mourinho always has great success when first in charge of a club. One thing i can guarantee is that we will finish above Spurs, which makes me greatly happy.
For mine, I think Manchester City will win the league and Arsenal will finish second.
Deja Vu may just do its thing again.