Will they won’t they?
It seems at the end of every season, critics ponder how Arsenal’s initial promising title challenge faded, or how their late surge turned out not to be enough after a slow start, inevitably, the conclusion is always that the Gunners are just one or two key signings away from a sustained title challenge.
The areas of concern this time round were goalkeeper, defence midfield and striker.
Wenger moved quickly to address the goalkeeper situation, with Szczęsny moving out on loan in order to make way for Chelsea’s Petr Cech, who will be ably deputised by David Ospina. Despite his age and lack of minutes last season, Cech is still unquestionably a world class keeper (despite his Premier League debut for the Gunners) and will prove to be an authoritive presence behind a defence that should see an acclimated Gabriel Paulista see more game time.
Ahead of that backline thought there are questions. Francis Coquelin has performed admirably, but with Wenger’s penchant for fielding the Frenchman as the only defence minded player in an incredibly creative midfield makes it hard at times. Coquelin has made the step up to the Premier League capably, but lacks the physical presence to dominate a midfield in the way that, say, rumoured transfer target William Carvalho does for Sporting and Portugal.
Up front, chances created won’t be a problem, but how many Arsenal convert will be scrutinised. Wenger’s side are positively brimming with creativity but there are question marks next to their strikers. Alexis Sanchez brought a cutting edge to the side last term, but is better out wide, and there is still the suspicion that although perfectly able strikers, Giroud and Walcott perhaps lack the natural predatory instincts that elevate attacking players into the world class category.
Key Player: Alexis Sanchez is arguably the most direct attacking player in the current Arsenal squad. Fast, aggressive, strong and utterly relentless, Sanchez provides a threat utterly unique to that of his colleagues. If he can replicate last season’s phenomenally consistent form, Sanchez may just propel Arsenal to genuine title contenders.
One to watch: Calum Chambers started his Arsenal career very promisingly following his switch from Southampton, looking composed at centre back. His form dipped and Bellerin was preferred at right back whilst Mertesacker and Koscielny became the nailed on first choice central pairing. With Debuchy returning from injury and Gabriel Paulista sure to get more games this term, it will be intriguing to see whether the promising England youth international can rise to the challenge.
Prediction: 3rd again. It should be tighter this season – it is hard to see any side running away with the title, but there are stronger sides in the division than Arsenal currently. If a rumoured deal for Benzema is completed, that could prove a game changer though, but looking at their season opener, it is same old Arsenal.