Arsenal FC: 7 Predictions for the Gunners' 2012-13 EPL Season
What do we know?
We know that Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski are set to make appearances for Arsenal next year, that Arsene Wenger will not be aided by former Gunner Pat Rice. We know that the red-and-whites will be competing in the Champions League next season, again hoping (maybe not so realistically) to win their first UEFA Champions League.
What don't we know?
The color and sponsor of Robin van Persie's 2012-13 jersey are undetermined, while we're not sure whether Wenger will pick up other targets like Yann M'Vila and Jan Vertonghen. Are the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Andrei Arshavin, and Johan Djourou still going to be at the Emirates next year? We don't know.
Now comes the least important. What we think.
Here are seven bold predictions for Arsenal's next Premier League season.
The Backline Will Solidify
Due to Per Mertesacker's injury, Arsenal's back four towards the end of the season consisted of Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, and Kieran Gibbs.
The middle two formed quite a center back partnership.
But now, since the German is returning, a possible option would be to play Vermaelen on the left, and Mertesacker in the middle, leaving Sagna on the right.
Despite Sagna's injury, I think he will be able to come back strong next year.
This year, Arsenal conceded 49 goals the entire Premier League season, which was only eighth best in the league—unacceptable for a team whose fans claim that they will make a run for the title in the 2012-13 season.
However, I think the defense will become stronger next year, because Mertesacker will have more Premier League experience, and Vermaelen will get used to playing at left back.
Wilshere Will Return Significantly Worse Than Before
Jack Wilshere was brilliant for Arsenal in the 2010-11 season.
He did everything that Arsene Wenger could have asked of a teenager, and he eventually landed a starting spot with the Gunners.
Wilshere was quick, very strong for a kid only 5'7" (1.70 m), tough as nails and learned how to use his body extremely well. The part of his game that needed significant improvement was shooting, because many people say he wants to be a more attacking midfielder.
But he has recently undergone knee surgery, and this could be a huge blow to the supposedly promising career of the English midfielder.
I think that he will return next year, but won't be the same Jack Wilshere who turned some heads two seasons ago.
Gervinho and Ramsey Will Continue Their Bad Form
Two talented players whose forms haven't been so good for two different reasons.
For Gervinho, it all started after the African Cup of Nations. Prior to that, he played very well, as speedy as ever, using both feet, sidestepping past defenders and playing the ball into the box.
However, after Cote d'Ivoire's disappointment in the Cup of Nations final (where they lost to Zambia on penalties), Gervinho wasn't the same as before.
Aaron Ramsey's drop in form can be traced to something more tangible: his injury.
The broken leg that kept him out for more than a year hindered him greatly, because like Wilshere, Ramsey was a top young prospect.
Unfortunately, I don't think that either of these players will pick it up next season.
Giroud Will Be a Success While Podolski Won't
Olivier Giroud is known to be a classic English center forward, a good target man. Montpellier played a 4-5-1 formation, with Giroud as a lone striker, as he was able to hold the ball up for them well as they came forward to attack.
Since van Persie served as Arsenal's main striker last season, there was no target man for anyone to play long balls to. On the other hand, the Frenchman is a huge threat in the air, because at 6'4", he rises above the defense.
I don't think Lukas Podolski will be as good of a signing.
Of course, it's harsh to judge him by what he's done at the 2012 European Championships, since he is playing wider for Germany than he normally does.
I don't think he'll do badly, but he won't do great either. The position that he likes to play is kind of a hybrid of Mikel Arteta and Gervinho, so we're not sure how much he'll play and adjust to the Premier League.
Van Persie's Season Will Be Cut Short by Injury
Apart from Wojciech Szczesny, Robin van Persie was the player who started the most games for the Gunners in the 2011-12 season. He started 37 times and came on as a substitute once, which means he played every game.
This isn't something that will happen all the time, since the Dutchman has a reputation for being one of the most fragile players in the world. (Many people also believe that he won his first Golden Boot because it's his first complete season).
In a career that could have been better had he not injured himself so many times, one feels that van Persie is bound to get hurt.
However, I think next season, van Persie will only play twenty games or so.
Arsenal Will Start Strong, Making a Title Run...
Remember in 2010-11, when Arsenal started off the season making a strong title run?
So do I.
In the first half of the season, Arsene Wenger and his men were quite close to Manchester United as the top, making themselves one of the top contenders for the Premier League title.
Of course, the 1-0 loss to the Red Devils didn't help it, but Arsenal weren't too far off.
Wait, but what happened next?
...but Throw It Away in February/March and Finish Fourth
Oh yeah, that's right.
The second half of the season was marred by injuries, and Arsenal went on a huge skid. The most embarrassing result was at Newcastle: up 4-0 at half-time, the Gunners brilliantly managed to concede four goals in the second half.
That may have had something to do with players' fitness, but really, it's also partly psychological. Arsenal find themselves starting well and finishing badly very often (with the exception of this season), even in some matches when they score early goals and concede late ones.
I think that will be the case in 2012-13.
Arsenal will finish behind Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, not in that order. Still, they will be able to play in the Champions League in the following season.