Fifth in the table on 44 points, twelve behind league leaders Manchester United and five behind Chelsea who are in the last Champions League spot. It has not been the best of seasons so far for Arsenal but they are still in the hunt for a top four finish and remain in the FA Cup and Champions League.
So what does the second half of an intriguing season hold for the North London club?
To answer this, a Gooners' view roundtable was commissioned by Bleacher Report's Arsenal Community Leaders who put forward two simple questions:
- What do you feel Arshavin will add to the Arsenal team and Arsenal as a club?
- How do you expect the second half of the season to unfold?
So without further ado, I give you Gooner's View.
Shyam: Arshavin will add one simple thing—quality. He's got quick feet and he's a clever player, so he will add something to our team without a doubt. Whether we'll see any of that this season is debatable. But in the long run, Arshavin looks like yet another astute signing.
Alex: We all know Arshavin's qualities, low centre of gravity, pace, skill and more importantly the ability to beat his man, something Arsenal have lacked since Hleb left.
With Arshavin in the team, opposition teams could have to double mark—like they did with Hleb—and hopefully this will free up the likes of Nasri, Van Persie, and more importantly Adebayor who Arsenal have yet to see the best of.
It's something Arsenal have lacked, for all the qualities of the players—none of them can consistently beat a man, which the likes of Aston Villa, Manchester United, Liverpool and even Manchester City have. So he'll add something in that regard.
Also as a club it's important, with season tickets up for renewal, that the club secured a "big name" player that people want to come and watch. Games at the Emirates this season have tended to be rather damp squibs, except for the Manchester United match, and Arshavin is a sort of "bums on seats" player who people will pay to come and watch.
Callum: The arrival of Russian Andrei Arshavin I believe is a good one. It willl lift the team knowing there is new blood and it will also solve our current central and right midfield problems.
With Arshavin added to the Gunners talented yet youthful squad, Arsenal now have no real need to play Emmanuel Eboue at right side except if worse comes to worse in the Champions League. It also means he can slot into the center midfield role as he is extremely versatile. He can be creative and add real power to the Arsenal attack.
Maire: Arshavin is a great signing if he can settle in and play the way we know he can. I hope to see a lot of the Arshavin that played against Holland in Euro 2008.
For now he can fill in the blank on the right side of midfield. Also he will give Arsene Wenger a massive selection headache when Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky return from injury. Such is Arshavin's versatility, he can play anywhere across the midfield or as a second striker.
The Russian adds that extra option and he is not afraid to take players on which some Arsenal players are who try and pass their way past the opposition.
For the club he is a huge buy. Arshavin will ensure a lot of season ticket holders will renew as his signature shows that the club are willing to pay the money that is needed to buy a match winner, he is not just a youngster with potential.
Furthermore people will see a lot of Arsenal fans with "Arshavin 23" jerseys on—I've mine already ordered.
Arsenal fans expect and now he must deliver.
AGooner: I think Andrei will add the kind of creativity and offensive decisiveness that Arsenal's attack is lacking at the moment, and frankly, has been lacking for some time with Hleb gone, Rosicky injured, and Eduardo out. Arsenal were a very different beast with those players in the side, with each complimenting Cesc in different ways.
If I were to make a comparison, I would liken Andrei to Hleb more than any other player, but with one added bonus—he will shoot, and he will make something happen. There is a desire and a hunger you feel with Andrey—that he has something to prove, where Hleb was more of a punter, keen to skin a player and set up a pass, but the end result didn't seem to matter as much.
Hleb seemed to get lost when running at players, a bit out of his element, whereas he was better with the ball dead at this feat and he could then make a one on one move.
With Arshavin, I get the sense that he wants to score, wants the team to score, and he wants to exploit the weakness he can see in the other team to Arsenal's full advantage. I am very excited by the prospects of Andrei teaming up with RVP and Eduardo; both can be served very well.
Andrey has movement, and Arsenal thrive on that. What I mean by this, the EFFECTIVE Arsenal thrive on this. Without movement, all the pretty passes in the world wind up building nothing, creating nothing. The threat of Arsenal's play is passing matched with pace, driven by vision and technical brilliance. For that to work, you need players who have all those elements naturally gifted to them, and the hunger parts helps them to want it so much that they simply overpower/outpace/outclass their opponents.
We have suffered alot this season with an impotent Arsenal. It's high time we get back to our fluid and deadly methods to put the ball in the net. Arshavin is key to that in a major way. We need to turn one pointers in to three with the same urgency as if we were losing the match. The Champions League and the aspirations of our top players are riding on it.
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So what does the second half of the season hold?
Shyam: It's hard to tell really. On the evidence of the Spurs game, the players look committed and are up for a fight. If we can convert that into goals, the remainder of this season will be good to watch.
It's difficult to predict where we'll end up—anywhere between 2nd and 6th—which would represent a failure as far as the Premier League is concerned. Will we qualify for the Champions League? If Villa crack under pressure, we will.
The Champions League is a lottery—if we play well for six more matches, we're in the final—and the F.A. Cup is no different, but I doubt if Wenger would ignore the F.A. Cup the way he did last season. It is really winnable this time round.
Alex: I'm hoping we'll see a very different Arsenal with Walcott, Eduardo, Rosicky, Fabregas and Arshavin returning we could see a return to the creative Arsenal, as opposed to the rather functional side we have seen thus far.
They could finally have that creative spark that has been missing for so many of our recent games, and hopefully we could see a reversal of form.
That said, the remainder of our season as much depends on the form of others, than our own form. Aston Villa and even Everton will probably have to suffer with a loss of form or injuries for Arsenal to get back in to the top four. But I still believe Arsenal will be in the Champions League next season.
Callum: I see Arsenal stealing fourth from Aston Villa. We have a relatively easy run home despite the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool in Wenger's path.
Arsenal will be boosted by the return of key players such as Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, and the ever so dangerous Eduardo. I feel Eduardo can be a revelation for Arsenal, with his blistering pace and calmness in front of goal great attributes.
I feel Arsenal will be mentally tougher then Villa and I believe we have more power to retain fourth or third.
Maire: I'm going to go out on a limb and expect silverware this season. I said it at the start and I'll be darned if I shall change my mind now.
The Champions League is an absolute lottery. Roma are a good side however they are having more an up and down season than Arsenal are at the moment. Roma can turn up and be a very good side or else they can let the opposition storm over them.
I do think we have a great shot at the FA Cup. Wenger is taking it seriously this season as shown by the team he put against Cardiff last night and even though we were 3-0 up he still put on Robin van Persie and we got a fourth.
The draw is very favourable—Burnley at home and if we progress past them we have another home tie against either Sheffield United or Hull, again very winnable.
Remember Arshavin is available for the FA Cup and by the time the semifinals come around we should be full strength with Fabregas, Walcott, and perhaps even Rosicky back.
As for the league, Manchester United and possibly Liverpool are out of sight so we have to concentrate on trying to catch Aston Villa and Chelsea while keeping Everton at bay. It'll be interesting to see how Chelsea manage under Hiddink, while Villa's squad will be tested to the maximum in the next few weeks with trips to Chelsea and Moscow amongst others.
I'm with Arsene Wenger on this one. We have to stop hoping other teams drop points and just get on with winning our own games and if we do that we have every chance of finishing in the top four.
We are going from a first half of the season largely played with a midfield consisting some if not all of Eboue, Song and Denilson to options of Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott, Fabregas and the impressive Nasri. It surely can only get better?
AGooner: I fully expect Arsenal to finish in the top four, perhaps barely, but I have full belief that eventually a full strength Arsenal will be too powerful against opposition that will run out of steam in the second half of the campaign.
If you think about the team that we have had up until the transfer window ended, we're lucky to be unbeaten since Cesc pulled up injured.
However, when you consider the prospects of an Arshavin, Eduardo, Rosicky, Walcott, Fabregas empowered side, you have to like our chances. Especially at home, where we have been faced with 10 men behind the ball, we could really do with vision and skill to overpower.
I'm not so much concerned with our defense at the moment; Toure is marshaling the back line, and you have to think that a fullback lineup of Sagna, Toure, Djourou and Clichy is worthy of a top four finish.
Song is improving in every game, and his Gilberto-invisible-wall impersonation will not go unnoticed.
It's the midfield engine and forward firepower that needs to kick in now. We need results, winning results. Against the rest of the "Top Four" we have taken seven points from the first three meetings.
We still have Chelsea at home, and that will be a huge game as Chelsea keep dropping points. I'm not so sure that Villa will fall from grace; Liverpool and United are out of sight.
That means we are fighting for two spots, not four. We need to win all seven games at home against Blackburn, Chelsea, Fulham, City, Boro, Stoke and Sunderland, which we can do. Four of those teams are in the bottom half of the table, two are right at the halfway mark, and then there is Chelsea.
Our six away games are split evenly between top half and bottom half opposition. The Liverpool and United fixtures will also be huge. The other four, including Wigan, are totally winnable.
Villa's remaining fixture list doesn't appear as promising to them. Chelsea may yet drop more points at home given their upcoming fixture list as well. But we can't do much about what those teams do.
All we can do is try and win our games and see if its enough to be in the top four this year. We've been leaving things late this year and making things hard for ourselves.
We're squarely behind the 8 ball now, and we've got to score goals if we are going to have any chance of playing in Europe next year.
So there you have it—the thoughts of Arsenal fans who have to be given some credit for remaining so optimistic whilst many others seem to think the club is about to implode.
The general consensus is that Arsenal will finish in the top four and Arshavin has been well worth his transfer money despite him yet to take to the field.
What are you views on this?
Gooners' View would like to thank Shyam, Maire, Alex, Callum and AGooner for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer the questions.
Until next time—keep it Goonerish!
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