OK, so I know this might sound a little similar to the preceding slide, and it is, but while that slide focused on the presence of famous, proven attacking players, this places more emphasis on the depth in the team as a whole.
At the heart of Arsenal last season were two fabulously talented engineers in Mikel Arteta and Alex Song, and these two did a phenomenal job at keeping the team ticking over, keeping the players working, keeping the ball moving, doing their job.
They were probably the most vital cog in the squad last season, and that is even counting Robin van Persie. All you have to do is take a look at Arsenal’s matches when one or both of these generals was missing to see how directionless the team looked.
There was a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the two, especially as Arteta was coming into his first season at Arsenal and Song, while experienced and proven, was faced with the prospect of his first season without Cesc Fabregas marshaling the midfield.
And they responded superbly. They alternated their defensive and attacking duties with splendid coherence and understanding, and their differing skill-sets complemented one another perfectly, with Song contributing 11 assists and Arteta, especially late in the season, scoring some fabulously important goals.
The beautiful thing is, the immense workload the pair had to share this year has now, almost immediately, been at least halved.
Wenger received an amount of stick from some quarters for describing the returns of Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere as being “like new signings”.
But, really, how else could they be described? They weren’t there last year, they are there this year. That means, yeah, we pretty much are gaining two new players...albeit players who are well-acquainted with the team’s playing style, their compatriots, and the manager.
The impending returns of these two excellent players significantly lessens the load on Arteta’s and Song’s backs, as (without meaning to sound crass) the “prodigal sons” interchange exceptionally well with last season’s midfielders.
Song and Diaby are both big, strong, physical players who like to venture forward and are capable in defense, while Wilshere and Arteta are both incisive passers with good first touches and excellent dribbling skills.
And let’s not even get into what Arsenal’s youth (and the prospective loan of Nuri Sahin) might do to Arsenal’s midfield!
Emmanuel Frimpong is getting to a point where he can muscle his way into the first-team for a few games a season, as is Francis Coquelin.
Both these players have great futures ahead of them, and let’s be honest: if you have a reputation as a bone-crushing, fearless defender who revels in the media spotlight, enjoys picking physical fights with mercenary ex-teammates, and have your very own personal verb, all at the age of 20...you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
Coquelin is simply Yann M’Vila in a better team and thus without quite as much first-team exposure. He has calmness, composure and restraint.
With a little help from his friends, and some positional and mental education (which he’ll no doubt receive in abundance from the Arsenal coaching staff) he could really become something.
The addition of Nuri Sahin would put Arsenal in the suspiciously delightful position of not only having seven players battling it out for four attacking roles, but having four players who can contribute in the “enforcer” midfield role (Song, Frimpong, Coquelin, Diaby...I know he’s more attacking-minded, but I can see him playing here) and four completely different players competing for the more attacking, advanced box-to-box role (Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Sahin).
WHAT. IS. HAPPENING!?!?!?!?!?
Even in defense, which is undoubtedly our weakest area, Arsenal is not as “up the creek” as we might like to think we are.
In Kieren Gibbs we have an eager young left-back in a similar mould to Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy who can only really go up, while Andre Santos is definitely no mug as his cover.
The Brazilian might lack Gibbs’ defensive discipline and pace, but he at least somewhat compensates for this with attacking flair and experience, and remember that he is second-choice...Aleksander Kolarov ain’t “all that” either.
In the heart of the defense we have three world-class centre-backs, two of whom (Vermaelen and Koscielny) are starting to form a beautiful understanding, and the third of whom (Mertesacker) is very much a positioning-style defender, and thus can adapt his game to playing with either of the aforementioned.
The only place where issues could genuinely arise is if Bacary Sagna cops it bad early-season and we’re forced to play someone out of position on the right for an extended period of time, but if indeed there are football gods they surely would not be so cruel.
What I’m trying to say is that whatever angle you look at Arsenal’s squad from, only one conclusion can be reached: that it is without a shadow of a doubt one of the deepest and most multi-talented squads in the Premier League. I, in fact, would not use the “one of” precursor, but it shall remain for the sake of political correctness.
If van Persie knows football (and as a professional footballer, he certainly should), surely he can see this? Surely he is not blind to this gorgeous mix of skill and speed, strength and finesse, youth and experience, and what wonderful things happen when such variety is put in the proverbial melting pot?
And when he sees this, surely...surely...he has to reconsider his statement.
Unless his ambitions involve single-handedly flying to the moon, claiming Arsenal are not measuring up to what van Persie considers himself capable of is, to coin an acronym, BS.