Arsenal: The Starting Lineup Fans Want to See
This summer has been a season of ups and downs for Gunner fans.
The ups? Arsenal's solid additions in German striker Lukas Podolski and French forward Olivier Giroud.
The downs? Watching Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny lose the starting goalkeeping job for Poland during the Euro 2012, monitoring the recovery of their team's injury-riddled defense and biting their nails as they watch Arsenal star Robin Van Persie teeter on the edge of transferring over to Manchester United.
While injuries, acquisitions and potential farewells are an inevitable part of soccer, these incidents prompt roster changes, and roster changes prompt a frenzy of fans buzzing around Premier League forums.
As the Premier League draws near and player moves come to a halt, starting lineup formations can really start to be foreseen.
In this slideshow is a starting lineup for Arsenal that all Gunner fans can agree on.
Wojciech Szczesny (Goalkeeper)
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Some Arsenal fans had their confidence in Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny shaken after his short-lived experience in the Euro 2012—he had his starting position for Team Poland revoked after being called for a nervy trip that gave Greece a penalty kick that could have lost them the game.
Despite Szczesny’s international fumble, Arsenal would be foolish to put someone else between the pipes.
"Obviously the sending off is [part of] a learning curve for me and hopefully that will never happen again. But it has made me more mature,” said Szczesny (via goalkeepermagazine).
The Polish keeper is only 22 years old, but at such a young age, Szczesny has received a tremendous responsibility from Arsenal.
Szczesny played every minute of Arsenal’s 2012 season, letting up 49 goals in 38 appearances (via Arsenal.com)—a decent performance that was good enough to secure the Gunners third place in the Premier League 2012 season.
Szczesny is already a top goaltender in the Premier League and he still has whole career ahead of him. The more appearances he gets, the better he will be.
Forget his mistake in the Euro. Arsenal can play Szczesny with confidence.
Bacary Sagna (Defender)
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To say 2012 was not Bacary Sagna’s year is an understatement.
In May, Sagna’s season was cut short after breaking his right fibula in a match against Norwich (via The Guardian). This was the second time Sagna broke his right fibula and the rehabilitation ultimately kept him off of France’s international team in Euro 2012.
This was the second time Sagna broke his right leg this year—his season in the Premier League was cut short four months after colliding with an advertisement hoarding in October (via Arsenal.com).
While this bad luck would normally be enough to prompt a wildly negative response from most players, Sagna saw it as a conquerable mountain that he will just have to climb again.
The Arsenal defender tweeted: “Another injury, another fight starting for me. I'll make sure I'll win it and come back as I did before” (via The Guardian).
Sagna’s impeccable attitude is as hardy as his play. He is an impermeable defenseman whose energy and poise makes him an impermeable defender.
According to the Arsenal team website, Sagna is expected to be back by the end of August, meaning he will have to miss Arsenal’s two Premier League games in August.
Bacary Sagna is a vital part of the Gunners’ defense. If he can play, he should play.
Thomas Vermaelen (Defender)
Thomas Vermaelen was welcomed with a very unusual, yet appreciated, greeting from Chinese supporters. As the Gunners visited China on a preseason tour, fans unveiled banners depicting Arsenal players as Chinese warriors—with Vermaelen as the leader (via Mail Online).
It is no coincidence that Vermaelen was the Arsenal defender chosen by fans to be made into a Shaolin master. Vermaelen's aggression in his team's end and his composure on defense is much like that of the ancient Chinese warrior.
Vermaelen's Chinese fans are not the only ones to have noticed that. In early July, new Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova showed an increasing interest in Vermalen (via Mail Online).
Barcelona's interest in the young Arsenal defender is not unwarranted. Vermaelen's innate ability to shut down the opposition is something that comes naturally to those meant to play defense..
As long as Arsenal has the Chinese warrior in their army, Vermaelen should be on Arsenal's front lines.
Laurent Koscielny (Defender)
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Laurent Koscielny quickly blended in to the Arsenal defense, displaying a substantial chemistry with fellow defenseman Thomas Vermaelen. The two had a lot of work to do making up for injuries on Arsenal's back line.
When defenders have chemistry, teams know not to change a thing.
Koscielny was voted by fans to be the team's fourth-best player of the season after the defender stepped up and improved tremendously throughout the season (via Arsenal.com).
It is no wonder why Koscielny is solid on the back line—the native Frenchman was brought up through French football, where defense is a virtue.
Not every player can join a team and assimilate and improve the way Koscielny has in Arsenal. He has become a huge part of the Gunners' offense and deserves a starting position for his efforts.
Kieran Gibbs (Defender)
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Kieran Gibbs or Andre Santos?
One of Arsenal's many injury-riddled defenders during the 2011-2012 season, Kieran Gibbs will have to battle Brazilian Andre Santos for the fourth defensive spot on Arsenal's lineup. It is a coin toss of a decision that should see Gibbs prevail.
Santos is older and Brazilian which makes him an appealing fourth defender. However, Gibbs has investment and development appeal to Arsenal. Born in Lambeth, London, the homegrown 22-year-old has shown potential and needs an adequate amount of time from Arsenal in order to develop.
Gibbs will be itching to get on the field after an injury-shortened season and deserves the opportunity to do so.
If Gibbs suffers another injury or cannot hold his weight, put Santos in. The Brazilian is a strong sub to have on the sidelines.
In terms of starting, however, Gibbs deserves the spot. He is a developmental investment for Arsenal and his worth is ready to increase.
Mikel Arteta (Midfielder)
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Voted the fifth-best player on Arsenal's squad, Mikel Arteta is a much needed midfielder for the Gunners. To put it simply, Arsenal wins when he is playing and loses when he is injured.
Arteta's statistics in the goal and assist column are not indicative of how important his presence is on the field. He is remarkably consistent and essential in getting the Arsenal attack started.
Arsenal had to go without Arteta for two short periods of time during the 2012 season—one in January and one toward the end of the season.
In the midst of Arteta's January absence, Arsenal lost every league match (via Arsenal.com). In the latter five matches of the season without Arteta, Arsenal earned a total of six points in five matches (via Arsenal.com).
The Spanish midfielder is arguably the best midfielder on the team. Arsenal's record in games without Arteta prove that his absence in the center of the field produces an irreplaceable void.
Jack Wilshere (Midfielder)
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With talks suggesting that Alex Song is on his way out to play in Barcelona (via The Week), a spot for the up-and-coming Jack Wilshere could have his name on it.
The homegrown, 19-year-old British native has cemented a role for himself as a midfielder last season, making more appearances than any other Arsenal player (via Arsenal.com). However, the cement on Wilshere's midfield spot has not dried completely.
Spanish striker Santi Carzola was recently picked up by Arsenal earlier in the month and could pose a threat to Wilshere's position.
A member of Spain's European Championship-winning teams in 2008 and 2012, the ambidextrous midfielder was an ideal pick up for an Arsenal team that had to be prepared to cope with the potential loss of transferring players. Cazola is a very skilled, technical player whose ball movement could prove a useful weapon in Arsenal's attack.
The midfield spot is Wilshere's to lose. If the young Wilshere shows any sign of being too young or inexperienced to play, Carzola could easily get the nod.
Theo Walcott (Midfielder)
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The lightning-fast midfielder Theo Walcott will be on the starting lineup for the 2012-2013 season—a season that could be the speed demon's last with Arsenal.
Walcott's contract expires this year and it is rumored that Liverpool could be Walcott's next destination (via The Guardian). Whether or not that is true, what is undeniable is the fact that Arsenal could lose Walcott and receive nothing in return.
This possibility could ultimately prompt Arsenal to trade Walcott.
Walcott's conversion rate is decent, but it is his speed that makes him valuable to Arsenal's offense.
Nevertheless, Walcott will be on the starting lineup for as long as he is on Arsenal.
Olivier Giroud (Forward)
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Olivier Giroud, who led the Ligue 1 in goal-scoring (21 G, 36 APPS), became a member of Arsenal in July (via The Guardian), adding a hefty amount of firepower to Arsenal's striking team. Also a member of France's international team in the Euro 2012, Giroud has demonstrated a brilliant ability to net goals by any means necessary.
Many have insisted that Giroud's league-leading scoring performance in Ligue 1 is hardly impressive since a 21-goal total would not be enough to achieve the same title in the Premier League. While that may be true, the Ligue 1 is a more defensively intensive league which arguably cancels out that rationale.
With the possibility of losing some of their high-scoring strikers, Arsenal made a wise decision in acquiring Giroud.
Regardless of how one translates his performance in Ligue 1 to the level of play in the Premier League, the feat is very impressive and Giroud's boot—or rather his head—will be a valuable asset to Arsenal's offense.
Lukas Podolski (Forward)
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The iron boot of German striker Lukas Podolski added some much-needed skill to the Arsenal offense. Podolski can assume any offensive role his team needs of him in order to net some goals.
Podolski's shot is a rocket that is dangerous from anywhere within the 18-yard box. His strong shot makes him an ideal candidate for free kicks as well.
As a member of Germany's deadly international team, Podolski has had a huge impact in even the most dire of situations. Showing he can perform under pressure, Podolski managed to net three goals in both the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 European Championship (via Arsenal.com).
“He is a striker, and we like them,” said Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger (via arsenal.com). “He is technically gifted, he can play through the middle and through the flanks, he is very adaptable, can create goals and make goals."
Podolski is a striker all right. Locking him up to a long-term contract was a great move for the Gunners.
Robin Van Persie (forward)
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A man who needs no introduction, Robin Van Persie, captain of the Gunners, is arguably the best striker in the Premiere League right now—if not the entire sport. Van Persie has the leadership and skill to single-handedly lead a team's offense to success.
Van Persie was three-tenths away from averaging one goal per-game in the past season. He is a master goal-scorer with an inhuman consistency to perform at a level of play that is entirely his own.
Unnervingly for Arsenal, Manchester United has shown interested in picking up the Dutch super striker. Manchester United was tied for first in the Premier League and ultimately had a much higher point total than Arsenal.
“For me, Van Persie is one of the best strikers in the world, if not the best, and my desire is to keep him at the Club," said Arsène Weng (via arsenal.com).
There is obvious appeal to joining one of the two teams that lead the rest of the league by a strong amount. However, after some of the moves Arsenal has made in acquiring strikers like Podolski and Giroud, Van Persie might want to hang around for a bit before deciding to jump ship.
It seems ridiculous to even have to say this but, yes, Van Persie will be in Arsenal's starting lineup any chance he gets.