Arsenal: What the Future Holds Without Robin Van Persie and Alex Song
Young Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are out, not to mention veterans like Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny's absences thinning the back four. Also out with knocks are Tomáš Rosický and Emmanuel Frimpong.
Now, after losing Robin van Persie in the biggest move of the preseason transfer window, Alex Song has also parted ways with Arsenal after making the move to Barcelona.
Those are eight names Arsenal do not have at their dispense, and yet they are still in better shape than Manchester United—and van Persie—after the first week of Premier League play. (Yes, it's just one point, and I know it's as early as early can get.)
So what is the current outlook on when some of these players will become fit?
We'll begin with Wilshere, who is ahead of schedule and expected to be back in training within a month. Also a little further away from return are Sagna and Rosický, although both are running and should be available sooner than Wilshere.
Like Wilshere, who is Arsenal's new No. 10, Frimpong looks to be beating the timetable and should be back in training in three weeks.
As for the Ox and Koscielny, both could be back for Stoke on Sunday, and having the extra day should benefit the two players.
So at the very least, Arsenal will have some help on defense and in its attack in the very near future, and having Oxlade-Chamberlain will give the Gunners some physicality and creativeness up front that they appeared to lack in their opener against Sunderland.
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While Arsenal know it will receive a shot in the arm over the next month or two when some key players return from injury, Arsène Wenger—as well as one of his players—understands they must get aggressive over the last week of the transfer window to keep the ship afloat, and it appears they are already doing just that.
Rumors swirling around Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin joining the Gunners are no longer rumors, as Sahin will join Arsenal on season-long loan.
Sahin, only 23, should look to start more attacks up field than Song even if he doesn't bring the same defensive presence.
Wenger has also noted he would like to add a defender.
Involved in the rumor mill has been Rennes' Yann M'Vila, a defensive-minded midfielder a la Alex Song and Andrey Arshavin, a player Wenger is desperate to get off the books (check out all the Arsenal transfer rumors, both incoming and outgoing, right here).
Such potential additions would not only add some depth to the roster, but it would also help bridge the gap between now and the return of such game-changers as Wilshere and Sagna.
But enough with the transfer speculation. Arsenal have to currently cope with the hand they've been dealt, and while the season got off on a disappointing note, there are still positives to build off moving forward.
Arsenal may have let a few chances go to waste against the Black Cats, but the fact that they outplayed Sunderland was a plus—granted, it was Sunderland.
Where will Arsenal finish in the Premiership?
New addition Santi Cazorla fits in beautifully at attacking midfield and now needs someone to step up and finish the chances he creates.
The man Arsenal are counting on to do just that is Lukas Podolski, and he has proven in the past that he has the ability to be a clinical finisher. Even with some attackers returning from injury, Podolski should remain a mainstay in the Gunners lineup as a pure striker.
Cazorla's creativeness, Podolski's finishing and the speed Theo Walcott and Gervinho possess are what Arsenal hope to be the winning formula up front.
Arsenal also catch a break with its early schedule, which only features one semi-challenge with a fixture at Anfield on Sept. 2 against an embarrassed Liverpool club. Otherwise, it doesn't play a top-tier opponent until Sept. 23, when the Gunners travel to Manchester City.
With the transfer window set to close in 10 days, should Wenger's wishes reign true in obtaining another defender to go along with Sahin, Arsenal should be in good shape by the time the showdown at Etihad Stadium takes place.
Arsenal can manage to maintain respectability until this date thanks to its easy schedule and incoming transfers, and in that time, should return several battered players.
From that point on, the Gunners ought to have a competitive enough club to challenge for at least a top three finish.
There is also the Champion's League to look forward to and the delight that arch-rival Tottenham failed to qualify due to Chelsea bringing home the Cup.
Yes, the losses of van Persie and Song undoubtedly hurt, as both were two lifelong Arsenal players whom made significant contributions.
But Podolski and Mikel Arteta are the utmost capable of filling their shoes. A midfield trio of Arteta, Sahin and Cazorla will bring more excitement and imagination to the club.
The fans who pack Emirates Stadium are going to see a young, stimulated group with veterans sprinkled on top that will band together and keep Arsenal atop European football.
What are your thoughts on a future without The Flying Dutchman and Song? Chip in with your commentary below and/or get the discussion going with me on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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