Can Thomas Vermaelen hold Arsenal's defense together?
Arsene Wenger has had a busy summer, and the Gunners have revamped their team with many new faces, but will they strengthen or weaken each position?
Arsenal’s defense has been hampered by injuries in previous years, and this season is no different, forcing Wenger to create a patchwork of players who are notoriously unreliable.
Anchored by newly appointed captain Thomas Vermaelen, the Gunnerss backline—especially Carl Jenkinson and Kieron Gibbs—will have to survive until Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna can return to the lineup. In the meantime, fans will continue holding their breath when Per Mertesacker and Jenkinson step onto the field.
The bright spot for Arsenal’s defense is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has been a refreshing success—especially after disastrous stints from Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski. Overall, the back will be Arsenal’s greatest vulnerability, but once Sagna and Koscielny return, it should stabilize.
Traditionally, the midfield has been Arsenal’s pride and joy. This is the foundation of Wenger’s strategy, and his possession-reliant tactics are designed to be run through the midfield players. But the recent departure of Alex Song has created a large void.
The addition of Santi Cazorla has helped revamp the position, and a healthy Abou Diaby alongside Mikel Arteta will enable Arsenal to continue to control possession. In the meantime, fans will anxiously await the return of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky.
The midfield level of play will be solid, but probably not as impressive as in years past. It will take a while for Cazorla to mesh with his new teammates, but once the season progresses, Arsenal will only get stronger in this area.
Offensively, last year’s Robin van Persie show was impressive to watch, but it wasn’t the ideal way to win games. This season’s additions of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud will help balance out Arsenal’s attack and create multiple threats for opposing teams to worry about.
A fit Gervinho and maturing Theo Walcott provide Wenger with lots of talent, and this year’s collection of strikers are Arsenal’s greatest weapon.
Until the midfield and defense can return to full health, Arsenal’s prospects will depend on their forward players’ ability to score.
They’ll control the ball and get plenty of chances, but everyone is waiting to see how lethal they are around the goal. The first games may be sloppy, but this group of strikers will score—it’s just a matter of when.