Bold Predictions for Arsenal in the 2013/14 Season
With the FA Community Shield done and dusted, Premier League football beckons and Arsenal’s curtain raiser against Aston Villa is just around the corner. It’s fair to say that the summer hasn’t panned out the way Arsenal fans would have preferred but the splendid preseason performances in the Asia Tour were dampened with a poor showing in the Emirates Cup.
Arsenal’s final preseason clash against Manchester City laid a marker for the forthcoming and they can approach the Aston Villa game brimming with confidence. A loss against a strong side like Manchester City would have given the Wenger Out Brigade another chance to voice their frustrations on the manager’s Scrooge-esque attitude in the transfer window but they have kept their pitchforks and torches concealed for the time being.
The 2013/14 season will be hugely important for more reasons than one for Arsenal. Their stalwart of a manager reaches the climax of his current contract and even though there have been talks of an extension, the manager’s position could be assessed if the campaign becomes fruitless for the ninth season in a row.
Even if I don’t believe that the board has the nerve to do anything drastic with the manager, he must have thoughts going through his mind as the season progresses on whether to extend his deal, change his environment or even retire from the game entirely after so many years of service.
Even if I’m not a psychic soothsayer with a huge crystal ball that sees the future, there are some certainties that could happen at Arsenal in the course of the 2013/14 season. Without further ado, here are my top 10 bold predictions for Arsenal in the 2013/14 season.
The Deadwood Exodus Would Continue
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Arsenal fans may be frustrated that the club hasn’t brought some quality players in but the club cannot be faulted for the ruthless approach they have taken with those players that offered little or no contribution last season—the deadwood, as they are fondly called in this part of the world.
With old hags like Andrey Arshavin and Sebastien Squillaci reaching their twilight years, the club chose not to renew their contracts and they have found new employers since. Arsenal also rescinded the contracts of Denilson, Andre Santos and Marouane Chamakh to allow them to join new clubs as free agents. Johan Djourou, Francis Coquelin and Ignasi Miquel would still harbor hopes of futures with the club but they were flushed out on loan while the inconsistent Gervinho was shipped to AS Roma.
With this large outlay of deadwood flushed out, I don’t expect Arsenal to hit the brakes as there are still some decisions to be made over the futures of the mysterious acquisition, Park Chu-Young, and the self-proclaimed world’s best striker as reported by The Daily Mail, Nicklas Bendtner. Park will probably be flushed out sooner rather than later while Bendtner could be subject to another transfer deadline loan move to a new environment, if no sale for the Great Dane comes to fruition.
There Will Be Transfer Deadline Day Signings
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Premier League title hopefuls, Manchester City, changed their manager and made some big-money signings that were given run-outs in preseason and blended well into the team. Chelsea also adopted the same approach, changing their manager and signing early as well.
At Arsenal, it has been a topsy-turvy situation as the summer began with the club’s Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, stating how there was enough money to spend. After a failed pursuit for Stevan Jovetic, the Gunners pushed really hard to sign a want-away Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid and it was very awkward when he made his debut at the Emirates—in Napoil colors.
The protracted transfer saga involving Luis Suarez has taken many twists and turns and from the response received from the Liverpool hierarchy, the chances of signing the Uruguayan maverick are slim to none. If Arsenal pulls the plug on signing the want-away controversial forward, the backlash expected from Arsenal fans would be astronomical.
However, I would expect the Arsenal hierarchy to respond with a marquee signing or two on Transfer Deadline Day in the club’s bid to add quality in certain positions of the team that need reinforcement. Arsenal has proved in the past that they can swoop for quality players when they need them without blinking or thinking twice.
Just ask Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta.
Some Youth Team Players Would Breakthrough to the First Team
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Arsene Wenger has a penchant for unearthing young talent, giving them a chance to shine at the world stage. While some have turned out to be world beaters like Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey et al, others, well, haven’t quite worked out well and that list is endless.
This season, Arsene Wenger unveiled a fresh, exciting prospect in the form of 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem, and his eagle-eyed passes and brilliant performances in midfield have seen his stock rise to huge levels. While Zelalem has been a standout performer in preseason, players like Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom have been brilliant as well, and the Capital One Cup could be a breeding ground for these exciting young talents.
There Will Be More Injuries
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the gods of injuries would ravage Arsenal as the season progresses. There have been numerous times without number where Arsenal goes through spells with players injured in various playing positions and at the moment, there are some players nursing injuries already.
Even if injuries are part and parcel of the game, Arsenal is bound to be affected and we all hope that the squad would have the depth to cope with the worst injury crisis.
Aaron Ramsey Will Flourish This Campaign
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After the exits of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the start of the 2011/12 campaign, Aaron Ramsey was burdened with the huge expectation of being Arsenal’s primary playmaker, and his performances in that season showed that he wasn’t up to the task, as Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance helped Arsenal’s cause which also earned him a contract extension.
After trying out Ramsey on the wings last season, Wenger placed his faith on the Welshman and assigned him to a new holding midfield role where he blossomed alongside the evergreen Mikel Arteta. Ramsey has carried that form into the new campaign and his preseason performances made the fans drool about the prospect he’s becoming.
This will certainly be the season Ramsey finally comes of age and Arsenal fans are looking forward to his contributions as the season progresses.
Olivier Giroud Won’t Suffer Second Season Syndrome
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When Newcastle signed Papiss Cisse from Freiburg in the 2012 winter transfer window, the Senegalese took the Premier League by storm, scoring 13 goals in 14 matches. Last season was Cisse’s second with Newcastle and he still managed to score 13 goals, but in 47 games.
With Demba Ba out of the equation, the Senegalese forward became the alpha-dog in Newcastle’s attack and apparently, the burden placed on his able shoulders got to him in the course of the season and he certainly wasn’t the same player that wowed the fans in the previous campaign.
At Arsenal, the Gunners signed Olivier Giroud from Montpellier after his impressive goal haul that helped his team win their maiden Ligue 1 title. With Robin van Persie gone, the Frenchman became Arsenal’s primary center forward and he scored 17 goals in his debut campaign, which was a decent return, coming from a footballer that joined the Premier League from a different culture.
Arsenal has been linked with a host of strikers but Giroud was unperturbed as he kept scoring lots of goals in the Asia Tour and Emirates Cup that must have done wonders for his confidence. In Arsenal’s last game against Manchester City, Giroud scored a well-taken goal and there will be expectations for him to deliver this season as well.
Unlike Papiss Cisse, Giroud won’t suffer from second season syndrome.
Theo Walcott Would Be Arsenal’s Top Scorer This Season
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Arsenal fans that have followed Theo Walcott’s progress since his move from Southampton in 2006 can attest that he has vastly improved with each passing season and his 21-goal tally was a milestone for the English forward. Walcott has scored a couple of goals in preseason and he also got on the score sheet in Arsenal’s last victory against Manchester City.
I’m tipping Walcott to pick up where he left off last season and I’m certain that he will top the club’s goalscoring charts come May 2014. Let’s just hope that these goals will propel the Gunners to great things.
The Gunners Will Be Knocked out of the Latter Stages of the Champions League
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The Gunners are bracing themselves for a two-legged showdown with Turkish giants, Fenerbahce, and Arsene Wenger’s side would be expected to ease past the Turks to qualify for the Group Stages yet again.
After pairing up with three other teams across the continent, Arsenal will qualify and would book a date with one of the European heavyweights like Barcelona, Juventus or Bayern Munich in the latter stages of the competition, presumably the quarterfinals.
However, the quality of the Gunners opponents would see them through and Arsene Wenger’s hope of winning his maiden Champions League title will elude him yet again.
The Gunners Will Finish Above Tottenham in the Premier League
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Since 1996, there has something more certain than death, taxes and the English National Team losing on penalties—St. Totteringham’s Day.
Despite the inspired performances from Gareth Bale, Tottenham pushed Arsenal to the wire and missed out on Champions League football on the final day of the season courtesy of a Shaolin kick from one of Arsenal’s standout performers last season, Laurent Koscielny. Tottenham has reinforced their squad with the likes of Paulinho and Roberto Soldado but this season would be no different.
Arsenal will still finish above them. They can’t cheat nature.
The Gunners Will Win the FA Cup
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Eight seasons without a trophy has been a very big thorn in Arsenal’s flesh and as things stand, they are heading into their ninth season in search of silverware.
The Gunners mounted a strong challenge for the Premier League title in the 2007/08 season but Arsene Wenger’s squad has become “weaker” with each passing year as the Gunners chose to sell their key players to the predators of European football. That trend has stopped this season but the Gunners haven’t strengthened their thin-bare squad, so in my honest opinion, it wouldn’t be easy for Arsenal to challenge for the League title with its current lot.
With the distraction of the Champions League out of the way when the Gunners get defeated in the business end of the competition, Arsene Wenger would lay all his eggs in the last competition he won in 2005, the FA Cup, and the Gunners can go all the way to win the competition, ending their trophy drought.
I’ve just shared my predictions for the forthcoming campaign. Feel free to share yours with your comments.