Arsenal FC: 4 Players Who Face Career-Defining Seasons
Fresh off a busy summer and a couple of trophies in the bag, competition for a place in Arsenal's starting XI is as tough as it has ever been.
That's mostly good news. Arsenal now have some serious squad depth—something that they haven't had for a while—which means they can handle injuries and suspensions once the going gets tough.
The only downside, however, is that more than 11 players are deserving of a place in Arsenal's starting lineup.
As usual, some players in North London have a point to prove ahead of the upcoming season and will have their work cut out for them in order to stay in Arsene Wenger's plans.
Here are four players who face career-defining seasons for Arsenal.
When Jack Wilshere was named PFA Young Player of the Year for the 2010-11 season, he was hyped up as England's next big talent, future Arsenal captain, savior of the national team—you name it.
Fast forward three years, and the 22-year-old's career has been hampered by injuries and fitness issues. While he is clearly one of the most technically gifted players at Arsenal, it's difficult to see where exactly Wilshere fits into the current starting XI.
Is he a box-to-box midfielder, a defensive anchor or a No. 10 as his squad number suggests? Wilshere is highly unlikely to dethrone Mesut Ozil as Arsene Wenger's first choice for the No. 10 position, so his best shot at cementing a spot in Arsenal's starting XI is as one of the two holding midfielders in Arsenal's 4-2-3-1.
That being said, Aaron Ramsey is one of the first names on the team sheet, and it seems a defensive midfield presence is needed alongside the Welshman in order to compensate for his bursting runs forward. Wilshere may be able to start next to Ramsey in a home game against a smaller team, but against the big boys, Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini is needed to shore things up in midfield.
With Ozil still returning to full fitness following the World Cup, Wilshere will have the chance to prove himself in Arsenal's first few games of the season. The Englishman will have to make the most of his chances, as the 2014-15 campaign could define his Arsenal career.
While Mesut Ozil's 2014-15 campaign might not be as "career-defining" as Wilshere's, Arsenal's record 2013 signing still has a lot to prove for the Gunners.
Ozil certainly had his ups and downs during his debut season in North London. He started his Arsenal career with a bang but went off the boil after injuries to key players around him such as Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.
That said, the harsh criticism that the 25-year-old received following his dip in form was completely unwarranted considering he still finished the season with nine assists and an impressive 76 chances created in the league, according to Squawka.
Returning to the Emirates as a World Cup winner, Ozil will look to silence his critics and establish himself as one of the best players in the Premier League during his second season at Arsenal.
The story of Abou Diaby is probably one of the saddest in football. Injuries—there are too many to name, really—have limited the Frenchman to just 21 appearances in the last three seasons.
Once touted as the next Patrick Vieira due to his unique blend of technicality and physicality in midfield, Diaby recently admitted, according to Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, that he even considered retiring from football after his latest injury.
Arsene Wenger has stood by the former Auxerre man through his years of injury hell, and at 28 years old, it's now or never for Diaby to make his mark at Arsenal.
After lighting up the World Cup with Costa Rica and a productive loan spell with Olympiakos (not to mention two previous loan spells), Joel Campbell is finally playing with the Arsenal first team for the first time since signing in 2011.
The role that he will play for the Gunners this season, however, remains to be seen. Although Campbell's versatility means he can play as a central striker as well as on either flank, competition for places at Arsenal has never been stiffer.
The 22-year-old will have to compete with Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for playing time.
Campbell will likely be restricted to substitute appearances and cup matches, but he'll have to make the most out of his minutes if he wants to make an impression on Arsene Wenger.