Concern for Arsenal has spread like wildfire over the course of this summer, with everyone from Sir Alex to Usmanov spouting their own two cents to the media. The overarching theme from the critics seems to be that Arsenal is and has been in a steady decline for four years now, and Wenger's actions over the past couple of months have only made matters worse.
Bookies have once more outlined a fourth place finish in the EPL for the Gunners, and sportswriters from all corners of the media world have been quick to write articles with headlines detailing impending doom.
But I see it very differently. Arsenal's squad is markedly different from last season's, and with a few changes, the Gunners could once more have a squad that even the Invincibles of 2004 would be proud of.
1. Sign a couple new players
- Everyone at the Emirates and their mothers have acknowledged the importance of starting the season off on the right foot, and with the first few weeks consisting of away matches against Everton and the two Manchester teams (not to mention Champions League qualifying matches) it's not going to be easy.
- I completely understand Arsene Wenger's philosophy of "looking for answers from the inside" by strengthening talent that we already have. I agree that clubs like Manchester City who think that buying new players is the sole answer to success are wrong, and will be proven so.
- However, there is something to be said for fresh blood on the team. Just look at Arshavin—at 28 years old, he can no longer be called very "young" and on paper he doesn't look particularly like a guy whom Wenger would have signed. However, his immediate impact on the pitch has been undeniable (four against Liverpool and then another two just yesterday?!).
- And speaking of the start of the season, the Gunners are already looking a little shaky. I don't mean in terms of preseason results—I mean in terms of our squad's availability. Let's review: Eduardo and Rosicky will be coming back to regular play gradually and will hardly be considered regulars until about a couple months into the campaign. Nasri, of course, is out for two months nursing his fractured fibula. And while Vermaelen seems great, he will most likely need some time to get acclimated to the EPL.
- So put two and two together—a couple new signings would be fantastic.
2. Use the transfer money to strengthen where we need it most
- Again, even while acknowledging Wenger's mindset of "looking within for answers," one must not forget that having depth in the squad is extremely valuable. I know that Wenger is using the Emirates Cup to see where Arsenal stand in terms of the team's strength, but that might be slightly misleading. It is one thing to have a good squad with a lot of ability, but it is a completely different thing to be the type of squad that can withstand the punches of the EPL and grind out results game after game.
- So I think using what money we have to patch up where we may be lacking can't hurt. Of course, I'm talking about defensive midfield, and possibly the back line as well. As many others have echoed, Fabregas deserves a creative, intelligent, physically imposing partner in center midfield who knows how to tackle, and can throw up a good ball or two to the strikers and wingers every so often.
- I would love to see someone like Blaise Matuidi come to Arsenal—he is 22-years-old, very cerebral, and has a physical presence that cannot be denied. In addition, all the rumors about Vieira coming back are music to my ears. I would be tickled pink if both those players came to the Emirates, and Vieira taught Matuidi how to become the new him, thereby passing on the torch to the new Gunner generation.
- On another note, if Wenger does sign a striker, which I doubt, I sincerely hope it's Huntelaar and not Chamakh. Though they are both the same age, Chamakh has only really shone in the past couple seasons for Bordeaux, while Huntelaar has been a star for years now. He has a goals-to-appearances ratio above 0.70 (174 goals in 248 appearances for club and country), possesses the spark of creativity that Arsenal need, and has already proven that he works well with Van Persie while on international duty with the The Flying Dutchmen.
3. Develop rotations that will not only keep players happy, but will also make Arsenal a ridiculously versatile team.
- I love Arshavin. I really do. But now whenever he scores, I get a little anxious. Twice, if not more, in the last few games of the season, the Gunners have had to depend on his brilliance to carry them through. The most notable example of course was the spectacular 4-4 draw with Liverpool, but even yesterday we got a reminder of his worth as Arshavin scored both goals in the win over Atletico Madrid.
- I want to see other strikers and wingers become as dominant as Arshavin and Van Persie; the amount of talent the others on the team posses is considerable, to say the least. Nicklas Bendtner scored 15 goals last season, one short of Adebayor (despite playing in far fewer games), and so I have great faith in his performances this upcoming season. Eduardo is also without a doubt a world-class player, and I can't wait to see him return to form.
- What's that? Arshavin, Van Persie, Bendtner, and Eduardo weren't enough for you?Okay, here's two more: Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela have both proven their worth many times over while playing internationally. Walcott has been nothing short of brilliant for England and England's U-21 team, while Vela was the man for Mexico during their recent Gold Cup-winning campaign. So yeah, the Gunners have some serious quality up front.
- Additionally, there are a couple players who will be making a fresh impact elsewhere on the pitch this season: Rosicky will be back and will hopefully provide ten or more fantastic strikes this season while setting up many others, Ramsey will be looking to burst out onto the first team as a regular, and other youngsters like Jay-Emmanuel Thomas, Fran Merida, and Jack Wilshere will be itching for their chances, too.
- Wenger, of course, is a veritable genius. In Wenger we all trust. And while I'm pretty sure he'll do so, I can't stress how much I want to see him make a regular practice of playing all the major players on the squad fairly often. Indeed, as everyone has said, the youngsters are now a year older, a year more experienced. They really now deserve to feature in big games, not just in the outrounds of the Carling Cup.
4. Don't sell anyone else. Please.
- So far, Wenger's sales this summer have been pretty smart. Adebayor got us a boatload of money, and was definitely addition by subtraction as far as the strength and unity of the team is concerned. And while the Toure deal raised a few eyebrows, it wasn't bad; we got a fair amount of money for a player who was getting slightly older and had time running out on his contract to begin with.
- But all these reports about selling Eboue to Fiorentina? I hope not. He is a quality, versatile player, and no doubt adds more to the team than £6 million will.
- I also sincerely hope all these rumors about Carlos Vela leaving remain just that—rumors. 'Nuff said.
Arsenal was a great team last season, and had the results to prove it. We got to the semifinals of the FA Cup, as well as the Champions League, making us one of the top four teams in Europe. And the team has only gotten stronger this year. You can see how much they want to prove themselves by the way they have played this preseason, outscoring opponents 20 to 4. They want success just as much as us Gooners do. (Now, if the executive board could stop bickering and be nice with each other for once...)
But even if (by some supremely ill stroke of luck) Arsenal don't win silverware this season, the season which many consider the defining season for this team and for Wenger, I really would be severely disappointed if people write them off again and lostmore faith, simply because of the vast amount of talent awaiting in Arsenal's younger ranks.
Either way, I can't wait for the upcoming season. Go Gunners, go Gooners.