EPL Preview Part Two: Arsenal

Yahya RisasCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Arsenal  captain Cesc Fabregas lifts the Trophy following his team's victory during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Glasgow Rangers at the Emirates Stadium on August 2, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

Long gone are the days when the media had run out of superlatives for describing the Arsenal team and its brand of football—from the Untouchables, to the Invincibles.

For the past four seasons, Arsenal has been threatened by elimination from England’s “Big Four”—with Aston Villa & Everton coming close last season. But “Money” city is expected to give them a run for their money this campaign.

Without a single trophy to show for their troubles in four seasons, and a continued exit of their star players, a number of Arsenal fans have aligned themselves with critics of the club who question Wenger’s policy and whether Arsenal can still compete favourably with the big four (if not big five, with the emergence of Man City this season).

The Gunners have lost a star player each summer for the past four seasons—from Thierry Henry right through to Adebayor—and with the continued reverberations from the Camp,  it remains to be seen whether Cesc Fabregas won’t follow the same route.

Credit to Arsene Wenger, though, for he has managed to keep Arsenal competitive both domestically and in Europe with a combination of shrewd purchases and youthful talent.

Without the much maligned Adebayor, the Gunners no longer have physical presence in the attack, and will overly rely on Van Persie and Eduardo for goals—hoping that Bendtner and Carlos Vela take a fair share of the goal scoring burden.

Their main weakness last season was dealing with aerially strong defences. It remains to be seen whether Eduardo and company can out-maneuver the Christopher Samba’s of this world.

In midfield, they are not short of world class performers and technically gifted players— with Fabregas (if he stays), Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky (when fit), Denilson, Diaby, Song, Walcott, and the emerging talents of Jack Wilshere, Fran Merida, and Aaron Ramsey.

The Gunners are more than a match for any team in world football barring inexperience and poor temperament, but they have to hope for a clean break from injuries, because their squad isn’t large enough to maintain a serious trophy challenge if key individuals are injured.

The gunners major problem in the last three seasons has been their defense. Kolo Toure, and the back four of William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen, Gael Clichy, and Backary Sagna departed, and backups Armand Traore, Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Eboue, Mikel Silvestre, Johan Djorou, and Philippe Senderos(if he stays) don't inspire much confidence.

With the money that has been thrown around this summer by Man City and Real Madrid, it’s difficult to see any club compete in the transfer market, let alone Arsenal.

Apart from the arrival of Thomas Vermaelen, they have continuously been linked to Maroune Chamakh (the Moroccan striker from Bordeaux), Blaise Matuidi, and even Patrick Viera—but none have materialised so far.

They still have a few weeks before the close of the window, so a striker, defensive midfielder, and defender may come in handy if they are to mount a serious title challenge this season.

Without much activity in the window, they have to hope that Fabregas stays, Arshavin starts from where he stopped last season, and Van Persie, Eduardo, and Walcott stay fit for most parts of the season. T

hen Arsenal might surprise many, even themselves.


Players to Watch

Arshavin, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Eduardo, and Walcott


Emerging talents to watch

Carlos Vela, Jack Wilshere, Fran Merida, Aaron Ramsey, and Kieran Gibbs