Arsenal: 10 Reasons The Gunners Will Reach The Champions League in 2011
Arsenal is one of the most successful clubs in English Premier League history, and is one of just four teams to ever win the Premier League title. They currently sit second in the Premier League, just five points behind leaders Chelsea.
During the early part of this decade, Arsenal, along with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool began outspending the rest of the Premier League, creating a large talent gap between the league and these four teams. For a long stretch the top four teams at the end of the season always consisted of these four teams. This led to these four teams being labeled "The Big Four."
Every year it was up to the rest of the league to try and displace one of the members of "The Big Four" in the top four of the table and secure a spot in the UEFA Champions League.
Last season, Tottenham Hotspur finished fourth, leaving Liverpool on the outside.
This year, the league seems more wide open then ever, as Liverpool has struggled from the start, Tottenham looks set on defending its fourth-place finish, Everton is making strides year after year, and free spending Manchester City is intent on competing for a Champions League spot, the top four places in England seem more contested then ever.
There is a chance that not just one of the "Big Four" teams will finish outside of the top four spots, but even two.
Here are 10 reasons why Arsenal will secure a top-four finish, and play in the Champions League next season.
10. In Simple Terms, Arsenal Is One Of The Four Best Teams
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The Premier League is set up very simply, each team plays each other twice, once at home and once away. At the end of the season the table looks the way it is, and that's that. Unlike American sports there are no playoffs to determine a champion. Whoever has the most points at the end of the season is the champion.
With the system set up the way it is, it doesn't allow for weaker teams to make a Cinderella run through the playoffs and steal a championship. That is what the League and FA Cups are for, and they see their fair share of Cinderella teams.
Rather the way the league is set up is that each team will finish precisely where they should finish. The best team will finish first, and the next three best teams will finish in the top four.
While there may be plenty of arguments over how close the next best teams are, the truth is Arsenal is one of the four best teams in the Premier League, and at the end of the season, the final table will show that truth.
9. Jack Wilshere Is Becoming a Dominant Midfielder
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In January of 2010 Arsenal sent 18-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere on loan to Bolton Wanderers. At Bolton, Wilshere would get regular first team football for the remainder of the season before returning to Arsenal over the summer.
The effects of the loan are already being felt in North London, as Wilshere is beginning to establish himself as a force in the Premier League. He is quickly becoming an integral part of the Arsenal midfield.
Called "much more then a box-to-box midfielder" by manager Arsene Wenger, Wilshere is providing great stability in front of Arsenal's back four, as well as a great asset for the Arsenal attack. He is already starting to draw comparisons to a young Paul Scholes, as well as Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas.
At just 18 years old, Wilshere has already begun creeping onto Fabio Capello's radar for the English National team.
At such a young age, Wilshere is beginning to establish himself as a world class midfielder. And being so young, there is only room for tremendous amount of improvement as the season progresses.
8. Arsenal Has Already Played Three of Its Four Toughest Away Matches
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You could say that Arsenal has had a brutal early-season schedule, or you could say that Arsenal had an amazing schedule for this entire season.
Arsenal opened the season against Liverpool at Anfield, and have already made trips to Chelsea and Manchester City. They also have a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon in December, and that's it.
Arsenal played all of its most difficult away matches in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, Arsenal get all of its matches against the big teams at home. Its most difficult away fixtures of the second half will be the derby at White Hart Lane, where Arsenal has been dominant despite last season's setback, and matches at Stoke and Fulham which are really just difficult because of how those teams play at home, not so much because they are better then Arsenal.
In its three big away matches, Arsenal has come away with four points. A draw against Liverpool, a win against Manchester City, and a loss to Chelsea. Not a bad line of results at all. Despite dropping five points in these matches, even the most optimistic of fans couldn't have expected any more then achieving five points during this set of matches.
What bodes even better for Arsenal?
Despite the five dropped points in these matches, Arsenal has 20 points and is second in the league! They have already gone through the most difficult part of their schedule. While they have been playing a slew of difficult fixtures, their rivals were playing far easier ones and Arsenal is still above them all.
Arsenal is setting themselves up to be very close to the top of the table at the end of the first half of the season. In the second half, Arsenal will start the easier part of the schedule, while their rivals schedule's will become much harder and all of them will include a difficult trip to the Emirates.
7. Arsenal Will Have Funds To Spend in January
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Arsene Wenger has faced a lot of criticism over the past few years for his lack of action in the transfer market. It nearly came back to bite him this summer when Cesc Fabregas nearly left the club after saying the club wasn't committed to winning.
Whether they will use the money or not, Arsenal has the money to spend this January. The team is starting to get all of its players fit and healthy, and they will have the money to look for reinforcements in the transfer window.
Arsenal has already made a move, as they will have 17-year-old Brazilian striker Wellington Da Silva joining the team in January. While he may not be what people think of as a big name signing, neither was Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez when Manchester United signed him for the 2010 season back in April. While Da Silva may not be on the same level as Hernandez, he is only 17 and has plenty of time to grow.
Arsenal could also look to strengthen its back four with a new center back. Arsenal's defense has had a history of being plagued by injury, and currently they are without Thomas Vermaelen and Kieren Gibbs. The Gunners could look to bring in another squad defender to help the team out in case of injuries in January.
Whether Arsenal chooses to use it or not, they will have the money to bring in some new players in January. They could do what they always do and remain quiet, or they could have the potential to make a big splash this winter.
6. Arsenal Has a Plan B in Its Striking Attack With Bendtner and Chamakh
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Arsenal's main striking trio consists of of Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott. Together the three of them score many goals. But what is often unfortunately the case for Arsenal, they struggle to stay fit.
Arsenal now has reinforcements. Over the summer Arsenal signed French-born Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh. Chamakh has already made his presence felt in the Emirates, as he has contributed six goals in his first 14 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal.
With the arrival of Chamakh, it gives Arsenal a chance to limit the appearances of striker Nicklas Bendtner. Bendtner is a very talented striker, who often makes an impact for Arsenal. The problem for Arsenal has been that Bendtner too has struggled to stay fit.
Arsenal now has to rely less on Bendtner to fill in due to injuries. This allows them to use Bendtner as a sub, while still giving him a few appearances in the starting lineup. Bendtner is just returning from yet another injury, but despite having his appearances reduced, he will still be playing often for the Gunners, as Arsenal will be looking to get the maximum out of his talent.
Bendtner and Chamakh also gives Arsenal another dimension with the ability to play the long ball. This gives the Arsenal attack a whole new edge, making them even trickier for defenders.
With the addition of Chmakh, Bendtner's appearances will drop, but at the same time it will give him the best chance to stay fit for the full season, allowing Arsenal to reap the benefits of a healthy Bendtner all season long.
5. Arsenal Is Starting To Get Fit
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Ask any Arsenal fan and they will all tell you the same thing. Arsenal has one of the best teams in Europe, but they can never stay fit for an entire campaign.
That has rung true once again this year, but this time, Arsenal dealt with injuries during a very tough part of its fixture list. They made it through this tough part with 20 points, and are just five points behind leaders Chelsea.
During the month of November, not only do things look a bit easier for the Gunners, but the Gunners are expecting to get many influential players back. Theo Walcott has just returned after an injury he picked up on duty for England. The club is also expecting Robin Van Persie, Kieren Gibbs, Thomas Vermaelen and Aaron Ramsey to return this month.
Vermaelen will step right back in to the Arsenal defense, and provide a dangerous attacking threat on set pieces. Van Persie will make the Arsenal attack very potent once again, while Aaron Ramsey will give Arsenal another dynamic young midfielder along with Jack Wilshere.
The month of December has historically been a difficult month for Arsenal. But with many players returning to full health, Arsenal will have the depth to get through difficult winter months.
4. Arsenal May Have Finally Found a Goalkeeper
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Arsenal has been searching for a top-flight goalkeeper for years. In recent years, the goalkeeper position has been filled with men committing costly mistakes and costing Arsenal points. While Arsenal believed that its goalkeepers would get better, the fans were getting impatient.
This summer Arsenal was linked with Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. The move ultimately failed, and left Arsenal starting the season with Manuel Almunia in goal.
Almunia got off to a very shaky start, which would eventually end with him conceding three goals in a 3-2 home loss to West Bromwich Albion. Since then the No. 1 goalkeeping job at Arsenal has belonged to Polish international Lukasz Fabianski.
Fabianski has made quite an impression, and has conceded just one goal in his last four starts. Even more impressive, he actually has the Arsenal fans feeling confident about their goalkeeper.
For years Arsenal has faced many different goalkeeping dilemmas which has seen them drop many points in the table. With the goalkeeper now acting as a stable part of the defense, Arsenal will become that much more difficult to be scored on.
3. Robin Van Persie Will Return
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Robin Van Persie would easily be considered one of the best strikers in the world if he didn't spend so much time on the trainers table. When fit, his left foot makes him one of the most dangerous strikers in the game.
When fit, Van Persie has made 200 appearances in his career for Arsenal in all competitions. During that time, has scored 73 goals for the club, making fans forget about the great Thierry Henry.
Van Persie's latest setback came when he picked up an ankle injury on August 28th against Blackburn. Van Persie has been out of action since then, and in the mean time Arsenal has shot up to second in the league.
During much of that span, Arsenal was also without English forward and winger Theo Walcott, who had gotten off to a thunderous start. Arsenal did a phenomenal job of holding down the fort while two of its biggest attacking threats were on the sidelines.
Walcott has recently returned for Arsenal, strengthening an already strong attack. But Arsenal is expecting to have Van Persie back soon, which will do even more for the club.
Van Persie's return will give Arsenal options on who they could use in each match. It will also give them a chance to rest players for certain matches, or have them come off the bench as a substitute.
With the fixture list getting heavy around December, the depth of a squad becomes very important if a team wants to get through the holidays still on top. Van Persie returning to the team gives Arsenal the depth they need.
2. The Other Teams Will Fade Down The Stretch
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There are an astonishing 12 teams are within eight points of Arsenal in the table, and Birmingham City is right on the outside of that just nine points back. Five of those teams are within six points.
Of the teams within six points, some of them you would expect to be there. Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham will all compete with Arsenal. West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle will not.
But this season every team has been dropping points to everyone. The middle of the league is one of the closest its ever been. Liverpool and Aston Villa are 13th and 14th respectively, but are just eight points behind the Gunners.
The teams in the league are as even as they have ever been. Teams will continue to drop points against teams that the rest of the league feels are inferior. But eventually the good teams will start to pull away.
The battle for fifth, and likely sixth and seventh places that give out European spots may be one of the most contested battles in years.
Eventually Arsenal and the other top five teams will pull away and battle for the top four spots with each other.
1. Cesc Fabregas Is Good Enough to Get Them There Himself
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Cesc Fabregas could be the third-best midfielder in the world. Shockingly though, he barely plays internationally because the top two midfielders in the world are also from Spain. But one thing is certain, Fabregas is good enough to carry Arsenal for long periods of time.
In the past, Fabregas has had to carry Arsenal for many games. But now, Arsenal has surrounded Fabregas with loads of talent. Fabregas no longer has to carry the team for matches at a time, rather, on a rare occasions he needs to put the team on his back and lead them to a win.
The fact that Fabregas no longer needs to be at his best every week will do wonders for Arsenal. Fabregas will stay fresher as the season goes along, so he will be ready to be at his best in big matches when Arsenal need him to dominate.
With the strong play of the emerging Jack Wilshere, Fabregas not only has a strong partner in the center of midfield, but it also gives him the freedom to push up and join the attack more as Wilshere can hold behind him.
Last summer, Fabregas was at the center of several transfer rumors involving him and his boyhood club FC Barcelona. The rumors were similar to the ones that swirled around Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2008 when Real Madrid tried to grab the Manchester United star.
There are many who believe that Fabregas will be on his way to Barcelona next season, and that this season will be his last at the Emirates. If this is true, one could expect Fabregas to be playing extra hard, not only to show Barcelona why they would want him, but to drive up his transfer value as well, making him enticing for Arsenal to sell.
In the end, if this truly is Fabregas' final season in North London, you can be sure he will not let Arsenal slip up and finish outside the top four in his final season.