Arsenal FC: Picking a Starting XI to Include Mertesacker, Santos and Arteta

Vijay MuraliAnalyst ISeptember 6, 2011

Arsenal FC: Picking a Starting XI to Include Mertesacker, Santos and Arteta

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    Arsenal suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of the club against Manchester United, and with the Gunners losing some important players in the summer, it was imperative that Arsene Wenger bring in some players who could lift the morale of the team.

    The Gunners had been linked with a number of players in the transfer market and at the end of the transfer deadline, they had made as many as nine signings though 19-year-old Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell has already been sent on loan.

    Though many have termed some of the transfers as panic-buys following the embarrassment at Old Trafford, it was essential that Wenger add depth to the team and the new signings could prove to have an important role in the near future. It is not often that the long serving French tactician makes numerous signings on deadline day but it was necessary that they bring in quality players. At the end of the transfer window, it does look like they do have a decent squad challenging for the top four places at the least.

    With only three games played in the season, it is still very early in the season and it is imperative that the Gunners put behind the game against United and concentrate only on the future. Also, the addition of experienced players will certainly improve the mental strength of the team and they could still turn around this season. This article is on my predictions for the starting 11 for the Gunners for this season though there could be further additions in the January transfer window. 

13. Wojciech Szczesny

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    The young Poland international has established himself as the No.1 goalkeeper and has managed to put in some great performances for the Gunners. Though he was beaten eight times against Manchester United, it was predominantly not his fault for the ineffective team performance and he will do well to forget the game. His confident demeanor should help him overcome any problems and he certainly has the talent to become one of the world's best keepers in the future.

    Szczesny has shown excellent confidence and ability and more importantly, he can command his area well. His judgement is also good and he will only develop into a better player in the future. With the Arsenal manager adding some experience across the defense, he will receive further support and he will hope that he can get more clean sheets this season.



    Lukasz Fabianski was excellent in many games last season but his injury provided the chance for Szczesny, who has been the No.1 since then. Fabianski will be the No.2 for this season with Vito Mannone and Manuel Almunia ( yes, he is still an Arsenal player! ) as back-up keepers who will hopefully not be required for the Gunners this season. 

3. Bacary Sagna

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    Bacary Sagna is one of the world's best right backs and though he is underrated by some, he is one of the best defensive players in the world. The French international is very solid in defense but also makes good attacking runs and knows the balance between attack and defense. Sagna is one of the best players at Arsenal and was also voted as the best right back in the Premiership last season.

    The Frenchman is very important to the defense, which has not been stable in the last few seasons. With the addition of Per Mertesacker and the return of Thomas Vermaelen from injury, the Gunners' manager will hope that they can build a solid defense this season. Sagna is also very important in attack as Theo Walcott could drift to the centre and Sagna is the one who provides width to the side.



    Arsenal sold Emmanuel Eboue in the summer transfer window and signed 19-year-old Carl Jenkinson from Charlton. Jenkinson is a player of immense potential though he needs more games to develop, but it is likely that he will be the second-choice right back for the Gunners this season. It is also possible that Francis Coquelin could be used as the right back if there is a need to do so. 

5. Thomas Vermaelen

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    Belgian international Thomas Vermaelen is arguably the most talented defender on the current team and his long-term injury in the last season was a huge blow to the Gunners. He has recovered completely from that Achilles' injury and could have a crucial role to play this season. Vermaelen is one of the most talented defenders in the Premiership and the left-footed hard-tackling defender will have to organize his defense to ensure it remains solid this season.

    Vermaelen is capable of being inspirational to the team and could be vital for the Gunners this season. It will be important that he forms a successful defensive partnership with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny so that the Belgian could be vital to the success of the team. Though Andre Santos has been signed by the Gunners, Vermaelen could also be deployed as a left back by the manager if there is a need to do so.



    Thomas Vermaelen was ruled out for most part of the previous season and Laurent Koscielny, who was signed last summer, had an important role to play in his absence. The French centre back can play on both sides of central defense and is adept with both feet. With the addition of Mertesacker, it is possible that he could be on the bench though if needed. Johan Djourou can also be used.

4. Per Mertesacker

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    The giant Germany international was signed by Arsenal on the last day of the transfer window to add some depth to the Arsenal defence. The former Werder Bremen defender is vastly experienced and has made 75 appearances for the German national team. Mertesacker is known for his reading of the game and his timing is also excellent which is why he commits less fouls than most other defenders.

    Standing at around 6' 6", Mertesacker is a player who could be useful in dealing with set pieces and could have an important role to play at Arsenal. He is very experienced and can provide solidity to the defense. The only concern surrounding how the German will cope at Arsenal is that he does lack pace, but he has the experience to understand his weaknesses and adapt accordingly. Also, he does have Vermaelen alongside him who has excellent pace which means that they could form an interesting tandem if they can combine their strengths well.



     Arsenal currently has five centre backs in their squad and only Thomas Vermaelen is a naturally left footed centre back in the team. Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou and Sebastien Squillaci can be utilized in the absence of the giant German international and could have an important role to play over the course of the season. 

11. Andre Santos

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    The Brazilian international was signed by the Gunners on the last day of the transfer window and the 28-year-old left back was brought into the side to shore up the defense, which conceded eight goals against Manchester United. Andre Santos was signed from Fenerbahce following the departures of Armand Traore and Gael Clichy, who was a regular for Arsenal in the previous season.

    Arsene Wenger had stated that Kieran Gibbs could receive more playing time this season but with the England youngster's fitness questionable, Wenger made the right decision to bring in another left back who could provide stiff competition to Gibbs. Santos is an attacking fullback and though doubts remain on his defensive solidity, he will certainly bring some flair to the team and also has shown in the past that he can score some vital goals as well.



    Kieran Gibbs is an immensely talented youngster, who is capable of playing in that role and if not for his various injuries, Wenger could have utilized him as the first choice left back this season. Gibbs will be provided with a lot of playing time over the season if he can remain fit and if he is injured, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson are the players who could be utilized in the left back position. 

17. Alex Song

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    Alex Song has established himself as one of the regulars in the team and has formed an excellent partnership alongside Jack Wilshere, with both the players sharing their offensive and defensive responsibilities. Though Song is primarily a defensive midfielder, he has shown in the past that he is capable of assisting the attack and can score important goals as well.

    Also, having played at Arsenal for some time now, the midfielder is comfortable with Arsenal's passing style and can help the Gunners dominate in midfield. With Wilshere due to return in the near future, his partnership with the England international could be very important to the fortunes of the team, who have gone through a poor phase at the start of the season.



    Abou Diaby was utilized in a more defensive role last season though he is not a natural defensive midfielder. Emmanuel Frimpong is an immensely talented midfielder who will be the backup for Song and should he keep his temper in check, he could develop into an excellent midfielder in the future. 

19. Jack Wilshere

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    Jack Wilshere was one of the biggest positives for the Gunners in the last season and with the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Wilshere will assume a more important role and could be the key for Arsenal this season. The Gunners have sorely missed him in the opening month of the season, which he missed due to injury, but when he does return to the fold, he will be expected to be one of the best players for the Gunners and Arsene Wenger will hope that he will be able to handle the pressure.

    There is no doubt that he is one of the best young midfielders in the world but with the departure of Cesc Fabregas, he might be marked more closely considering that he is currently the most creative midfielder at the Emirates. Wilshere and Ramsey have been considered as the future midfield for the Gunners and both the youngsters will have a huge role to play this season.



    Aaron Ramsey is one of the most talented midfielders at Arsenal but with the addition of Mikel Arteta, he could lose his place in the team. But the Wales captain will certainly have an important role to play this season and will be backup to Wilshere at the least. Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky can also play in a deeper role but Wilshere and Ramsey will the players who will be predominantly employed by Wenger this season.

8. Mikel Arteta

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    Arsenal had been linked with a number of midfielders in the summer and though many fans were worried that Yossi Benayoun might be the only midfielder signed in the transfer window, Arsene Wenger made sure that he also signed the experienced Mikel Arteta, who is one of the best midfielders in the Premiership. Everton are in a position where they have to sell in order to be financially stable which is why they sold the midfielder.

    The 29-year-old Spaniard was lured by the prospect of playing Champions League football with Arsenal and it would be the last major move in his career. Also, with the departure of Fabregas, he would have a vital role in the team and Arteta will hope that his recent move to Arsenal can help him achieve a place in Spain's squad for the Euro Championships in 2012. His move to the Emirates has brought in a lot of hope for the Gunners and his experience could be very valuable for them.



    Aaron Ramsey is considered to be one of the best talents at Arsenal and though Arteta will get plenty of match time if he is fit, it is also a big season for the Wales captain and Wenger has shown immense belief in the youngster. Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby and new signing Yossi Benayoun could also be utilized in the absence of Arteta.  

27. Gervinho

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    Gervinho was one of the players who was targeted early in the transfer window by the Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger and with the Ivory Coast international having only one year left on his contract, Arsenal managed to sign the winger from Lille and he could be a pivotal player for the Gunners this season. It is evident that he is a player with immense natural talent and his pace and trickery can help the team create more goal-scoring opportunities.

    Though the winger was sent off against Newcastle United, it is clear that he enjoys the support of the fans after his superb performances against Udinese which ensured that the Gunners played in the Champions League this season. Gervinho could prove to be one of the signings of the season and despite the loss of Nasri, Arsenal have signed a replacement winger who can prove to be very effective for the team.



    Yossi Benayoun has shown that he is versatile in his previous spells with Liverpool and Chelsea and could be utilized as a winger. Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin have also been utilized there on a number of occasions with the Russian international having healthy statistics as well. Ryo Miyaichi, the young Japanese youngster who recently obtained a work permit, could also be utilized there considering that he is a player of immense potential and will receive some amount of playing time this season.

10. Robin Van Persie

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    Robin van Persie is one of the best strikers in the world and following the departure of Cesc Fabregas, Arsene Wenger named him as the captain of the team. The Dutch international is one of the longest serving players in the team and has a huge season ahead of him. The 28-year-old striker was prolific in the previous season scoring a personal best of 18 league goals despite missing a number of weeks due to injuries.

    He is currently the best striker at Arsenal and the Gunners will hope that he can stay fit for most of the season. The influential Dutchman can also create a number of opportunities and with the departures of Nasri and Fabregas, he is Arsenal's biggest attacking threat and will hope to inspire his team to end their six-year long trophy drought. This is a transition phase at Arsenal and Van Persie's presence is extremely vital to the side.



     Arsenal were not able to offload Nicklas Bendtner on a permanent deal but they did manage to get off his wages by sending him on loan to Sunderland. The Gunners were able to sign Park Chu-Young from Monaco despite the player being very close to a move to Lille. They'll hope that Marouane Chamakh can capture his form in the early part of the previous season where he was excellent for the team. 19-year-old striker Joel Campbell was signed in the summer and has been loaned to Lorient for this season. Theo Walcott and Gervinho could also be used in a more central role if the Dutchman is injured during the season.

14. Theo Walcott

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    Theo Walcott has been criticized a lot by many people for his poor decision making and for various other thing, but it is undeniable that the England international has made considerable progress in the last two seasons and has grown in confidence. Also, Walcott has shown great composure in front of goal and has already scored three goals this season with all three coming at important times for the Gunners.

    The England international has expressed a desire to play more centrally but if Van Persie is fit, he will have to settle with a role on the wings. Gervinho and Walcott are both very quick and can play on both wings and if needed, they can interchange as well. The 22-year-old England winger has established himself as a starter for the Gunners and if he continues to perform well, he could develop into an excellent striker in the future. 



    Arsenal signed youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for big money from Southampton this summer and he could have a role to play if Walcott is injured. The England U-21 international has immense talent and under Wenger, he could develop into a fine player for the Gunners. Also, Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin and Park Chu-Young could be used on the wings if needed.