Arsenal have always had a wonderful blend of youth and experience and this year is no different. Some talented youngsters will look to improve on their performances from the last season and will try to showcase their talents on the big stage.
It is a little late to write on this topic, but better late than never. I am going to analyse this year's squad and compare it with the last year's. Of course I cannot discuss everyone, but I will do my best to cover the important aspects of this year's team.
Arsenal have brought in striker Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer from Bordeaux and have also signed defenders, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci from Lorient FC and Sevilla, respectively. William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Sol Campbell, and Eduardo da Silva have parted ways with the North London club.
Major Arsenal Transfers
In: Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci, Marouane Chamakh
Out: William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Sol Campbell, Eduardo da Silva
Even though there are not many modifications to the core of the squad, it has a different look to what it had in the last season. So, here is an analysis of this year's squad.
Arsenal were linked to many keepers throughout the summer, but unfortunately, failed to sign any experienced keeper. That leaves Manuel Almunia as the probable No. 1 of this team. Almunia has admitted to being shaken up by talk of transfers throughout the summer, but his composed performance against Blackburn Rovers could do him a world of good. Even though Almunia does not possess the quality to be a top-level keeper, he is a decent keeper and should the defence be tight, he can have a decent season.
The No. 2 slot is still open and is at present filled by the unreliable Lukasz Fabianski. Fabianski has been very error-prone in the past and does not have the confidence to command his defence. He cannot cover the goal, and is uncomfortable when collecting crosses and long balls. He is suffering from lack of playing time and his errors could be costly this season.
The contenders for the slot are Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny.
Mannone impressed in the game against Fulham last year, but is still inexperienced at the highest level. He has shown glimpses of his talent and will look to improve this year. He has been named in the 25-man Premier League, which suggests he will not be loaned out to a championship club.
Szczesny was loaned out to Brentford last year and came out with flying colours. He was very impressive in the loan spell and surely has a future at Ashburton Grove. But this season might be a little too early, and there is a good possibility that he might be loaned out again.
Not much has changed from last year, but expect more competition within the keepers. The manager, Arsene Wenger, may not be averse to making big decisions regarding dethroning the present first choice goalkeeper.
This is an area which boasts of a relatively new look compared to last year. Thomas Vermaelen, last year's signing from Ajax, will be the bedrock around which the defence will be built. William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, and Sol Campbell have all left Arsenal on free transfers, and Wenger has brought in Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci to replace them.
Koscielny has played in two of the three matches, and has looked like a decent defender.
He still needs to muscle up and avoid being physically overwhelmed in the tougher games. But on the whole, he looks to be a defender with a lot of potential. He has good aerial ability and seems to be a no-nonsense defender. He has shown good technique and has the capability to bring out the ball from the back.
Squillaci is an experienced defender who will add steel to the defence.
Though he is yet to make an appearance for the Gunners, he has the ability to cope with the physicality of the Premier League. He surely seems to be an astute buy by the Gaffer. He will provide Koscielny with tough competition for a starting place.
Johan Djourou, who was injured for the whole of last season is also fit, and will look to improve this season. He will get his chances during the course of this season, and will try to make optimum use of the chances that he does get. He has dropped down the pecking order, but he is a strong and talented defender and should find his way back into the Arsenal team.
At right-back, Frenchman Bacary Sagna will be the first choice defender. It looks like he has improved on his crossing and will have an important role to play this season. Emmanuel Eboue is the second choice for RB, but can also effectively play in the right midfield/winger. Both of them are strong defenders, but Sagna will probably get the nod because of his superiority in defending.
Youngster Havard Nordtveit, who has recently been promoted to the first team, can play either at RB or at CB.
Gael Clichy will face tough competition from Kieran Gibbs for the left-back slot. The Frenchman has been a mainstay at Arsenal for several years now and is regarded as one of the Premier League's best left-backs. Gibbs has returned to fitness after recovering from his long-term injury, which sidelined him for the most of last season. Armand Traore has been loaned out to Juventus to gain some experience.
Overall, the biggest loss for Arsenal was that of losing Gallas to Tottenham on a free. But the 33-year-old defender can effectively be replaced by Squillaci and Koscielny. Arsenal have got a better defence than last time and this could be the key to this year's success.
Arsenal have not made any new acquisitions in this area, but their biggest success of the summer has been achieved by holding onto Cesc Fabregas from the clutches of Barcelona. Their charismatic talisman, Fabregas will be the lynchpin around which the Gunners play their free flowing style of play.
Fabregas will be the key player in the midfield and will dictate play from his attacking midfield role. He has the creativity and vision to split any defence with a single pass and the young Gunners will look up to their captain for inspiration. Though Fabregas is a sure starter, it is still not sure as to who will partner him in central midfield.
Last season, Fabregas was joined by Denilson/Diaby for most part of the season. Fabregas does not track back often to close down spaces and recover the ball, which means that the defensive midfielder (Alex Song) and Denilson/Diaby will have to do the mopping up. Both Denilson and Diaby have not cemented their place in the side and will have to step up to the next level if they are to establish themselves as first team regulars.
Regarding defensive midfield options, Song was a revelation in the previous season and has emerged as a starter in that role. He is a hardworking player and is prepared to put in strong tackles. He shields the defence efficiently, thus allowing space for Fabregas to roam about.
Both Denilson and Diaby can fill for Song in his absence, but it is imperative for Arsenal that Song stays fit for the majority of the season. Emmanuel Frimpong performed exceedingly well in the preseason fixtures, but has been sidelined for a period of seven to nine months due to a cruciate ligament injury.
Craig Eastmond is another young prospect who can also play in the defensive midfield position.
Promising youngster Jack Wilshere will have a role to play in this year's Premier League. He is a versatile creative midfielder, who can play as a defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, and as an attacking midfielder or as a winger. Aaron Ramsey, another promising midfielder, will return from injury by the end of the year and even though he will play in some games, will not be expected to make a swift return to form and fitness.
Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky can play in the central midfield or as a winger.
The Frenchman has bounced back from his disappointment at being left out of the World Cup by performing exceedingly well in the preseason games and in the game against Liverpool. Rosicky has suffered from injury problems in the last few years, but has looked sharp in the three games so far. A fit Rosicky can be a real boost to this Arsenal side, who will surely benefit from his creative play and experience.
Andrei Arshavin can be a real force to reckon with when he is on form and in the mood. However, his inconsistency has come under scrutiny and he has yet to regularly recreate the magic of that 4-4 draw at Anfield. Nevertheless, he remains an important player and will occupy one of the wings when he is fit.
Theo Walcott was also dropped from the England World Cup squad and has looked sharp in the early stages of the season. Scoring four goals from only three matches is no mean achievement. The young lad has been the butt of criticism, but has taken it in stride and is in sizzling form at the moment. He can also play in the centre as a forward when the need arises, but for this season, will be predominantly used as a winger.
From the last season, there is not much change regarding personnel, but the likes of Nasri and Walcott have improved a lot and come a long way. Song will continue his development and is maturing into one of the best defensive midfielders. Wilshere will mature while playing for Arsenal and will get his opportunities.
Robin Van Persie will continue to be the first choice striker for the Gunners. However, he has had a long list of injury troubles and has much less durability over the course of the season. Already only three games in the season, he has been injured and is diagnosed to be out till mid-October, which will come as a huge blow for the Gunners. He has a lethal left foot and being the creative player that he is, has the ability to score goals as well as provide assists.
Nicklas Bendtner had an impressive finish to the previous season, scoring a number of important goals and assists, including last gasp winners against Hull City and Wolverhampton. However, his injury issues (groin) have sidelined him for the initial part of the season. This, in addition to Van Persie's injury, will only compound Arsenal's injury troubles. However, when the big Dane returns to action, he can be an influential player for Arsenal and can continue to improve over the course of the season.
In the case of injuries to key men, Carlos Vela, the Mexican youngster might be given a chance to play upfront as a striker.
Eduardo never recovered completely from the horrific leg break at Birmingham, and moved on from Arsenal to Shakhtar Donetsk. Wenger brought in Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer from Bordeaux to provide extra options. Chamakh brings with him a lot of experience and boasts of physicality and great aerial ability. This is something that Arsenal have lacked in the past and his addition will be a boost. Chamakh is a team player and will provide quality to the squad.
Comparing the teams of 2009-10 and that of 2010-11, we can arrive at the following:
Even though there is no change in the goalkeeper, the competition should keep all the goalkeepers on their toes. Also, even if Szczesny goes out on loan, the keepers will know there are wonderfully talented young keepers lurking just behind them. Even though keepers might be pushed, Arsenal do not have enough ability in this department.
Arsenal's new signings Koscielny and Squillaci will bolster the defence. They have it in them to fill the void created by the departure of Gallas.
Djourou will find it hard to adjust to the rigours of the Premiership after enduring such a long period on the sidelines. Vermaelen will be the key in organising this defence and Arsenal will hope for consistency from Sagna and Clichy, both who have talent.
However, Koscielny and Squillaci might find it tough to adjust to the Premiership's physicality in the beginning, but as time goes on, they should form a formidable pairing with Vermaelen.
There is not much change regarding midfield. Fabregas and Song will continue to be starters, while Denilson and Diaby will compete for the remaining slot. Wenger might also try using Nasri or Rosicky in central midfield. Arsenal have plenty of options regarding midfield and winger. Youngster Wilshere will be given chances to impress in an Arsenal shirt and it is up to him to utilise his opportunities.
The addition of Chamakh brings some much-needed physicality and aerial ability to this squad. However, injuries to Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner will be a problem for the Gaffer. If Van Persie can remain fit for most of the season (though early signs are not encouraging), then Arsenal will rack up the goals. Chamakh will be the key in the first half of the season, until Van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner regain their form and fitness.