Last summer, everyone was talking about how Arsenal were in crisis. They way I saw it, they had missed a few tricks in the Premiership but as a whole Wenger would have learned from it. Learn he did, as Arsenal improved in the next season, and ended comfortably ahead of 5th placed Tottenham.
So why the negativity this summer? It could be Henry’s departure, it could be Tottenham’s splurge to bring in Bent, Kaboul et al, or it could just be a desire to see some change in the top 4.
In any case, Arsenal are a better team hands down and it’s to Wenger’s credit that despite all that has happened in the past two seasons at the club it’s unspoken knowledge that as long as Wenger is at Arsenal the Gunners will not fall out of the top 4.
Whether Arsenal can push on to challenge for the title is a different story – if Arsenal sign 1-2 more players between now and the end of the season, and if Wenger can adapt Arsenal’s playing strategy to cope with the likes of Man City and Blackburn (remember last season?), then it will be a 4-way race, or 3-way at least.
Manager Status: Arsene Wenger is smart enough to not make any misleading statements about his future. He is god at Arsenal but if he wants to leave he will leave, and Arsenal will still survive and grow as a club, no questions about that. He is perhaps the only manager along with Ferguson and Benitez who are untouchable at the moment, so his future is secure at Arsenal. The players know that, so speculation about the manager, which is expected to be rampant this season (with Henry gone the focus will be solely on Wenger until he signs a new contract), should not bother them.
Transfer Analysis: Till now, Arsenal are still short of 1-2 players, especially an experienced wide player. They have bought good players in Da Silva and Sagna, but you get the feeling that they missed a trick by not landing Ribery or Malouda.
Players to watch: Robin van Persie looks to be the next big star for Arsenal, but keep your eyes peeled for Walcott and Adebayor to make a splash this season as well. And if Gallas walks the talk, so to speak, Arsenal have a great chance at the title, or at least at one trophy.
August Fixtures: Arsenal play Fulham at home, Sparta Prague away, Blackburn away, Manchester City home and Sparta Prague home in August – of these 5 fixtures the two back-to-back away fixtures could prove a bit tricky – while you don’t expect Arsenal to lose to Blackburn a draw there will peg Arsenal back and after the last two seasons, a perfect start is very necessary.
Expectations: Arsenal fans will expect their side to challenge for the title every season and this year will be no different.
Predictions: Top 4 for sure and possibly top 2 if they are flexible enough in away games to change gears and beat defensive teams.
One thing is certain – Arsenal are sure to be a lot closer to the top this season than they have been in the last two. This Arsenal team has the caliber to answer the questions asked of them.