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Good morning,

This blog has been motivated by Arsene Wenger’s recent comments about how good our current squad is, and how it is not inconceivable that they can win the league without additions. I am one of the blind faith ‘In Arsene I trust’ Arsenal fans, and I actually love our current squad and think that what we have is actually very close to what Wenger is saying. I believe for a title challenge you need two players in each position. In this, you effectively have a 1st and 2nd team. The question that ultimately needs to be asked is ’are these good enough?’ The first team need to be the XI capable of winning the title, and the second team need to be players capable of doing the simple things, stepping in for injuries and rotation.

This blog will evaluate the current crop of players that we have and will see whether we have these two squads. To do this, I will divide the topic into five sections:

1. What are our 1st and 2nd XI?

2. Of the 1st XI, who is good enough?

3. Of the 2nd XI, who is good enough?

4. What do we need to do then?

5. And if we don’t?

1. What are our 1st and 2nd XI?

1st XI:

Podolski Cazorla Walcott
Wilshere Arteta
Gibbs Koscielny Mertesacker Sagna

2nd XI:

Oxlade-Chamberlain Rosicky Gnabry
Ramsey Zelalem
Monreal Vermaelen BLANK Jenkinson

2. Of the 1st XI, who is good enough?

As mentioned above, I look at that XI with a lot of confidence. This squad has had what no Arsenal squad has done for the last few years, and that’s that it is by on large exactly how we finished last season. With no key departures, this squad can actually build on the very strong finish to last season and use the lessons that we learned without spending the first few months compensating for the loss of a major player. This squad has been built on the hurt of these departures and has a greater passion than most other PL squads can boast. This team has already faced scrutiny of the highest order from the press, and post-Bayern last year has used tis to grind out results hitherto unimagined in both style and composure. Though we are traditionally big finishers, 8 wins from our last 10 with our captain dropped and our best player pretty much unable to play, the whole squad rallied together and played for each other, and it was with this freedom that saw us achieve Champions League football for another season.

That said, it was still a very fragile end to the season, wit lots of 1-0 snatch and grabs, and our poor form vs the top 5 was a huge concern. But we are so close to being able to achieve things. Too many big names (and more importantly, big ego’s) could disrupt this spirit, but one or two ARE needed. There are 2 positions/players that concern me. I personally think we are going to be very pleasantly surprised by Giroud next season, and could see some of the magic of his last season in France in the Premier League. That said, we mustn’t get carried away and settle with im because he is still one of the weakest players in that XI AT THE MOMENT.

I’ve written before about our defence and I think all we need is a suitable 4th CB cover, as the competition between Gibbs/Monreal; Koscielny/Mertesacker/Vermaelen, and Sagna/Jenkinson is good, but only 3 CB’s is not safe enough. I think that Vermaelen is still a very good defender and he suffered from what many of our players suffered from over the last two seasons, and that is a lack of competition and over confidence in their own place in the team. I think being dropped but kept as skipper is a crucial indication of Wenger’s plans. Mertesacker is a good defender but there are some concerns as to whether he can win us the title. Vermaelen on form is a better defender than him, and Koscielny is one of the best defenders in the world, and the competition between the three of them for the starting spot is more than capable of winning us the league. But as mentioned above, 3 isn’t safe enough and this is why Gibbs of Vergonghan would have been good but oh well, perhaps Williams or Lescott or someone young can come in and fill the spot.

The midfielder trio of Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla is fantastic. We finished last season without Jack and Rambo stepped up, but he’s still the #1. If these 3 can keep up the urgency and pressing of the end of last year, combined with their natural creativity you’d be hard pushed to find a better midfielder in the league.

The front line of Podolski, Giroud and Walcott all have talent, but it is definitely lacking in something that previous PL winners have had. United last year had RVP, City before that had Aguero, Chelsea had Drogba, we had TH14 … I don’t know about everyone else but our front line lacks one of these players. What players (who conveniently are available, to a certain extent) like Suarez and Rooney give a team (beyond their skill) is their work rate without the ball. They are all over the pitch and this is invaluable for a team that has no out and out defensive midfielder. Podolski and Walcott work hard but don’t have the natural anticipation of those aforementioned. Giroud’s role on the other hand doesn’t really require him to press the whole time (similar to Drogba (although that’s where the comparisons stop for now)), but if combined with Rooney or Suarez he’d be much more in the game, especially with his ability in the air.

So all in all, the 1st XI is promising, but with £80m at least that we know is in the bank, why should we settle with promising when there is clearly the room AND opportunity to strengthen.

3. Of the 2nd XI, who is good enough?

As for the 2nd XI, I think that this is the strongest it has been in years, gifting us a very powerful bench. Having spent a summer clearing the squad of the deadwood, by on large the players left are all capable of coming onto the pitch and stepping in.

The issue of the #1 shirt is still up in the air. Throughout this year’s pre-season it seems that Wenger has favoured Fabianski, but if this is the case I think it is almost certain that Szczesny will remain at the club and there will be healthy competition for that shirt.  I still don’t trust Fabianski to win us the league, but I think Szczesny is more than good enough when his place is in jeopardy, and his passion and team spirit is invaluable.

Monreal, Vermaelen and Monreal, as mentioned above, are good enough second choice players and in my opinion are better than the back up’s of Chelsea and United, perhaps not City, but we do need one more Centre Back.

Ramsey and Rosicky are both superb and could be in the starting XI, and through injuries and rotation they probably will be. I still think fully fir the others are better, but as seen at the end of last season they can leave us very unbalanced at times so rotation tactically as well as physically could be in store too. But these 2 are more than good enough. As a result of this strength, I think we can afford to promote from within for that last vacant backup spot and I think between Eisfeld and Zelalem we have midfield covered.

What with the departure of Gervinho, we are definitely short up top. If we buy, those in our current first eleven are definitely good enough to be sat there as cover and rotation. We have seen the drawbacks of buying in cover as opposed to quality and forcing current players to fight. Sanogo, though promising, is not good a suitable back-up for CF when Giroud is not 100% good enough as it is, nor is Podolski, but both can rotate with the quality additions mentioned earlier, up front.

4. What do we need to do then?

So what does all this mean? We have supposedly got £80m in the bank and another good, but not quite there, squad. We have 3 out and out world class players in Koscielny, Cazorla and Wilshere, and several very good talents waiting in the wings. So why waste this? We have wasted in the past because of a lack of funds, but these funds are now there. We have had the clear out and have the room for spending and signings, AND WE SHOULD USE THIS.

In a not too unrealistic ideal world, we’d sign Rooney, Suarez and Papadopoulos, but let’s not get greedy. That would be closer to £100m, so Williams would do instead in the position where we can afford to buy in cover (but of a hot-prospect nature, not proven and not quite good enough to start) so Williams in rotation would also suffice. At least we’re no longer linked with Scott Dann …

5. And if we don’t?

So all the talk above has been about the squad’s competence and what we need for a title challenge. I have highlighted what needs to be done, but it would be optimistic bordering naive for us to expect all of that £80m to be spent. The real purpose of this blog was to show how promising the squad we have IS. Do I think it can win the league as it is? No, probably not. But do I think we are in a better position than last year? Undoubtedly. If Bale is to leave Spurs then their signings of Soldardo and Paulinho will not quite fill the gap of their only good player leaving, and I think this squad can at least compete for 3rd and 4th in a more competent fashion than last year, so I think there is no need to worry, but without signings don’t get too excited YET.

Hope everyone is well and I look forward to cheering on Arsenal with you lot for another season.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and you can contact me on @row6NB on twitter if you have any thoughts.

Mean Lean's Response

Very good, well thought out piece.

While we all urge for additions, we shouldn't ignore the progress of the squad we have today. That comment is likely to annoy some but that is how I see it. The squad has been streamlined from last season. So personally I think we are short in numbers in a few areas as I think you need more than two first teams at various times during the course of a long season. I don't believe that Zelalem will be a feature of the first team just yet although his pre season has done him no harm at all.

Many will agree with your first team choice but I am not sure Arsene does. That said, it will be interesting to know who takes the left attacking position given that Lukas Podolski is now fully fit.

If everyone is fit, I think Arsene will start with the following.

Cazorla Giroud Walcott
Arteta Ramsey
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs

I am hoping for three or four signings before the window closes. A top class forward, a creative passing midfielder and a sitting midfielder to rotate with Arteta.

If we get those along with perhaps a new 4th choice centre back then that would do me nicely.

  • 15 Sep 2015
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