Nickname: The Gunners
Date Founded: 1886
Ground: Emirates Stadium (60k)
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United
Last season’s finish: 4th
First five games:
Crystal Palace (H), Everton (A), Leicester (A), Man City (H), Aston Villa (H)
Laurent Koscielny – It was difficult for me to choose between Koscielny and Mertesacker, both were very impressive with their performances last season, and the partnership looks set to continue into next season, keeping Vermaelen on the bench. His passing ability is a key part of Arsenal’s system by building from the back and he is also a quicker centre back than most, meaning he is often in the right place at the right time.
Aaron Ramsey – For the first half of last season he was being hotly tipped for Player of the Season for his phenomenal form, however his injury at the end of December ruled him out for 3 months and prevented him from becoming a contender. This didn’t stop him from being named Arsenal’s Player of the Season by the fans, and hopefully he’ll stay injury-free this season to try and replicate that form.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – His direct running and powerful play causes much trouble to defenders, and like Ramsey, will hopefully have an injury-free season as we didn’t see enough of him last year. He is still only 20 years old but I think he’ll be a key player for Arsenal next year because of his versatility, and how he can make an such impact on the game.
David Ospina – 25 year old goalkeeper, signed for £3.2 million from Nice
Calum Chambers – 19 year old defender, signed for £11 million from Southampton
Mathieu Debuchy – 29 year old defender, signed for £12 million from Newcastle
Alexis Sanchez – 25 year old forward, signed for £35 million from Barcelona
Areas to improve:
Last season the quality of the Arsenal midfield produced the football that the club has become renowned for, unfortunately the strikers available, Giroud and Sanogo, are not quite of the same class. Giroud did manage to put away an impressive 16 league goals, but I feel a different type of striker would fit the Arsenal style of play better. Sanchez has been brought in but it is not yet clear where he will be playing – although I do expect him to start up front. There is similarly a lack of clarity where Walcott will play, he has proven that he can deliver while playing up top but last season saw him move back out wide. We may also be seeing Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell in an Arsenal shirt after a few good performances at the World Cup.
Arsenal had a great start (excluding their opening day defeat!) to the Premier League last season, and it was only injuries to key players that led to their title bid collapsing. I expect that the new additions will greatly boost the team and offer options to Wenger that he wished he’d had available previously. Champions League qualification has been the sole achievement for quite a few seasons until last year’s FA Cup win. I think that Arsenal will continue to hold onto Champions League for another season as they appear to be keen to keep a hold on their key players and are spending big to bring top quality to the Emirates. I find it unlikely that it will be Arsenal that lift the Premier League trophy but I can see them keeping pressure on the leaders until the very end.