Arsenal Season Preview: 2016-2017

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Oh good morning you fabulous people. Start of the season is here. EXCITEMENT HAS LANDED. I’m currently watching Spurs struggle against Everton after seeing Leicester become the first Champions EVER to lose their Premier League opener. Could be tough for them. A bad start kills confidence, makes players question the project, hate each other and generally pushes sublime right midfielders one step closer to paradise in North London.

So how are we looking heading into the season? Well, it’s time for me to stop being disgusted by the summer. So I’ll just give my run down of areas of interest.

Arsene Wenger:

I was advised by The Daily Mail to tone down a piece I wrote the other day. I won’t give additional commentary there, but as you can imagine, I’m not happy. The manager has had the chance to turn the tide this summer. Go out, buy what you need, clear out what’s not working and tighten up some of the weaknesses we have in our system. Instead, he’s added one senior player, he’s sold no one and we’re looking pretty similar to the side we were last season. A side that failed pretty hard if you scratched the surface… a season reimagined by Wenger as ‘oh so close’, which has impacted our summer.

We’ve gone from major surgery to tweaks, because of the reactive nature of Wenger.

But, it is what it is. Xhaka is an excellent signing. I have supremely high hopes there. I’m just miffed that we haven’t even done the basics, like ship out the dreadful Ospina… and how Theo Walcott is still wearing an Arsenal shirt is beyond me!

The keepers:

Kind of touched on it in the sentence before, but our keeper setup is Martinez, Ospina and Petr Cech. I think Cech, despite some poor form at stages last season, is still one of the best keepers in the league. However, the two back up keepers are only good for entertaining Arsenal TV videos. Ospina was car crash in preseason and he’s usually pretty bad when he gets let loose on the Arsenal starting line-up. I do wish we’d go out and sign a young keeper from the lower leagues, a genuine talent that could push Cech who is entering the back 9 of his career. Even greats need competition. Ospina and Martinez are not that.

The defence:

I think we conceded 36 goals last season, not bad going you have to say. We’re in trouble though. Wenger really isn’t a long term planner / strategic and he’s not thought about replacing his key men this summer, now he’s paid the price. Per Merteacker and Kos are both in their thirties, the German is now out for 5months. Gabriel and Chambers are not the best back up choices, Wenger should have had Chambers out on loan cutting his teeth last year, but instead, he wasted him on the bench. Gabriel has been awful anyway, but he’s also out for a while. Rob Holding will probably go out on loan.

On paper, our defence is strong. Nacho and Hector are excellent. But if we slip into the back-ups, Kieran Gibbs isn’t good enough and Debuchy has never regained his Newcastle form. So it’s a bit shaky in quality depth.

The midfield:

Well, we have quite a lot of interesting options here. I think the two players we’ve lacked for years are Elneny and Xhaka. We’ve gone from quite weak defensively, to WOAH WE ARE STRONG. Elneny is a tireless work horse with some serious class. Xhaka is beast, a leader and pinpoint accurate with his passing. He also has far better technique than Coquelin. So we have two promising upgrades. We then have the other bits. I’m unsure how Wenger is going to integrate Aaron Ramsey this year. Someone was saying on Twitter he needs someone to do defensive bits for him and he needs someone to support his creatively… quite a lot of things you need to make Ramsey work. Then there’s Jack Wilshere, is he a back up Ozil or is he going to compete to play the Pirlo role? He needs to stay fit for a start. That’d be nice. We also have Ozil and Santi. Two very beautiful chess pieces, it’ll certainly be lovely to have the Spaniard back.

I’m really not sure how it all fits together, but at least we have good names to work with.

The front three:

Our right side is desperately short in my opinion. Theo Walcott has given up his dreams of being the new Suarez and he’s asked to Wenger to allow him to become a disciplined, hardworking, potent right winger. I mean, he’s in his prime right now, he’s shown he’s capable out there before, so who knows. I just don’t hold out much hope. Any player that says after watching a player work hard (Sanchez), he too was inspired to work hard, is lost to me. We also have Chambo out there, love him to bits, he brings the Snapchat bantz for sure, but he’s been pony for a while. However, it’s a mental thing for him… if he shakes the shackles of his mind, he has it all. Power, pace, directness… A LONG SHOT.

The left side looks far more tidy. Alexis Sanchez, a player who has been beasted the past few years by not getting a summer off, will have a point to prove after a shoddy end to last season. Then we have Iwobi. A player I absolutely LOVE. He’s the black love child of Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky. Sublime control, powerful, unpredictable… and he looks like he could be a bit of a finisher as well. I think he’s going to be so, so good!

I mean, I don’t want to be all like, well, Gnabry is like a new signing. But he’s doing well at the Olympics. It’s only a shoddy attitude that’s kept him out of WBA and Arsenal. If he can liven up, realise that being the next David Bentley is beyond stupid, maybe he can do something for us?

Our striking options are beyond abysmal. Olivier Giroud will get you goals. But he’ll also go without them for months at a time. What was it, 17 games without a Premiership goal? Awful, awful return. He’s also questionable against top clubs and he’s pretty poor away from home. He really should have been shipped out this summer, but again, Wenger.

I’m not sure what we do tomorrow? Chuba scored a bunch of goals, but he rarely started preseason. He doesn’t look like he has it. So will we play Theo there or Sanchez? Whatever we do, it’s looking pretty sad in that central position. Wenger had one job this summer, and he failed to deliver on it.

Summary:

We’ve just not gone hard enough at making changes this summer. Wenger has fooled himself into thinking second was second. He’s not taken a step back and said, ‘how do we get to the level of Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern and Madrid’, which is unbelievable in my opinion. So yes, we have a good set up, but we don’t have a great one.

Wenger puts too much of the season on ‘if this player grows’, ‘if he gets his head straight’, ‘you might be surprised by’ and ‘look at how many goals Giroud scored at the Euro’s’… and it’s a weak way to manage.

I also think there’s a psychological issue at play. When you work with average teams, you have to make tough decisions, because poor cogs in your team infect other cogs. By leaving bad players in the squad, it says to the good players that the manager is weak and he doesn’t care about substandard. Wenger has sent no message to anyone this summer. He’s basically said, ‘it’s ok to be average’.

Not to mention the impact excitement has on players. Players are just as into transfers as you and I. They want to go into work buzzing about seeing new faces and crazy talent. Think how the United players are right now. They’ll be so excited, as will the fans. Think of how the Arsenal players will be feeling? Pretty flat. Because they’ll know they don’t have enough to do anything serious this season.

However, I think we’ll be ok. We have a solid midfield. We have a solid defense. We have a good front three. We just really lack that something special a title winning team needs.

Maybe Wenger will find it before the window shuts, just don’t bank on it…

Right, season preview done. Off to enjoy the Man City game!

WE ARE OFF!