Happy good morning to ya’ll! Today we have a special guest, Simone has been contributing to various Arsenal blogs around the web. This is her first installment for Le Grove. Enjoy!
Despite the loss to Swansea I feel good about the team going forward. I think that this squad, along with all the supporting staff, (medical/fitness especially) are ready to compete in the league. So it’s with this sense of optimism which has grown from recent results that I can say that next year I think we can challenge for the domestic title.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this. I dare say that even without any ‘top class’ additions to the squad this summer we have enough to challenge Chelsea now that Shad Forsyth has bedded in and his methods are bearing fruit. If you’re sensing the word but looming you’re wrong, I’ll use however.
It’s been painfully obvious for a while that whilst the Premier League may be the most exciting league in the world, it isn’t currently producing the best teams. The days of having an English side in the Champions League final every year are over, (for now). So the questions is how far are we from being able to beat Europe’s best? The easiest way to look at this is by comparing line-ups. Before I start you must bear in mind that as an Arsenal supporter I’m biased, but if you’re reading this then you share my bias. Let’s embrace it and begin.
Who are the best? In my opinion Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Athletico Madrid and Real Madrid, but for the benefit of this exercise let’s use Barcelona. How many of our players would get into their team?
Ospina v Ter Stegen/Bravo
I don’t rate Ter Stegen too highly, but from what I’ve seen of Bravo he’s quality. He’s a good shot stopper, his positioning is great and as we saw on Monday, Ospina can sometimes lack in this department. Would Ospina get into their team? No. Would he get on the bench? Probably not.
Monreal v Alba/Adriano
I know that Alba is ahead of Monreal when it comes to the Spanish national team, but for me Nacho is every bit as good a defender if not more so. He’s certainly a better defender than Adriano. Going forward Alba is better, but I’d take Monreal over Alba, because I like my defenders to defend. I know we can point to how few goals Barca have conceded, but it’s Barcelona, they don’t concede possession let alone goals.
Koscielny/Mertesacker v Pique/Mascherano/Bartra (I’m not including Vermaelen because he never plays).
Koscielny is the best defender in this group and I think he would walk into their starting 11. Mertesacker would not, but he’s still a better centre half than Bartra and in my opinion Mascherano. Pique would keep his place.
Debuchy/Bellerin v Alves
Alves. He’s still one of the best right backs in the world. Bellerin may get there one day, but he’s not there yet. Debuchy is good but he’s not as potent going forward. Alves keeps his spot.
Coquelin v Busquets
A similar story to RB, Coquelin has lots of room to improve and may well be world class one day, but Busquets is the lynch-pin of the Barcelona side. Without him they’re a different animal, and he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because of the NSM axis up front. Busquets keeps his place, (for now).
Özil/Cazorla v Iniesta/Rakitic
Özil would walk into any team in the world, including Barcelona’s. Madrid made a huge mistake selling him, even if it was necessary to fund the Bale transfer. Iniesta loses out.
The Rakitic v Cazorla question is a bit more complicated. Rakitic has got quick feet and great vision, just like Santi. They a have similar goals and assists tally this season, and as we’re talking about getting into the Barcelona team now I’m going to forget about age and physical characteristics, which are slightly less important in Spain.
It’s a close call but I’m putting Santi in. (Yay for bias!)
Ramsey/Theo v Messi
There’s literally no point in discussing this one.
Giroud v Suarez
While Giroud may be miles ahead when it comes to pure sexiness, he’s not in the same class as Suarez. I’ve watched THAT flick over and over. Footballgasm…
Alexis v Neymar
I know it’s easy to dismiss this one because Barca sold Alexis, but they sold him to pay for Suarez, and there wasn’t room in the team for both him and Neymar. Neymar was also a marque signing…
He’s a better player now than when he played for Barca. He runs his socks off for the team and he scores goals. He’s also guaranteed to get better, which should scare the rest of the premier league, but Neymar is also top class, and also still improving. In the end Neymar keeps his place, but it’s not as simple as it first appears.
The final count gives us four players to their seven. I think in reality only Özil and Koscielny are dead certainties to get into the Barcelona team. I’m not saying that we need a complete squad overhaul, because we have a lot of close calls in there and lots of room for improvement, but we are still a fair way away from being able to beat them over two legs. Once we have five players who could get into their team I’ll be more confident of winning the Champions League. Until then I’ll spend my time praying that Wenger buys Cech, Pogba and Lacazette.
(Sorry for missing out the likes of Jack and the Ox, but we don’t have all day).