ARSENAL ARE TITLE CONTENDERS
By Chike Umeike
Seventeen years at the helm of affairs at Arsenal; one of the darkest days for Wenger was on the 17th of August when his side 3-1 to Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the season. Arsenal fans were up in arms; some were calling for Wenger to be sacked. Arsenal had barely spent a pound in the transfer market and were written off by a lot of people-fast-forward and you now have an Arsenal team who are one of the in- form sides in England playing beautiful football and are 2 points clear at the top of the Premier League. However, despite this brilliant start to the season, a lot are still divided as to whether they can keep up this title charge till the end of the season. I believe they can.
With Sir Alex retired, Wenger is now the longest serving manager in the league. He’s been there for 17 years and that is no fluke. Although Arsenal has not won a trophy since 2005, this does not make Wenger a bad manager. Wenger is a brilliant tactician and a man who copes well under pressure. It was he who created the greatest Premier league team, “The Invincibles”. Both Wenger and Mourinho are the only Managers in the division to have won a Premier League title. This experience will prove vital if they are to win.
In addition, Arsenal’s main contenders to the Premier League Crown- Chelsea, Spurs and the Manchester clubs have experienced managerial changes or an influx of new players which has led to inconsistent displays by these teams. On the other hand, Arsenal with an experienced manager and a settled pattern of play has so far taken advantage of their rivals’ slip-ups. The likes of Ozil and Flamini have fitted in seamlessly into the side and have emerged as key components of the team. All areas of the team look assured and the players are showing perfect understanding of one another. Should Arsenal steer clear of injuries at crucial times of the season, it may be these established relationships that will give them the edge over their rivals in the race to glory.
Arsenal is known for its attacking, slick-passing football which has won over critics and even attracted fans to its side. This urge for attacking and beautiful football has over the last few years led to the ability of the defence to concede comic goals. However, the defence this season led by Mertesacker and Koscielny has formed a partnership of real quality. What Mertesacker cannot offer in terms of pace, his positioning and reading of the game covers for that. Koscielny, on the other hand, with his aggression and pace, complements Mertesacker. With a player of the quality of Vermaelen on the bench and probably another defender to come in January, the riddle to Arsenal’s backline problem looks solved. Other players like Sagna and Gibbs have equally been impressive in this early part of the season. Another player worthy of mention is Wojciech Szczesny who has equally put in some impressive performances this season.
Furthermore, Arsenal has the talent needed in the middle of the park to dominate most teams in the League. With the likes of Cazorla, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky, Chamberlain, Podolski, Ozil shouldering the attacking responsibilities and Flamini offering protection to the back four, there is for once a balance in the midfield. Arsenal still has bright prospects like Gnabry, Miyaichi and even Diaby to call upon when necessary. Many league titles have been won and lost by the quality of the midfield engine room and this season Arsenal have quality in depth to rival most teams in the world.
This Arsenal team has in the past been accused of failing to come up with the goods when they don’t play well. They’ve been said to lack the ‘mentality’ of teams like Manchester United and Chelsea who know how to nick three points even when not at their very best. This season, however, the Gunners have been able to get the points against such teams like West Brom and Crystal Palace. Yes, defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United raise doubts, but this Arsenal side has shown that they are capable of winning even at their very worst.
We are still in the month of November right and while Arsenal will not win the league in November, they have certainly not lost it. Manchester City are still struggling away with a leaky defence and of course Hart who is breaking everyone’s heart; United still undergoing some sort of transition, its weak midfield now weakened by Carrick’s injury, they also look dependent on RVP and Rooney; Mourinho and AVB yet to know their best eleven and their strikers still misfiring; Liverpool are over-reliant on SAS, a couple of signings away from Premier League glory and would be very much happy with a top four finish. Who knows it could just be the Gunners’ year. Do not be surprised if at the end of the season, we all get to see Vermaelen hoist the Premier League Crown for the first time at the Emirates Stadium.
ARSENAL ARE TITLE PRETENDERS
By Omisakin Ayobami
I am not a soothsayer, neither am I Prophet T.B Joshua. But, one does need a crystal ball to see that Wenger’s boys are too shy to lift a trophy in the public. It is apparent that all the people drumming up support for the team’s Premier league triumph are all Arsenal fans, and I do not blame them because they have to support their team. It is beyond denial that the Gunners have had a fantastic start to the season. They are on top of the pile and they have been the there for quite a time. But, reality check, 38 matches make a season not 11. Followers of the Premier League will agree with me that Arsenal F.C has always enjoyed a fantastic start to the season but fizzle out towards the end; so I ask, why should this season be different.
It is a universal truth that football cannot be correctly predicted, I am not predicting. I am merely stating facts that have been firmly established on the foundation of past performances. Thus, let us examine their performance this season. Arsenal’s performances can be summarized thus, devastating against porous defences but lacking purpose against organized defences. Yes, they were successful against a Tottenham side that lacked cohesion and a depleted Liverpool side that has always at struggled at the Emirates; but, what about against a second string Chelsea side and an unfit Van Persie in a resurrected Man. U side. Ah, you finally got the picture.
The million dollar question is this- “what makes this Arsenal team different?” Did I hear you mention a Mesut Ozil? Oh, I am sure you did not. Undoubtedly, Ozil has been great since he signed on to this pipe dream but we cannot expect more from him. He was average against Man.U and Liverpool; his signing can be likened to giving Paracetamol to a patient suffering from malaria, it will only reduce the pain not flush out the malaria!
Once upon a time, they boasted an arguably better team with the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Song, and so on, but they failed to deliver. This team’s problem is not in possessing a strong starting XI but it is actually its squad depth that brings worries. In the defence, there are only 3 strong centre backs and replacements for the full backs are weak. In the defensive midfield; injury to Flamini, as we’ve seen, could spell doom for the team. In addition to that, the other defensive minded midfielder-Arteta, cannot offer the solidity that Flamini readily provides. Just imagine an Arsenal with an injured Flamini and a suspended Arteta. Further up, Giroud is the only recognized senior striker in the team, and with all due respect, a player like Giroud should be back-up in a team that intends to win the Premier League. Just compare this attack with that of Man.U (V.Persie, Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez) or Chelsea (Torres, Eto’o, Ba) or Man.City (Aguero, Negredo, Dzeko) or even Liverpool (Suarez, Sturridge, Aspas); even Wenger is chasing Ba who is not even in Chelsea’s second team. Perhaps, with another marquee signing in the no.9 position, we can consider them for the title.
In addition, Wenger and his boys are only up there because teams like Man.U, Man.City and Chelsea are adjusting to life with new managers and as we have seen; that adjustment is almost done.
Do not get it twisted, Arsenal is a good team but good teams do not win the Barclays Premier League, it is the best teams that do. So I agree that Arsenal FC is a contender for the title, in the same vein, I also agree that Southampton will secure qualification for the Champions League.