Arsenal Premier League Preview
Players In: Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla
Players Out: Robin Van Persie, Alex Song, Rhys Murphy, Manuel Almunia, Gavin Hoyte, Denilson (loan – Sao Paulo), Carlos Vela, Pedro Botelho, Benik Afobe (loan – Bolton), Ryo Miyaichi (loan – Wigan)
Van Persie has gone to Manchester United. Of all the teams he had to choose they were probably the worst (except Spurs but that was hardly realistic). For Arsenal fans though £24m for a 29 year old with injury problems is about the best negotiating they’ve done for a while. Van Persie will be vilified and the fans will have their say on April 27th when United visit the Emirates.
The fans have been buoyed by the signings of Giroud and Podolski and the eventual capture of Santi Cazorla. Whilst Wenger has said these are replacements for Van Persie, most fans will want at least two more signings. Arsenal may also be looking to sell Song to Barcelona to open up a slot for the long-tracked Yann M’Vila from Rennes (who are about to sign Jean Makoun).
Steve Bould has come in to help the defence raise their arms together and new first team coach Neil Banfield who coached the reserves for 8 years should add some spark to what was looking a rather stale coaching setup.
Arsenal will be forced to change their shape slightly to accommodate the new signings with the central striker no longer a complete number 10. Giroud will start as a target man who the others will look to play around. Expect Cazorla to drop into the hole and look for Podolski making runs through the inside left position. Gervinho has looked especially bright in pre-season so perhaps he could become a difference maker this season.
First game analysis:
Predictably, Arsenal dominated the game (after a wobble from Mertesacker) but were unable to make the breakthrough against Sunderland. Santi Cazorla looked superb in his first outing in English football and will be disappointed that Olivier Giroud couldn’t bury his delightful reverse pass to seal the win. Alex Song has left but with Wilshire close to a return Arsenal have one of the strongest midfields in the league. Jenkinson and Gibbs acquitted themselves well, under little pressure but another full-back would make this Arsenal squad look even stronger. Wenger has stated that he views Podolski as an out-and-out striker, which casts doubt on whether they are still in the market for another striker. As it is they look good for third, but with another world-class striker they could close the gap to the top two.
Wenger has spent well and when the eventual clear out of those still hanging around is complete may well have added another couple of faces. They are unlikely to be able to hold onto the might of Manchester City but should be there or thereabouts in March. Arsenal fans will be hoping that with the added strength in depth they may be able to still be competing when trophies are awarded in May.