A Big Preview For A Big Season
Saturday marks the beginning of a big season for Arsenal. Not because it's the start of the fifth season since we won a trophy, but because this is the season that we win the league and/or the Champions League. Despite selling Adebayor and Toure this is the best crop of players we've had since the Invincibles, and they have the potential to surprise everybody. Adebayor - mercenary I don't want him at the club. Toure - not been the same since his Malaria scare two years ago. I believe that our strongest line up is:
Sagna, Gallas/New CB, Vermaelen, Clichy
van Persie, Eduardo, Arshavin
That attacking four of Eduardo, Arshavin, Fabregas and RVP is the best in England. By a mile. Look at our rival's equivalents:
Man U - Rooney, Berbatov, Valencia, Giggs?
Giggs - old
Berbatov - lazy
Valencia - goes missing in big games
Rooney - tracks back too much doesn't score enough
Liverpool - Torres, Gerrard, Kuyt, Riera
Torres & Gerrard - Geniuses (or is it genii?)
Kuyt - Admittedly pops up with some important goals but not fit to lace RVP's boots
Riera - Not even in the same world as Arshavin let alone league
Chelsea - Anelka, Drogba, Lampard, Zhirkov (or Malouda?)
Anelka and Drogba - effective
Lampard - Fat but admittedly quality player
Zhirkov (or Malouda) - Again not in the Arshavin league.
I know formations change somewhat and that's a bit of difficult comparison to make but there simply is no argument that in an attacking sense no other team really competes with Arsenal on that basis. They just don't. Arshavin is now thmost exciting player in the premiership, it is time to compare him to Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka and the rest of the elite. He is in that club. Only Torres is good enough to join him in that group according to FIFA.
As for central midfield. Song will give us the solid deep lying midfield presence we crave, breaking up play and using quick simple distribution to build our attacks. Nasri has the energy, determination, speed and strength to zip around the midfield giving us the Flamini style presence we missed last year. Alongside Song I believe they will form a formidable central midfield pairing that, with Cesc, we will have a midfield to rival any team in England. Are Mikel, Essien and Malouda that much better? Are Mascherano, Aquilani and Gerrard? How about Anderson, Carrick and Fletcher? No they aren't. Don't underestimate Nasri playing in central midfield (because that is where he will play) he can be a world beater. Especially with Song next to him. Fabregas will finally have the chance to roam forward and not worry too much what's happening behind him.
Defence. Admittedly our weak link. Positives first though. Sagna and Clichy are thbest full back combination in the country. Man Utd boast Evra and Rafael, but whilst Evra is proven quality Rafael is still very suspect defensively, I can't wait to see Arshavin unleashed against him. Chelsea have Cole and Bosingwa. Bosingwa is disillusioned with Chelsea's desire to sell him/use him as a makeweight for Ribery, so I don't expect he will be at his best and Cole (whilst being a money grabbing whore bag) is a quality defender. Combined though they don't match up to Clichy and Sagna. As for Liverpool they have Insua and Johnson. Insua is a talent, but too young to no if he really is all that. Johnson is a top player going forward. But, as he showed against Holland, defensively he is weak, he gets turned for fun by anyone quicker than a snail, and is prone to rash challenges when he gets frustrated. So at full back I think we can be optimistic that we are the best in the league.
However we do lack height in the middle. But does it matter? If you watched Vermaelen in the past he has a tremendous spring that allows him to dominate in the air against players much bigger than him. He is very strong and can stand up to the bruising tactics of Drogba, Davies and co. Gallas will be more comfortable without King Kolo next to him, and hopefully go back to the quality player he has proven himself to be. I don't think our central pairing can compare to Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool. I wish I could justify saying that we do but we simply don't. Not yet. Gallas and Vermaelen could prove me wrong but Ferdinand/Vidic, Terry/Alex and Carragher/Skrtl are all better. They are better balanced, and they have the height. This is important but our defence is still good enough to stop any attack in the world on the day, so all they need is to work hard and stay focussed and our lack of height won't matter. There are ways around it. Look at Cannavaro. Yes he always played with a big man next to him, but Cannavaro himself could dominate in the air against people much taller than him. I remember watching him for Madrid against Valence, and he was marking Zigic ( all 6ft8 of him) and Cannavaro dominated him in the air.
Man Utd - VDS - Old, prone to mistakes
Chelsea - Cech - Not the same since his head injury
Liverpool - Reina - good player
Almunia isn't far behind them. In fact he is as good as VDS, more dependable than Cech and less rash than Reina. Almunia is a top class goalkeeper and we can compete against the other big four teams in that area.
Finally they say the title is won by the bench. (Based on what I consider our rivals strongest first XIs)
Arsenal - Fabianski, Djourou, Slivestre, Gibbs, Eboue, Wilshere, Diaby, Denilson, Vela, Bendtner, JET (possibly), Rosicky,Walcott
Man Utd - Foster, Fabio, Evans, Brown, O'Shea, Scholes, Wellbeck, Nani, Tosic, Owen, Macheda, Park,
Liverpool - Cavalieri, Agger, Degen, Plessis, Lucas, Yossi, Babel, NGog, Zhar
Chelsea - Turnbull, Ivanovic, Fereira, Carvalho (if he stays), Manciene, Belletti, Ballack, Mineiro, Deco, Cole, Kalou, Sturridge
Is our bench really much weaker than those of our rivals? Only Chelsea have notably more experienced players on the bench. Man Utd and Liverpool certainly don't. I wouldn't swap our bench for any of the teams there, even Chelsea.
So all round I don't see why people are so pessimistic. We have a young squad, who will only be better than last year. Eduardo and Rosicky will be like new signings since they pretty much didn't play last season. Cesc will have licence to roam and we have Arshavin for a whole season. I still believe Wenger will sign two new players by September 1st, and we will be in a very, very strong position to start the season. If we stay relatively injury free we will win something. If not everything.
Right I'm off to the bookies to put a grand on Arsenal to win the league.