An FA Cup success in May certainly relieved some of the pressure and criticism on the shoulders of Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.
Then the chequebook opened. If the reported sales figure of Calum Chambers really is £16 million – it makes him the third most-expensive signing in Arsenal’s history. Their second most-expensive was made earlier in the month when Alexis Sánchez arrived from Barcelona for £31.7 million.
Mesut Özil’s record signing from Real Madrid in August last year mean the Gunners’ three most expensive players have all arrived in a 12-month period. Finally the French manager has realised the importance of bringing established players into the Emirates Stadium.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, with less than five weeks of the summer transfer window to go, they look short of being able to maintain a Premier League title challenge this season, at least in my eyes and on paper.
Here is what I think the strongest Arsenal XI is currently:
There’s a lot of talent here but there also a few holes.
Mikel Arteta is not a holding midfielder. I don’t see Jack Wilshere as being the answer either because he’s not the greatest of tacklers, always risks a card, and quite frankly, his ankles aren’t that strong. This is one position Arsène Wenger is looking to strengthen though.
The attacking midfield trio and the depth Wenger has here is tremendous. Santi Cazorla is a playmaker out on the left, Alexis Sánchez will be a threat wherever he plays. Mesut Özil can be too, but was fairly criticised during the second half of the season. Mind you, so were Lionel Messi and Neymar and they both shone on the World Cup too.
I’ve put Theo Walcott in the striker position to get him in the team because I think Wenger needs to start him. His position on the right wing obviously under threat from Sánchez. I’m not convinced Olivier Giroud is good enough to lead a team to the Premier League title. An upgrade in this position and we can start talking about Arsenal being in contention.
Arsène Wenger has more depth than he has for a long while – goalkeeper David Ospina, defender Thomas Vermaelen, midfielders Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomáš Rosický and Mathieu Flamini, and Giroud up front. Joel Campbell potentially too unless he goes out on loan again this season. The Costa Rican is unproven in the Premier League though.
Let’s have a look at the Premier League favourites Chelsea and the players they can potentially play:
José Mourinho has upgraded his team better than anyone else last season. Already with the best defensive record, a couple of changes have been made. The centre midfield looks better than it did at the start of last season. The one thing Chelsea were missing last season was a goalscoring striker, so if they have found one in Diego Costa then this team may be unstoppable.
And the defending champions Manchester City:
Solid goalkeeper, one of the best centre-backs in world football with Vincent Kompany, a top right-back in Pablo Zabaleta. A great holding midfield duo and endless threat going forward. Manchester City’s depth is sound too. If I have the strike duo wrong, Edin Džeko scores goals too.
On top of that, Arsène Wenger’s record against the top three last season was hideous, picking up just one win, one draw and taking four defeats than included three hammerings. He’s never beat a Mourinho side either.
Can Arsenal maintain a title challenge in 2014-15? I think they’re a few top players away from that right now. The defence would also need to rely on going injury-free because I don’t think there’s a great deal of depth in this position.
For me, it’s between Chelsea and Manchester City. Arsenal though will maintain their top four finish as Wenger always does. Betfair are offering odds of 1.56 for Arsenal to finish in the top four which looks like a dead cert to me. Those more confident may take Arsenal at 2.00 to finish in the top three.