Arsenal: 2012-13 Premier League Preview

Arsenal scraped through to the third Champions League qualifying place by the skin of their teeth on the last day last season, a massive 19 points behind the two Manchester clubs – a gap too much for a club of Arsenal’s stature. It’s not going to be any easier this term but Arsenal seem to be better prepared this time around having done their transfer dealings quickly before the start of the Premier League season. But of course, Arsenal’s summer would be incomplete without one of their top players seeking to leave and the Robin van Persie transfer saga has overshadowed what has been a very good transfer window so far for the Gunners.

Robin van Persie has only a year left on his contract and his refusal to extend it means Arsenal would most probably cash in on their captain if the club’s valuation is met. With the acquisitions of Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski, Arsene Wenger seems to have a contingency plan in place should the Dutch finally leave.

Arsenal look stronger this term than the last one taking into account the quality of their signings. Santi Carzola for me was the best player in La Liga last season outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Lukas Podolski is a German international with over a 100 caps and at just 27 years, he can only do better while Oliver Giroud scored 21 goals as Montpellier pipped big-spending Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title last season. These players will improve the Arsenal squad no doubt and if the Gunners can keep their captain, they will be set to finally end their trophy drought. With a fit Robin van Persie in the squad, I can say Arsenal might win the Premier League title but without him, they will probably make do with either of the domestic cup competitions.

In defence, the promotion of Steve Bould to the position of assistant manager could prove to be one important and inspired move. The Arsenal Legend should help plug the holes in an Arsenal defence that let in 49 goals last season. The full-back positions that proved problematic in the last term haven’t been really addressed. Bacary Sgana is expected to miss the start of the season while Kieran Gibbs’ injury record isn’t exactly what a title-chasing side needs. It’s not doom and gloom though as Andre Santos and Carl Jenkison are available to fill in from time-to-time. The Arsenal defence for me is all right, at least until injuries start creeping in. With Steve Bould around, let’s see the improvement, if any, that will materialize.

The midfield is easily Arsenal’s strongest department with an avalanche of quality players all in there. For the first time in a long while, Arsene Wenger can have a Plan B, C and even Plan D – that’s how many options he’s got. He can play varying formations and will definitely keep his opponents guessing as to how he files his team out every weekend. Santi Carzola will prove his mettle in England – he could turn out to be the best signing of this summer. Alongside Mikel Arteta and Alex Song in midfield, Arsenal no doubt are in good hands. Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Abou Diaby and not forgetting Thomas Rosicky are all players who can hold their own if called upon. Jack Wilshere returns in October and it’s going to be one big headache for Arsene Wenger trying to keep all these players happy.

In attack, looking forward to seeing how much Theo Walcott will step this season. Watch out for Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain – the young Englishman no doubt is potential filled but with the array of quality players around him, I doubt he will get many chances – I hope i’m wrong. Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski all have goals written over them and should do well in their first season in England. Gervinho must deliver on the promises he showed in his first season in England or be regarded as a flop signing.

I can’t remember the last time Arsenal had such depth in their squad. Gone are the days you could recite the name of Arsenal’s Starting-XI in your sleep, even Arsene Wenger must be having sleepless nights trying to fathom his best 11.

OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: Arsenal are third favourites for the Premier League title in my books. I don’t think they’d win it though. A third-place finish looks the best they can muster.