Can Arsenal win the Premier League?
Ever since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal have been sensational. Ten consecutive wins in all competitions have seen Arsenal rise to the top of their Champions League group and top of the Premier League. The big question has been whether this has been just a temporary rich vein of form, or a sign that Arsenal could challenge, and potentially win, the Premier League.
Arsenal were written off by the vast majority of football pundits before the start of the season, with most predicting Arsenal to again struggle to maintain Champions League, in much the same way as last season went. Following the defeat to Villa in August, Arsenal teetered on the edge of a real crisis; as sections of the Emirates Crowd went into open revolt against the Board and Wenger’s perceived lack of ambition, and lack of spending. The turnaround from despondence to buoyance has been dramatic, and can be largely attributed to events on the evening of Deadline Day.
The £42.5m Signing of Mesut Ozil is worth far more to Arsenal than just his impact on the pitch, as phenomenal as Ozil’s form has been. It sends a message to the Arsenal players, the Arsenal fans and the rest of Football that Arsenal mean business again. This is the first time that Arsenal have signed a truly World Class player since the signing of Dennis Bergkamp in 1995, and the effect on Arsenal’s reputation and standing as a top-level club has been seriously enhanced as a direct result.
On the field, Ozil gives Arsenal the best playmaker in the world, who has eclipsed even Andres Iniesta in goals and assists over the past three years, and turns Arsenal’s midfield into an embarrassment of riches; it is worth remembering that most of Arsenal’s good results have been achieved without Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla. Any world-class striker (widely regarded as the missing link in Arsenal’s team) looking for a new club in the summer is going to view Arsenal as a team that has some of the best supply to the striker in Europe, and a club that has serious ambition.
Another signing which could prove a masterstroke this year is that of Mathieu Flamini in Central Midfield. Having played at Arsenal before, he has instantly taken up the role of the Midfield General, barking out orders at set pieces and keeping Arsenal solid in the defensive side of midfield, which has been one of Arsenal’s biggest weaknesses in recent years. Flamini provides a vital bit of experience and know-how which every top team has to have to compete in the Premier League. Only Mikel Arteta has a comparable amount of experience in the Arsenal Midfield, and their influence is going to be crucial if Arsenal are to maintain a title challenge into the Spring.
Equally important as the experienced players will be Arsenal’s young players, and whether they can step up and produce the level of consistency required by a title-winning side. Player such as Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud need to show that they have the determined winning mentality, consistency and quality required to win the Premier League. The importance of showing those qualities is doubly true of Arsenal’s defence, where defensive lapses have cost Arsenal chances at silverware in the past, and Arsenal have very little depth, especially when it comes to Central defence; Mertesacker and Koscielny are going to have to regularly grind out clean sheets, whatever the opposition.
So, can Arsenal win the Premier League? Whilst serious question marks remain over their squad depth both in defence and attack, If Arsenal continue to show this kind of form all season (and key players stay free of injury) there’s nothing in Arsenal’s team which is dramatically worse then Chelsea or Manchester City. And Arsenal have one thing which nobody else does: Wenger, who has orchestrated Arsenal’s return to a title-challenging team on a small budget, and whilst still bringing through young talent.