Could this be the year we see Arsenal claim a league title for the first time in 11 years? One competitive match into the season and the London club has already shutout the reigning champs and brought home the FA Community Shield. Two straight FA Cup titles have shown that the Gunners have a squad strong enough to bring home silverware, but is it a squad that can last throughout the grueling 38-game campaign?
Arsene Wenger isn’t usually a manager to splash a lot of cash in the transfer window unless he truly believes a player is going to make an impact in his squad. That’s exactly what he will get with the club’s newest keeper Petr Cech. The 33-year-old saw his starting position at Chelsea handed to 23-year-old Thibault Courtois last season after more than 300 appearances with the Blues and countless trophies over his 11-year stint with the club. The move to the Emirates guarantees the aging legend consistent first team soccer while also still providing him the chance to compete for titles. Former Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard has backed the keeper to instantly increase Arsenal’s chances of claiming the league title. Cech takes the reigns from David Ospina and it’s unclear whether or not the Colombian will remain in the squad after being moved to the number two spot. In Cech, Arsenal now has a proven winner in their squad and a strong composed presence in between the pipes.
Last year, Alexis Sanchez took the Premier League by storm in his first season with the Gunners. The former-Barcelona winger immediately settled into life in London and the trademark physicality that the English league brings. The Chilean led the team in goals with 16, and nearly grabbed the team lead in assists with eight (just three behind Santi Carzola). Sanchez’s pace, creativity and pure strength makes him an invaluable piece of Arsenal’s attack and if he can avoid a sophomore slump, he has a real chance to repeat as the club’s top scorer. A successful Copa América could give the 26-year-old the momentum to hit the season running, and if that’s the case title contenders beware.
In the center of the park, Arsenal have one of the deepest midfields in the league. On a weekly basis, Arsene Wenger gets to choose between the Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, and Santi Carzola just to name a few. This glut of world-class talent in this position has allowed the club to play a crowd-pleasing style of soccer with creative passing and possession. As the chemistry between the players continues to increase, this attractive playing style can only improve and become even more dangerous. I’m not saying that Arsenal will be on par with the style of a club like Barcelona, but I do believe that they will be one of the best, if not the best at creating beautiful goals in the league.
When it comes to the striker position, however, some fans believe that the Gunners lack the big name necessary to win the league. Right now, there are three forwards that consistently compete for playing time: Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, and Theo Walcott. Out of those three, Giroud had the most goals last season with 14, but in the Community Shield and at the end of last season, Walcott looked to be Wenger’s preferred choice up front. The pacey English attacker managed five goals in an injury-shortened season, but he doesn’t offer the aerial threat that Welbeck and Giroud can bring to the team. Welbeck, the former Manchester United man, showed flickers of his scoring ability last season, but the consistency wasn’t quite there. Could a full preseason with the Gunners provide Welbeck with the chemistry needed to be Wenger’s number one striker? As these three continue to battle it out for the starting spot, it’s important to note that there is still time left in the transfer window for the club to bring in a big name forward (e.g. Alexandre Lacazette, Karim Benzema).
The talent that Arsenal have brought into the club in the past seasons looks ready to end this long title drought. Players like Ozil, Sanchez and Cech provide the star quality that was once missing from this storied team, and I think they have the potential to beat any team in the league on their day. Look for the Gunners to have a spectacular season.