Ah, August has finally dawned upon us. The month where millions of football fans around the world wait for to come after approximately 3 miserable months in the doldrums. And, how miserable have they been.
But, fear not, as the new season promises a whole lot more excitement, drama, anguish, and joy. Here are 10 things Arsenal fans can look forward to next season.
10) Deadwood Being Cleared
For quite some time, Arsenal bloggers have been using this new term ‘deadwood’. Coined by Gooners? Probably. While there have been countless moans over some of the players at the club, it looks like Arsene Wenger will finally heed to our demands, and get rid of the non-performing band of players. Sebastien Squillaci, Niklas Bendtner, Park Chu-Young all look like they are headed for the exit door, which has already been shut behind by Manuel Almunia and Carlos Vela. Such moves have happened after the club’s wage structure was ruthlessly dissected and analysed by the Arsenal blogosphere, and football pundits at large. This means there would be a change in the wage hierarchy, meaning better performers get better pays, and will also help us keep the better players at the club. The improved contracts signed by Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen are proof to that. Moreover, negotiations are ongoing for improved deals for Theo Walcott and Alex Song.
9) Majestic Emirates’ Crowds
Watching from over 5000 miles away, I could still feel the absolutely buzzing atmosphere of the Emirates, whilst sitting at home. Though it was a trying season, where we went from losing 8-2 to Manchester United to beating Tottenham, Liverpool and Milan in a row, it was a season which really united all Arsenal fans and lend their voice to the Arsenal cause. Fans staying back at Old Trafford to sing songs, the crackling atmospheres against Tottenham and Milan, the explosion in the crowd, when Thomas Vermaelen scored that last gasp winner against Newcastle, were all hair-raising experiences. All the wonderful and innovative banners around the arena, too have contributed to build a Highbury like atmosphere at Ashburton Grove. Seems like all the ‘Arsenalisation’ has paid off.
8) New Kids on the Block
Arsene Wenger will again use the platform of the Carling Cup to blood the new generation of young players into the first team. A competition which has seen numerous past and present Arsenal players rise up the ranks like Fabregas, van Persie, Song, Senderos, Gibbs, Wlshere, Denilson, Bendtner etc will be witness to a new group of players like Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke, Ignasi Miquel, Nico Yennaris, Kyle Bartley, Ryo Miyaichi etc making the massive step up.
7) A Stronger Midfield
New signings, injuries, suspensions and departures meant that Arsenal had an ever-changing midfield throughout the season. The arrivals on Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun, along with Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky helped settle the midfield eventually as the Gunners finished the season with a flourish. Youngtsers like Francis Coquelin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shone in their first full season with the club, while others such as Emmanuel Frimpong and Jack Wilshere will slowly be blooded in, when fully fit. Aaron Ramsey, despite all his struggles is a hugely promising midfielder, and bigger things will be expected of him. And, dare I say, we can finally see Abou Diaby keeping fit through the course of the season. New signings are still expected, with continental talents Cazorla and Sahin having been linked. We can finally dream of having a world class midfield.
6) Defensive Solidity
We may have shipped 49 goals last season, but Arsene Wenger could be on the threshold of building his best defence since the days of Cole-Campbell-Toure-Lauren. Arsenal has 3 world class centre-backs in Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker. Johan Djourou isn’t a bad fourth choice defender either. Towards the end of last season, we got to see how well Koscielny and Vermaelen can gel together, and it will be vital to Arsenal’s cause next season, that the two up their game. Problems do remain on the flanks, with Kieran Gibbs, Andre Santos and Bacary Sagna, all being injury-prone, but if everyone can remain fit, we have a good enough defence, to challenge for top honors. The appointment of Steve Bould as assistant coach, too will help the defence in organisation and tenacity.
5) Vermaelen’s Captaincy
I have always believed defenders and defensive midfielders make the most vocal and the best captains. History too supports the fact. Most Premier League winning captains have been defenders or defensive midfielders. Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, John Terry, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic and of course Vincent Kompany. Vermaelen, unlike van Persie, reiterated his desire to stay at Arsenal, by signing a new contract with minimum fuss, and has brushed aside any talk of him moving to Barcelona. Many consider his command in the team, tough tackling and ability to score vital goals, have led him to being handed the captain’s armband. Let’s all hope he doesn’t fall pray to the armband curse.
4) Return of Jack Wilshere
Would last season have been different had Jack Wilshere been fit. I think yes. Wilshere proved to be an indispensable part of the team in the short span of a season. And, with the departures of Fabrgeas and Nasri, all onus would fall on the young Englishman’s shoulders. Unfortunately for him, he suffered an injury in a pre-season game, and has been out for a year, and is slated to return only in October. His box-to-box movement, tireless running, vision and passing ability would be immense to any team. We can all hope he will return to revitalize the midfield.
3) More Attacking Options
When Thierry Henry left for Barcelona in 2007, we got to see a very different Arsenal side. One that would relentlessly attack, and with numerous goalscorers. Adebayor led the line with 30 goals, Fabregas 13, Eduardo 12, van Persie 9, Bendtner 9 etc. Arsenal played a very expansive style of football, and everything was not channeled to Thierry Henry, like it had been in the previous two seasons. Will we see more of the same, now that van Persie looks all set to leave. The arrivals of Podolski and Giroud have fortified the options up front, while Gervinho was delightful in pre-season. Theo Walcott, though frustrating at times, had his most productive campaigns last year. With signings like Cazorla and Sahin expected soon, could we be seeing a new dynamic attacking force in the coming season?
2) New Signings
Let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than new signings at the club that keep us buzzing through the summer. Fortunately lessons have been learnt, and we have signed two premier strikers, in the form of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Podolski is expected to play on the left hand side of attack, whilst Giroud is set to replace van Persie in a more central attacking role. If we can seal the deal for Malaga’s Santi Cazorla, I do not see any reason why we shouldn’t challenge for top honors next season. Cazorla is the kind of midfielder, who can play anywhere across midfield, but his strength lies in playing just behind the strikers. Another signing expected in coming days is Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid, who is a more Arteta-type player, who can hold the ball up well and dictate the tempo of games.
1) A trophy, perhaps?
It has been 7 years now since I last bragged about Arsenal winning silverware, and I do miss those moments. Coaches, players and the manager have long awaited success, and Arsenal fans are desperate for some. Maybe, the Champions League is too hard for now, we may come close in the Premier League, but the FA Cup and the League Cup are realistic targets. Good team spirit, a bit of luck, some aggressiveness, a lot of flair, and vocal support may just win us something. Let’s hope for the best.
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