The press and radio are having another field day with Arsenal, writing about our demise before a ball has been kicked. The rationale behind this theory is we haven’t spent any money so we will struggle to qualify for the Europa League, never mind the Champions League.
Well let’s look at this matter in detail.
If Clichy and Sagna can rediscover their form of two years ago, once more we will have a solid defence. Wenger has strengthened the defence with the signing of Vermaelen and if Toure leaves, then he will add one more defender.
In midfield the key is not the “holding” player, but Fabregas. If Fabregas starts to tick from day one, so will the rest of the team. In Denilson, Song and Diaby Wenger has three players who should compliment Fabregas, but is Cesc does not find form then we will suffer.
In the attacking third of the field we have the most attacking players and option available than any other club in the Premier League. Commentators ignore the return of Rosicky and Eduardo, they do not realise what these two players will bring to the team. In addition we will Arshavin for the whole season. This player is a winner and possesses the ability to unlock some of the packed defences we will encounter at the Emirates. Wenger has a wealth of riches to choose from in terms of attackers, van Persie, Eduardo, Bendtner, Vela, Arshavin, Walcott, Nasri, Rosicky and Wilshere.
Now let’s look at our rivals.
Liverpool have added Johnson, period. They could lose one if not both of Alonso and Maschareno this week and they are so reliant on the goals of Gerrard and Torres that they are two long term injuries away from Premier League mid-table football.
Manchester United have lost Tevez and Ronaldo and Fergie has been riled by Manchester City. He is worried be cause he realises that despite the goals that Owen has scored in friendlies they count for nothing once the season begins. Ronaldo scored 25 goals last season and countless assists, where are they going to come from this season? Fergie has his wings clipped in terms of spending money this season and does not like it.
Chelsea are as always stable and will one or two players. Their biggest problems are the age of the squad and Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti is Roman’s pick and the previous manager chosen by the boss failed, furthermore Ancelotti has won only one league trophy in all his years in Italy.
There are as always several pretenders. Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Tottenham are stuck in a vicious circle of buying plenty of mediocre players, overpaying them and not able to sell them on.
Everton have no money and Moyes will cobble together a challenge for the Europa League, but Everton are traditional slow starters to their league campaign.
Aston Villa have lost a key midfielder and replaced him with an over-rated winger who has a broken leg. Their season went pear-shape the moment they bought Heskey.
Manchester City are the biggest challengers, but Hughes did not show last season that he can get a group of players to gel together. City at one stage flirted with relegation. It will take one or two bad results and the Cit bubbler will burst with the likes of Tevez and Adebayor complaining about spending too much time on the bench.
I do not believe or listen to the doom and gloom mongers. Wenger will strengthen the team but we are not far off challenging for the league, we need to find form early this season and start to score goals from all over the place then we will challenge and plent y of pundits will have to eat their own words.
Newspaper and website talk is heating up over the news that Arsenal and not Liverpool could be the destination of Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry. Barry was subject of massive speculation last summer, but Liverpool were not prepared to pay £18 million for the England midfielder.
Aston Villa will reluctantly let Barry leave after they reached a gentleman’s agreement last summer whereby if Villa failed to qualify for the Champions League, they would listen to offers and reduce their asking price. Liverpool, who last season were looking at selling Xabi Alonso to finance such a move, are reluctant to let Alonso leave this summer.
Last summer Wenger made tentative noises about Barry, but £18 million was too steep a price. Now a season on and with Barry having 12 months left on his contract, the price appears to be in the £10m – £12m bracket. At 28 years of age, Barry will have no resale value which has always been an important Wenger criteria when buying players, yet we let Edu, Wiltord and Kanu all leave on a Bosman.
Having dipped into the “senior transfer” market with the acquisition of Arshavin and seen the success and transformation that the Russian had on the team Wenger could be tempted with a bid for Barry.
Wenger acknowledges that our defensive department needs strengthening and Barry is the ideal candidate. He is strong, industrious, will work box-to-box, scores goals, will not shirk tackles, is a leader, has premiership experience and is hungry for success. Barry will be able to guide Denilson, Diaby and Ramsey to the next level. He will complement Cesc’s skills and will protect our defence.
Wenger should not hesitate; he should make contact with Aston Villa straight away and let his intentions be known publicly, this will force Barry into demanding a move from Villa.
First it was Agbonlahor who started mouthing off as to Aston Villa beating Arsenal to 4th place in the league. He pointed out to the series of games we had and said we will drop points and Villa will consolidate their 4th place.
He was right we did drop points against Everton, Tottenham, Sunderland, West Ham and Fulham. This was a bad period for us, but not as bad as the period that followed for Villa, They lost to Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United as well as drawing at home to Stoke City. They through a potential 8 point lead into a 6 point deficit and their goal difference as plummeted.
Now it’s the turn of Petrov to start crowing. He claims that Arsenal will collapse like Villa purely because we face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. He ignores the fact that we have a squad and team to match any of those three and we are merely 6 points away from Chelsea. He also fails to look at their next few games against Everton, Bolton and West Ham.
In fact Everton are 1 point behind Villa and if they beat them on Saturday it will be Everton pushing us for a Champions League spot not Villa.
Maybe the Villa players should focus on securing points first before they start bleating about Champions League spots.
Arsenal need to start to score, once we remember what to do with the ball and stop trying to over-elaborate we can turn our 0-0s into 1-0 or 2-0 wins. This needs to start with tomorrow’s visit to bottom of the table WBA. A victory at the Hawthorns will temporarily close the gap on Villa to three points. Our form of recent weeks has been nothing to write home, but Tuesday night is a massive night that will decide not only what happens this season, but also what direction Arsenal Football Club takes in the future. Villa travel to Manchester City the following night, Man City have a terrible away record, but are a hard outfit to beat at home. Aston Villa have hit a bad patch recently, losing to Chelsea and drawing with Stoke City, both at home, whilst they have been knocked out of the UEFA Cup and FA Cup.
Our next league game sees us facing Blackburn Rovers at home. They will not come and surrender, we will have to fight for every ball in that game. By the Blackburn game Walcott, Eduardo and Adebayor will be a back, whilst our captain Fabregas will be close to first team football. We play Blackburn on 14 March, whilst our enemy, Tottenham, visit Villa Park the next day. Spurs will be fighting for survival, it will be hard, but most fans will be urging Spurs to take points from Aston Villa that day.
Our next appointment with destiny sees us visit St James’ Park. Newcastle is a team in disarray, never has there been an opportunity to visit the northeast and claim all three points. Nothing else will do. Once again, Aston Villa play the following day, this time they visit Anfield.
To stand a chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season we need to win all three games, we play before Villa on all three occasions, taking three points every time will add pressure on Villa, only then will we see if they have character to withstand that pressure and come through unscathed. No game is easy in the Premier League, but the next three fixtures give me cause for optimism that Villa will drop enough points for us to be ahead of them by the end of March.