Football

Arsenal: Still not Premier League title contenders?

Ramsey has excelled for Arsenal this season (©GettyImages)
Ramsey has excelled for Arsenal this season (©GettyImages).

While Manchester City and Chelsea have been tipped to the Premier League by most pundits and bookies, it is Arsenal who lead the league by a five point margin after 10 games.

Last season's squad has been improved with the resurgence of Aaron Ramsey and the emergence of Mesut Özil - the club's record signing.

With goals like that of Jack Wilshere vs Norwich playing testament to the attacking talent present in their squad, you couldn't be faulted for thinking that Arsenal's title drought is soon coming to and end.

However, one stumbling block remains: Arsenal's squad is still desperately short of depth.

Around Christmas time, a team playing in three competitions, like the London club will, can see key players nursing injuries.

At this point in the season, the real title contenders will benefit from the cover they have on the bench, which enables them to rotate and replace players at will.

Chelsea have already been a prime example of a team in which the manager can tinker with his starting eleven without risking results going against his team.

Arsene Wenger has 15 players capable of playing across the five midfield positions and the fierce competition has brought the best out of his players.

Arsenal's midfield may be able to stomach the odd injury and indeed, they have been able to cope with the absences of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Lukas Podolski. 

However, neither the defence nor the attack could handle such an influx of absentees.

At the back, Arsenal have finally found what looks to be a harmonious back four in Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs.

The left-back position is adequately covered, with Nacho Monreal offering healthy competition. While Carl Jenkinson is not the best of right-backs, Sagna remains a reliable hard worker.

The real problem is the centre-back pairing, with only the out of form ex-captain Thomas Vermaelen as back up in this position.

Johan Djorou and Ignasi Miquel are both out on loan, with the former never looking like he had what it takes to succeed in the Premier League and the latter perhaps promising but not yet ready.

Sagna has deputised in the centre back position, but this again means that there is no cover in case of an injury to Jenkinson.

It is curious that Wenger did not jump at the opportunity to recruit Adel Rami, who after falling out of favour at Valencia, has agreed to join AC Milan in January.

Ashley Williams was also mooted as a potential transfer target, but the unwillingness to meet Swansea's relatively fair asking price for their captain speaks volumes about Wenger's priorities.

Olivier Giroud has been excelling at leading the line this season, offering strength, aerial ability, distribution, and plenty of goals so far.

However, considering the only other strikers in the squad are an injury prone 20 years-old, the entirely unconvincing Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal fans must surely worry about Giroud's health.

All three aforementioned options are a disaster in the waiting, with Bendtner showing no improvement on his past antics during his first start of the season in the Capital One Cup.

Of course, Walcott and Podolski can deputise as No.9, but they both do not offer the threat that Giroud carries.

The France international's aerial ability in particular has given Arsenal a new side to their attacking play.

With these thoughts in mind, it is hard to see Arsenal contending for a title this season.

On the other hand, the team spirit, chemistry and form they have displayed so far mean that winning something seems likelier than ever.

For all their current brilliance, Arsenal will not contend fully at the top until their substitution bench holds players that can change the game and fully replace injured team mates.

However, if, and only if, Arsenal keep key players fully fit and have a handful of luck, they might just get their hands on the elusive silverware they desire.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Arsenal

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