Arsenal will win the league and here is why.
Transfer dealings abound, season tickets purchased and fan shirts printed up with the latest names to grace the Barclays Premier league keep the ball rolling as the 20 English teams of the top flight and the millions of football fans around the world gear up for the start of the new season. And Arsenal will win it.
The current champions Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and the returning force that is Manchester United will all be there or thereabouts but it will be the renewed vigor of the mighty Arsenal that will lead Arsene Wenger and his red and white army to the title this time around.
Stability - “Rome wasn’t built in a day”
The stir around the red side of North London could be heard bubbling away for some time, whilst ‘the 10 year plan’ we’ve all come to know much about came to the boil last season, when Arsenal announced the signing of a truly world class player. Fans rejoiced as the Wenger ‘Boo boys’ retreated into the darkest areas of the Emirates stadium, when the £42M arrival of German Galactico Mezut Ozil from Real Madrid, signified an intent that had long been missing from an Arsenal side that promised so much but delivered so little. Arsenal, were spending money!
Last season it was only the juggernaut that is Manchester United that reaped more income from its gate receipts at Old Trafford as Arsenal brought in around £100M for the season at its 60 thousand-seat Emirates stadium. The gunners also came third in the premier league’s cash payments for the 2013/14 season earning a reported £94M. An increase of £35M from the previous year.
Having moved into a better financial position, largely due to the boards astute control over their repayments made to finance the building of the Emirates stadium and even more money coming in this season thanks to an improved lucrative T.V rights deal as well as a new kit sponsor with Puma (£30M a year for five years), Arsenal now have the means to compete in an ever increasingly more expensive transfer market.
Secure financial plan
Coupling a secure financial plan to keep the books balanced (the Emirates stadium debt won’t be paid off completely until 2031) with the tenure of one of the best managers in the world gives Arsenal a strong foundation on which to build its title challenge now that FFP is here.
It took Brendan Rodgers a whole season to fully get to grips with his new role at Liverpool FC and ring in the changes needed to mount a title challenge at Anfield. Manchester United’s appointment of David Moyes made headlines for all the wrong reasons, whilst Manchester City’s policy of changing its managers proves to work for them but in stark relation is a flawed concept for Daniel Levy’s Spurs.
Chelsea meanwhile failed to win any silverware with their reappointment of Jose Mourinho, which somewhat tarnished the return of the ‘special one’ but at least provided a quippy remark from Arsenals very own Yaya Sanogo when he reminded the now ‘happy one’ of just how long it had been since Arsenal won a trophy moments after lifting the FA Cup in retaliation to comments the Blues boss made about Arsene Wenger ‘specializing in failure’.
Manchester United’s relentless run of success under one manager has shown that stability at a football club can produce the desired results and with Arsene Wenger having renewed his contract to stay with the gunners until May 2017 this stable force could be about to dominate for the foreseeable future!
Transfers – ‘If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’
By all accounts Arsenal have moved quickly in the transfer market to strengthen in the areas that needed it. Whilst the club lost FA Cup winning goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski to Swansea City on a free and right-back Bacary Sagna to the current league champions also on a free, they did however replace the two players with international signings in Mathieu Debuchy (£12M) and David Ospina (£3.5M).
They also received £15M for former club captain Thomas Vermaelen earlier this week as he exited for the Camp Nou and joined Barcelona. Add that sum to the money that was already ‘in the bank’ and Arsene Wenger has shown his willingness to spend on the right type of player with Calum Chambers (£16M) and Alexis Sanchez (£35M) joining the squad this summer.
Last season it could be argued that the wheels only came off the Arsenal bus when injuries piled up and left the squad depleted. At one point the same starting 11 were beginning every single game. Whilst some may still think the team needs a new defensive midfielder, central defender and the goals return of a truly world class striker it could be the familiarity of a side with only a few special additions that makes Wenger his best team.
‘If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ may be true to some extent and at the beginning of last season it was largely noted that Arsenal were perhaps the only team capable of winning the league that had remained the most stable during a transfer window that saw many rival teams reap huge overhauls in personnel.
The 2012/13 premier league champions Manchester United found out, a winning formula can be very hard to repeat with little change as they produced one of their worst ever seasons, dropping out of the top four and failure to qualify for European football. But under the continuing guidance of Wenger it seemed that his withdrawal to change and diversify an already well-gelled squad would work for the Arsenal, not against them.
Such is the romance of the beautiful game and whilst the arrival of Mesut Ozil was seen as the saving grace for an emerging Arsenal team, it would be exactly the lack of cover in certain positions throughout the year that would hinder Arsenals hopes of a first premier league win since 2004.
To their credit Arsenal spent most of last season at the top of the table but were unfortunate to lose the services of some big players at very key times of the year. Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Abou Diaby were all absent from the side when Arsenal needed them most.
Avoiding injuries key
The injury list crippled any chances of Arsenal winning the league as the obligatory implosion commenced. But now with the team familiarity, players returning from injury stronger and new signings, Arsenal fans can now begin to believe they finally have a squad capable of maintaining a title charge to glory.
Goals win games and there were over 1000 of them in 2013/14. By all accounts it wasn’t a vintage year with Arsenal only bagging 68 goals in total. They managed 72 the year before that, which still looks pretty dire in comparison to the free scoring Manchester City and Liverpool sides who each bagged 102 and 101 respectively in 2013/14. Arsenal did however top the table for clean sheets, 16, so if they’re going to be serious contenders then they’ll need to score more goals.
The man charged with that responsibility is Olivier Giroud and whilst a stunning 30 yard strike found the net against Manchester City to win the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday (10th August) the Frenchman was found wanting midway through the season last year when the weight became to much to bare on his own. Enter Alexis Sanchez; the former Barcelona attacker is the second big money acquisition in the new money era at Arsenal.
Sanchez, who scored 39 goals in 88 appearances from a wide position for Barcelona will be expected to lighten the load up front and with ‘king of the assists’ Mesut Ozil providing the ammunition it looks like normal service will be resumed.
Silverware - Winning is a habit
If winning is a habit then the current crop of Arsenal stars seem to have developed an obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to winning silverware. No fewer than 3 months after lifting the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium have they done it again this time beating Manchester City to the Community Shield. It might be labeled, as a glorified friendly but there’s no doubt that lifting trophies breeds a successful mindset.
Arsene Wenger has always urged his team and the fans alike to ‘believe’ but back in 2011 when a young Arsenal side comically lost out to Birmingham City in the league cup final it was evident that such a catastrophe in the master blue print for success damaged the psyche of the team. Players not only questioned themselves but also questioned the club and where it was heading.
Some players left to go and play with other title winning sides because that’s what some players do to achieve success. Robin van Persie chose to jump ship because ‘the little boy’ inside him told him to. But those that have stayed and shown some true Arsenal spirit, none more so than Aaron Ramsey who has come back from his horrific broken leg to become one of the team’s most important players, are having the last laugh.
Fast-paced attacking football
Gone are the days of buying low to sell high. Gone are the days of relying on young talent as a make shift to replace the world-class experience needed to compete with the best. Mesut Ozil can be seen as the poster boy for the way forward and level of player Arsenal can now attract. The arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona emphasises Arsene Wenger’s intent to employ fast paced attacking football but now with the world-class nametag and hopefully the results to match it.
The great trophy drought that characterized the Gunners as the laughing stock of the top 4 is over. In an era of flamboyant football that produced no rewards and the creation of a phantom ‘top four trophy’ jibe at Wenger his men, from other clubs fans, the wait has passed and a new era has begun.