At one point last season, it genuinely felt like Arsenal had a decent chance of competing with Chelsea for the Premier League title. Early season form and injuries hindered them but given the lack of injuries this summer and the addition of Petr Cech, many are now firmly tipping the Gunners for success. If they do, it will be a first league title in 12 years.
Last Season: Premier League (3rd)
Manager: Arsene Wenger
GKs: David Ospina, Emiliano Martinez, Petr Cech
DFs: Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin
MFs: Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini, Francis Coquelin, Jeff Reine Adelaide
FWs: Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Joel Campbell, Alex Iwobi
In: Jeff Reine Adelaide (Lens), Yassin Fortune (Lens), Vlad Drogomir (Poli Timisoara), Petr Cech (Chelsea), Ismael Bennacer (Arles)
Out: Abou Diaby (Marseille), Ryo Miyaichi (St. Pauli), Semi Ajayi (Cardiff City), Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (Swindon Town), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), George Dobson (West Ham United), Jonatas Centeno (Sheffield Wednesday), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Ipswich Town – Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham United – Loan), Yaya Sanogo (Ajax – Loan), Wojciech Szczesny (AS Roma – Loan), Jon Toral (Birmingham City – Loan), Dan Crowley (Barnsley – Loan), Isaac Hayden (Hull City – Loan), Chuba Akpom (Hull City – Loan), Serge Gnabry (West Brom – Loan)
First Six: West Ham United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Liverpool (H), Newcastle United (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-2-3-1) Cech – Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal – Coquelin, Cazorla – Ramsey, Ozil, Chamberlain – Walcott
A word from…Terry Neill
On the feeling of optimism You look through your squad and try and believe you’ve got a chance. They’ve got a very good squad, the Cech signing is very good and it’s going to be a big season for all of them. Jack Wilshere’s got another knock but it will be a big season for players like him, the defence and the goalscoring ability of Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott.
There are rumours of another forward coming in, Benzema is the quiet rumour going around and allegedly he has an injury at the moment, we’ll find out in time if that’s true. The real test starts on Sunday against West Ham, the expectation will be huge. That’s the way football is, the club had a good pre-season but like last year it will mean nothing if they don’t get off to a good start.
On Petr Cech I brought Pat Jennings to Arsenal when people thought he was past it and he was superb for me, I’d played with him and I was close to him so I knew him and he was fantastic.
When you bring a player like that in, someone like Cech, I cast my mind back to the day I signed Pat, the players were extremely happy to see someone like him come in and the back four got to know him very well. It’s important for them and I think that’s why they were happy because it was great to have such a man like Pat playing behind them and it should be the same with Petr Cech.
On further strengthening There’s no doubt at all that Arsenal are going to be contenders this season, more seriously than for many years. I would suspect at the moment that Arsene Wenger is looking at everything, not just the league or the FA Cup, but Europe too.
That would be a very positive start to the season if Arsenal get off to a good start on all fronts, I don’t think it should be taken as a given that we’ll beat West Ham, they’ve had a crazy pre-season schedule but the players will be match fit, despite the fact they’ve been all across Europe and back. I think it’s crazy though, especially before the start of the season.
On pre-season importance Arsenal have handled their pre-season very well, there will have been a lot of input from Wenger and others at the club to tailor it as they wish. You can’t read too much into the results, Wenger had an extremely difficult situation a year ago with injuries and players coming back from the World Cup.
Alexis was a magnificent addition to the football club and he’s busting a gut now even just to try and be ready for Sunday, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. They’ll rein him back a little because this is the first break he’s had for several years! They’ve had no serious injuries bar an issue for Jack but they’ve got a lot of strength in depth now to go and challenge.
On the psychological barrier I’m absolutely sure that confidence and mentality is growing, Arsenal have struggled with that in recent years but they also had many years watching the bank balance with the new stadium and it was difficult for Wenger to be telling star players to be patient, very few clubs do that and everything Arsene and the board have done since the move from Highbury are now being vindicated, it’s just taken a while.
Forget my allegiance, I’d love to see them sweep the board because they’ve taken an intelligent view to the whole situation, they’ve replaced key players and they’ve had the ability to keep the club fighting whilst balancing the books, they’re the best run football club in the world!
On challengers Chelsea will be there, there’s no more pragmatic person than Mourinho, he’s a great coach and he’s proved it. Manchester United, well we’ll all be interested to see how the expenditure there works out.
I had a great affinity through knowing Sir Matt Busby and then George Best and Harry Gregg for Northern Ireland who I coached and it appears now that they’re searching for a quick fix rather than what they used to do. I’m not the only one who has said that either, but I don’t think one team will run away with it this season. Last season it was just a question of who was going to be 2nd, 3rd and 4th but this year it will be a lot closer.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: The bridesmaids, once again. If all clicks and Karim Benzema arrives, that opinion may change, but Chelsea just know how to win and Arsenal know how to implode. Mourinho’s men will grind out results and Arsenal might still be a little short at the back. Still, 2nd place would be improvement once again.
Key Player: Mesut Ozil – Alexis may have been superb in his first season, but Ozil really grew into the Arsenal side after a difficult first 18 months. Played more often now in his central role, the German should spark into life completely in his third season.
One to Watch: Jeff Reine Adelaide – A really easy target given his performances in the Emirates Cup, but Wenger’s insistence that the teenager will stay with the first team will give encouragement to him regarding his opportunities.