English Premier League Midseason Report: Arsenal

| by World Soccer Reader

39 (12-5-3)
Preseason Prediction: 3rd
Accuracy: Bingo
Preseason overview:
It really looks like more of the same for Arsenal, doesn’t it? The Gunners are very good, will have days when they pass people to death, and will have days when they pass themselves to death. They will have trouble with direct teams, and then Wenger will complain to the press about it. It’s all been pretty predictable for Arsenal over the last couple of seasons.

One thing people tend to forget, though, is that Arsenal was right there with Chelsea and Manchester United for most of last season, and were hurt by not only Robin van Persie’s injury, but maybe more so by Cesc Fabregas’, one that came at the worst possible time for the Gunners. Theo Walcott should be better, they’ll score plenty of spectacular goals, but I think that – as they have in the last five campaigns – Arsenal will come up just short of the top two.

Overview now:

Not much has changed in Arsenal’s world, although with the point totals of the leaders unusually low, Arsenal may be feeling that this might be the year they can return to the league summit. They can put a lineup with more attacking talent than anyone on the field with Fabregas, van Persie, Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin, Theo Walcott, Marouane Chamakh, you want me to keep going? They score some of the finest goals in the Premier League and have been a lot tougher this season, as if out to prove that they won’t be bullied around. Not a bad motivational strategy for Arsene Wenger to employ, actually.

But, and I’ve posed this question before this season: can you win a title with Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci as your center backs? Well, Johan Djourou has replaced Squillaci of late, and Djourou has been a pretty good improvement, actually, and Thomas Vermaelen may eventually return to bolster things further. We’re left where we were at the beginning of the season, Arsenal are close, but they’re not quite there.

Preseason best new signing:
Marouane Chamakh – The Moroccan hasn’t been spectacular, but he was brought in to score goals and he has managed to tally 7 so far this season. He gets so much power on his headers, even without much pace to work with, which makes him extremely dangerous with all the possession Arsenal tends to accrue week in and week out. Wenger has taken a look at Nicklas Bendtner in the last couple of games, which means Chamakh might not get quite as much time on the field in the second half of the season, but he’ll still be a significant contributor.

Preseason key player:
Cesc Fabregas – Again, the injuries have limited him slightly (13 appearances), and he hasn’t been quite as productive as he has been in the past couple of seasons with 3 goals and 7 assists. But he’s still the guy that makes things go for Arsenal, and when he’s on, there’s no better passer of the ball in the Premiership. If he can regain his top form, and not have one eye on joining Barcelona in the summer, he may be the difference in Arsenal finally regaining the league title.

Key player now:
Theo Walcott – He’s scored 5 goals despite the fact that he’s only made 5 league starts (he’s come off the bench 7 other times). Wenger has to play him more in the season’s second half, doesn’t he? I know he can be a little soft at times (he has yet to commit a foul this season), but he has the pace and skill to score at any time, and that’s not a luxury even Arsenal can leave on the bench forever. Well, maybe they can.

Inside the numbers:
9 – Number of assists Andrei Arshavin has in the league this season, not bad for a guy who has not really been in great form. What will happen if he catches fire? What will happen if all Arsenal’s guys get healthy and hot at the same time?
They have the attacking talent to win the league, but they’ll probably drop enough points by conceding soft goals to finish just out of the top spot. Again.
Prediction: 3rd