Next season will be the 10th anniversary of the ‘Invincibles’ undefeated run in the Premier league and Arsene Wenger believes that Arsenal will be good enough to do it again. Wenger, 63, has again insisted he would honour his contract until 2014, saying he that would be very happy to stay on if he felt he was doing well.
“We have gone through a period that was very sensitive, we are coming out of it now,” the Frenchman said.
If you look back to the squad in 2004 than included Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp and Campbell how does their squad compare now? Can you really put Giroud and Podolski on the same bar as Henry and Bergkamp? They were a match made in heaven, both confident at coming forward and making the match winning finish but also just as good to set up a match winning goal with a flick from 20 yards out to set up the other. What Arsene did prior to the undefeated season was build up a large roster of young players from all over Europe and set them up with the youth sides at the club. He has continued to do so today with the likes of Oxlade Chamberlain, Walcott, Ramsey & Wilshere however what he has failed to do, which he did back in 2003 was to back up these young, impressionable footballers with a squad full of experienced, well rounded players. After Arsenal and Arsene Wenger won their first Premier League trophy he knew he had to change things up as his squad were getting much older and would need revamping if they were to push for the title again in the coming seasons. Wenger has always had his eyes on the long run and won’t ever go for the quick fix option unless he has to. In the years 1998-2000 Wenger managed to pull in some of the best up and coming stars along with a few world cup finalists who had great experience. The signings of Kanu & Ljumberg in 1998 were the start of his master plan and he knew the World Cup was coming and needed to know which players would be great mentors for any new signings he would make in the coming years. He already had Keown, Dixon, Seaman, Vieira and Parlour ready so he brought in players such as Henry, Lauren, Pires, Cole and Gilberto who proved themselves in the 03-04 season.
It’s always a gamble signing young players to such a large club such as Arsenal but what Wenger does so well it work with his youth team coaches very closely to pick out the very best. The ‘Invincibles’ happened because of Wenger and this is what he has tried to recreate in past seasons, for example in 2005/2006 he brought in a whole new roster of young players including 16 year old Theo Walcott supported by a group of established European players like Hleb and Rosicky. But recently with signings such as Chamberlain, Cazorla, Gervinho & Chamakh he hasn’t had the depth in his squad to develop them further.
The engine room in the middle of midfield used to be dominated by Vieira however I don’t really see the same from Wilshere or Arteta, they have the right ability and are good players however they aren’t world class. Vieira was part of a world cup winning squad yet Arteta hasn’t ever been capped for Spain. They need someone who is from the same mould as the powerhouse frenchman. However Arsenal has always been built on it’s defence. You can’t win the league just by scoring goals you also have to be able to prevent them and this is the ethic Arsenal have lived by in the last 20 years. When Wenger arrived in 1996, Arsenal’s defence consisted of Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Winterburn, Adams and Bould they formed a powerful and trusted line of defence and although finishing third they conceded the least amount of goals in the league. But when it comes to looking at a defence completely constructed by Wenger it is obvious that the best defence was the 03-04 season once again. When a team only conceded 26 goals in a 38 game season you know that they are doing something right. Jens Lehmann was error prone, however, he managed multitudes of match saving stops throughout his Arsenal career. His huge presence alone was enough to shore up any defence. Lauren was a consistent performer who was just as impressive going forwards as he was defensively. Sol Campbell & Kolo Toure made up one of the meanest defensive partnerships in the world at the time. Pace, power and aggression from both players ensured a tough challenge for any striker. Ashley Cole although he is now loathed by Arsenal fans proved himself by coming all the way up through the youth system and wedged himself into not only Arsenal but English football history. Everyone who knew football could name this defence and this was recognised by having Campbell, Cole & Lauren in the PFA Team of the season. However this season many people who know football would struggle to give you four names recognised with the Arsenal defence used week in, week out. Now it is hard for Wenger to keep a consistent back four but this was his defence in his last game in charge against already Champions, Manchester United: Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, & Gibbs. This defence has already conceded 36 goals and this tally is likely to rise. Wenger is going to have to bolster his current defence is he is to have any hope of silverware in the coming seasons.
In my opinion if Arsenal really want to push for trophies they need to invest in a world class striker. Henry used to hit on average 29 goals a season yet now attackers at the club are struggling to get past 10. Olivier Giroud has had a pretty decent first season in the Premier League but can however be frustratingly wasteful at times, Theo Walcott seems much better suited running down the wings and Lukas Podolski can’t seem to get 90 minutes under his belt. Cazorla is more than capable of running past defenders and playing in world class balls, however this season he has mostly had to go alone and score for himself.
If I were Arsene Wenger the names on the top of my Transfer ‘wish list’ would be: Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid, Cavani of Napoli & the relatively unknown 24 year old Wilfried Bony who plays in the Eredivisie for Vitesse and is currently top goalscorer in the Dutch League. They need that perfect combination of strength and hunger in a striker to best utilize the balls in they will receive from Walcott, Gervinho and Cazorla.
So do I think that Arsenal will win the Premier League in the new few years? Possibly. I think that if they can get momentum going all the way up to christmas and then utilise the January transfer market properly to maintain a good undefeated streak, then I believe they will. The Gunners haven’t finished outside of the top four in over 12 years and they won’t want that to change this season. They need to keep themselves in Europe to be able to attract some of the best players in the world which is really what the need to succeed. If Arsenal can develop and build on the youth they have now then as a Manchester United fan I would be very worried, they have the potential to be world beaters they just need to go out and do it.