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Arsenal 2008/2009 season Preview







With an exciting new edition of the Premier League now upon us, looks at how each of the 20 clubs are shaping up. In this article, we feature Arsenal.



2007-08: Where It Ended

Arsenal were gunning for the Premier League crown for the majority of last season, but by the time the final rankings were announced, the red and white side had finished 3rd. Add to this the influx of ultimately painful memories of melancholic suffering as Liverpool, with the aid of referees Peter Vink and Peter Frojdfeldt, knocking the Champions League contenders out the competition, and you could say the season was a disappointment.

Considering that most print journalists, and all rival fans, stated Arsenal had stripped themselves of their only reliable armoury in Thierry Henry, and that the club would be lucky to even claim a Uefa Cup spot, then one can feasibly argue that this outfit overachieved last year.

Some fans, however, may still lament on what could have been. If Eduardo had managed to avoid Martin Taylor’s abominable horror-show of a challenge; and if William Gallas had the mentality to gather his troops and maintain their push, rather than sit in the centre-circle and bemoan the afternoon’s proceedings, then the season’s outcome may have been different.

Between the close of the 2007 season and the 2008 season, Arsenal had closed the gap on Manchester United from 21 points, to just four. Whether they will continue this progression will be down to the impact any new signings make, and how the nurtured youth from the past few years cope with the responsibilities that first team duty brings.

Summer Activity

Obscure and uncelebrated recruitments are often synonymous with transfers to N5. The likes of Amaury Bischoff and Francis Coquelin will have opposition fans smirking at the thought of Arsene replacing experienced heads with either raw French players from Ligue 2, or crocked Portugal U21 internationals who can only muster a handful of games in a number of years.

Coquelin however, has looked assured, composed, and has used the pre-season opportunities in the first team as if he has a point to prove. The impression he left after 45 minutes against friendly neighbours Barnet was a pleasant surprise, whilst Bischoff remains, in Wenger’s own words: ‘a gamble.’

The reason it is near impossible to predict the names on Wenger’s shortlist of transfer options is because ‘Le Prof’ safeguards his prospects so carefully. It is not often that deals-in-progress are leaked so recklessly like Arsenal’s trading of an undisclosed, but rumoured, £12million with Marseille’s Samir Nasri. Perhaps Marseille still bore slight animosity towards Arsenal because of the manner in which Mathieu Flamini had left l’OM four years prior – something that Gooners can now surely sympathise with.

These details are, admittedly, irrelevant. What matters most is the player that has been acquired. Arsenal’s new number 8 is undoubtedly the replacement for the departed Hleb. Both possess outstanding technical ability, enjoy a dribble, and have good footwork. What makes Nasri exciting is that he wouldn’t pass a penalty kick – a mentality that Hleb was so famously fond of.

The purchase of frequently touted Welsh kid, Aaron Ramsey, was made all the more sweeter because he chose the red-side of London over the red-side of Manchester. Arsenal have been criticised in the past as being lightweight and unable to handle bully-boy tactics often employed by teams like Alladyce’s Bolton, or Hughes’ Blackburn. Ramsey may help maintain Arsenal’s recent resurgence in combating this rationale.

The FA Cup finalist was a keen rugby player, and therefore shouldn’t mind getting stuck in. Ramsey seems to be capable of playing in a number of positions, with Bob Wilson suggesting he could eventually become the heir to Gilberto’s role: “The possibilities of Ramsey and Fabregas in the middle are endless. Ramsey is athletic, quick, and already has brilliant quality on the ball.”

The tabloids often like to claim that Arsenal suffer a crisis every time August hits. Last year the departure of Henry was supposed to signal the end of Arsenal’s prominence in the ‘Top Four’, and the rise of Tottenham – which ended up being yet another false dawn for the lily whites. Fans hear it every summer, and every summer the young guns rise to occasion. For this reason it is clear Arsenal do not need any more signings.

Arsene plucks youngsters from the World’s most esoteric regions so that he does not need to spend large amounts of the board’s money on players like Modric, or Keane. Much in the same manner that Flamini emerged in last summer’s Emirates tournament, expect a young gun to stake a claim for a starring role this year. Whether this will be Diaby, Song, Denilson, Djourou, Bendtner, or Senderos, remains to be seen.

Analysis And Prognosis

Arsene Wenger has recently said that players such as Randall, Lansbury, Barazite, G.Hoyte, Gibbs, and Wilshere, will be promoted from the youth side. For anyone paying attention to not just Arsenal’s pre-season, but their reserve action, and previously the youth side, will no doubt be content in the knowledge that Jack Wilshere looks a promising player.

Apparently Arsene’s focus on top talent from all around the world has been to the detriment of the English national side. The last time I checked, Wenger’s job is to manage a side that play some of the sexiest football on the planet, not to mollycoddle the ego’s of England’s over-rated stars. The emergence of Stevenege-born Jack Wilshere will however, hopefully silence some of these critics.

Something that Arsene’s admittedly youthful squad is sometimes knocked for, is their so-called inexperience. This is another instrument the opposition apply for their goading rituals, and it has rubbed off on some Arsenal fans, yet it is factually inaccurate. William Gallas and Kolo Toure have both won championship titles, Tomas Rosicky is a Bundesliga champion, Francesc Fabregas is a European Championship winner, Robin Van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor are both established internationals, and Gael Clichy has been a prominent member of the first team since the acrimonious departure of the now-maligned Ashley Cole. Are inexperience and youth one and the same, or can they be separate commodities? Arsene is always keen to stress that if you are good enough, you are old enough, and how can you argue with the achievements of the aforementioned players?

Arsenal have been drawn a somewhat fortuitous run in the Premier League. Their campaign begins with a home game against West Brom, followed by an away bout at London rivals Fulham, then they host Newcastle, away at Blackburn, away again to Bolton, home versus Hull, away at Sunderland, home to Everton, away at West Ham, then on their tenth game they host Tottenham.

If they get off to a comparable start to last term, then there is no reason why they can not accumulate 28 points at the end of the tenth round of games. Blackburn and Bolton away, and Everton and Tottenham at home, could pose tricky tests, but with the sale of Bentley, Friedel, and the publicly aired discontent at Ewood, Arsenal can prosper. Bolton under Megson are a different outfit compared to Bolton under Alladyce.

The home games against Everton and Tottenham may be tight, but with the only loss recorded at the Emirates against West Ham, faith should be held with the home support able to amply lift the team. The prospect of the return to N5 of boo-boy pantomine-puppet, David Bentley, would be enough to raise the audience’s audible levels sufficiently to scare the brylcreemed wingman into spooning balls over the Emirates roof to find their way to smashing the windscreens of cars parked around White Hart Lane.

Prediction

Achievements: Title challenge and a good cup run
Key Man: Cesc 4
One To Watch: Theo Walcott 14

Coach: Arsene Wenger

Stadium: Emirates Stadium (60,000)

2007/08 Position: 3rd

2007/08 Record: P-38 W-24 D-11 L-3 GF-74 GA-31 Pts-83

Players In: Aaron Ramsey (Cardiff City), Samir Nasri (Olympique de Marseille), Francis Coquelin (SASP Stade Lavallois Mayeene MFC), Amaury Bischoff (SV Werder Bremen).

Players Out: Mathieu Flamini (A.C Milan), Jens Lehmann (VfB Stuttgart), Kerrea Gilbert (Leicester City (1 Year Loan)), Aliaksandr Hleb (FC Barcelona), Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos FC).

Possible Line-Up: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Rosicky, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Adebayor.

Arsenal 2008/2009 season Preview Reviewed by admin Ucop on 12:31 PM Rating: 5

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