Now last season I previewed
Liverpool’s chances and gave them absolutely no hope of doing anything. I made fun of the signings of Carrol as well as Downing and was in turn lambasted by Liverpool fans. Now I am not one to say I told you so, but I did tell you so.
This season though I have a slightly different feeling. They have someone in charge that seems to know what they are doing. Rodgers is slowly but surely assembling a squad that will have that little bit of creativity and skill that has realistically been missing from Liverpool these last few seasons if he can bring in the last few targets on his list. If successful I think he will do well to turn round a team that have been on a steady decline these past few years.
I still feel a lot of work has to be done for them to challenge for the Champions League places let alone the title but if they can start building up momentum, particularly early in the season then you never know how well they might do with quality players like Gerard, Suarez (as much as I hate him he is a great player) and with the addition of some more quality like Sahin they may do well. It does look like they will be a better team, on paper at least so we will see how they actually play together.
Player to Watch:
Love him or hate him (I hate him) he is a quality player who may be able to help
Liverpool get closer to where the fans want to see them. A lot will depend on him and if he is firing then Liverpool fans will be hoping they can make the Champions League places.
Threat to Arsenal: Medium to Little
The surprise package from last season wont be much of a surprise this season. Whilst they had a brave attempt at the Champions League places I feel they may struggle to replicate the same form this season. Especially with the added fixtures of competing in the Europa League this year. There is talk in the Independent that they will rest their big names in the competition next week but as the season grows it might prove a tough juggling act.
Either way it seems that despite some further shrewd acquisitions that Newcastle United will, in my opinion at least not have the same impact they had last season.
I certainly think they will still get some big results but might act as more of a spoiler in the race for Champions League places then a contender themselves.
Player to watch:
Hatem Ben Arfa
With much focus on the
strikers, one player that has undoubted skill is Ben Arfa. Exciting to watch and a thunderous left foot combine well to make him the most attacking player in the team. Newcastle
Threat to Arsenal: Small
And now for the main event:
What threatened to be a summer of uncertainty and misery ended up starting quite well. Podolski arrived before the 2011/12 season even finished and shortly after Giroud joined him as attacking reinforcements. Many speculated that two strikers meant the end of Robin Van Persie and it turns out that they were essentially right.
The two strikers were bought, as Wenger said in his press conference today, to replace Robin Van Persie but more talent could and should be added. He confirmed we are looking and also confirmed that Alex Song may be leaving the club which was interesting.
It is quite clear then that we are not quite as settled as would have liked to be come the start of the season but as mentioned we have been far more proactive in our dealings this year ensuring that any player that leaves will not be missed. That is a big ask but a combination of Podolski, Giroud and most importantly Cazorla could provide great attacking threat this season.
With yet more additions and dare I say a proper defensive midfielder, I feel we will have significantly strengthened in spite of the departures. I am probably in the minority here, but I feel the departure of Song, if suitably replaced will actually benefit the side as it will give it more balance and hopefully a better shape off the ball.
Too many times last season we found Alex Song bursting forward when he would have been better to fill in at the back. He seemed to have little discipline and as such it cost the team goals. This is the main area of the team that needs strengthening and despite Song being a much improved and now very talented footballer, I genuinely think that the team would be better served to have a defensive midfielder with discipline, tactical nous and most importantly awareness.
Either way whatever happens, it seems certain there will be more activity in the transfer market. It is hard to remember a season where our best XI was not clear at this stage because for the first time in a long time there seems to be genuine competition for places. In midfield we have Diaby returning (touch wood) along Arteta, Wilshere, Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ramsey, Arshavin, Coquelin and Frimpong. That doesn't include Song or any potential replacements. If we asked 100 Arsenal fans to pick their best three out of the names mentioned above you would be hard pressed a majority that were the same.
I for one would love to see Chamberlain play because I think he is an exciting, exciting player. I really think he could be something special and with a bit of luck, stay with us for years to come. He may actually get more opportunities in the wider position where he can be equally effective which adds to the competition for Gervinho, Walcott, Podolski and Cazorla. The only area we may be thin is up front as I really never want to see Chamakh playing again.
Player to watch:
I am very excited about all our new boys, I really am. I was a bit unsure about Podolski when we were initially linked with him due to his stint at Munich not quite working out but from what I have seen and heard since is clinical excellence. He looks to have a hammer of a left foot that could even rival Van Persie's.
Giroud equally looks to be a solid footballer who could thrive in a side known for creating chances so I am certainly optimistic for him.
The one that excites me the most is certainly Cazorla, a two time European Champion with Spain and a player who is highly regarded in Spain. He has made 49 appearances for them and his last appearance saw a lovely 25 yard strike just days ago. Any player that can be in and around the current Spanish side is certainly a worthy acquisition. I look forward to him creating chances for the other players in the team.
All in all, I feel optimistic about the season ahead and if we can have a good start, something which we clearly didn't last time around, then there is no reason we cannot challenge for the league. Do I think we are the favourites? Certainly not. I do however think we have a genuine chance of being serious challengers if we act on what we learnt from last year.
Good luck Arsenal and Come On You Gooners!