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Why August might distort the outlook on Arsenal’s season

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As seen again last season, it is often the case that Arsenal start off their season in great form and put themselves in contention for the title at an early stage, only to loosen their grip at the top and tail off towards the end. Whether being seen as genuine title contenders or slight outsiders, the Gunners always seem to give their fans a positive attitude and refreshed sense of optimism in the opening few months of the season.

However, this season could be a different story. It’s easy to refer to the ongoing saga of who the club might lose this summer, with Nasri and Fabregas the main targets of media suggestion and disharmony, but Arsenal may find themselves with other immediate hurdles to overcome. If you take a look at the list of opening games that the fixture computer has spat out this season, it proves to be somewhat more favourable for teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City. In the first few games in the Premiership, Chelsea play Stoke, Norwich, West Brom and Sunderland. City have been matched against Swansea, Bolton, Spurs and Wigan, with a further four games before they meet any of the ‘big guns’. Arsenal on the other hand face Newcastle away, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Now I’m sure many people would be saying ‘well you’ve got to play everyone twice at some point’, but thrown in amongst this for Arsenal are two tricky legs against Udinese in a Champions League qualifier. This means a game every four days for Wenger’s team, who already have minor injury concerns over Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Robin van Persie who could all do without a congested fixture list. Pre-season hasn’t brought about the same sort of success as say Manchester United or City, and as they go into the new season with question marks over the future of some of their top players, its a bit of a step into the unknown and one they can’t afford to take cautiously.

With Arsenal’s momentum building up from the start in the previous few seasons, it may be a key period for their confidence as they are just not accustomed to starting the season off without a few victories under their belt to put them near the top of the table. As we saw last season with Chelsea, an easy run of games in the opening few weeks can really get the players in a great rhythm and put points on the board before they get into the nitty gritty of Champions League fixtures and a busy Christmas schedule. If you start off badly, then it may be harder than ever to recover and put a run of wins together, because of the number of teams looking to challenge at the top of the table now.

Today Arsenal appear to have completed the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who, although appears to be a great young talent, is unlikely to make the same sort of difference this season as someone like Juan Mata would right now. Also, I think the most important area for Arsenal to consider is defence, and if Wenger waits much longer into August or doesn’t really invest in that area at all, then they will suffer at the start of the season. We all know they can score goals and play good football with attacking talent, now bolstered by Gervinho, but the frailties exposed last season were at the back and these will have to be rectified right from the opening games if they don’t want to fall behind their rivals.

However, if Wenger does bring in a new defender or two which looks likely, this may be after the first game of the season and they might take a little while to fit into the Arsenal’s defensive mould. So long as they can continue firing up front, with van Persie possibly the key man in this, they should develop into a more comfortable and steadied unit after the transfer window closes. Whatever happens, they have more than enough quality and spirit to punish lesser teams who let them play, and fans may have to wait a few weeks before this becomes entirely apparent.

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1 comment

  • ogban says:

    I agree with you entirely. My fear, however is that if the team starts poorly, tension would be sky-high thereby jeopardising a potentially great season. Wish all transfer issues had been settled much earlier.

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