It’s been a while since I’ve felt as confident going into an Arsenal season as I do this year. That’s not because of any one thing, any big change from last year or even the last few years. A lot of little things are coming together, though, and the sum of their parts is making me feel pretty good about this team as the summer comes to a close.
The Gunners are coming off our second straight season in which we won a thing. Not a fake trophy like the Emirates Cup or a glorified friendly like the Community Shield or the Capital One Cup, but the FA Cup, a trophy that adults care about. It’s nice for improving the personality of the fanbase, and shutting up a few of the louder idiots in our midst. More important than just making my Twitter experience a little less painful, though, is the value of a team learning to win together. It’s no guarantee of future success, obviously, but it’s not nothing. It can take some pressure off, it gives (successful) big-game experience.
That kind of experience builds all the better when you have a solid core and can keep your team together from year to year and lo and behold, Arsenal doesn’t have any critical departures this year. Wojciech Szczesny is gone, to study abroad in Rome for a year, but aside from that nobody’s leaving who will be particularly missed. Lukas Podolski is gone, but he’s more Instagram account than man at this point. Abou Diaby’s gone, but he can only be considered to have been present for the past several years by the most generous of definitions of “present.” Ryo Miyaichi has also left. Do you know who he is? You probably do not, and with good reason.
Without a World Cup this summer, the mostly-European Arsenal squad has also had a full, legitimate preseason together. Training, friendlies, the whole nine yards. Alexis Sanchez and David Ospina haven’t been around due to the Copa America tournament, but that’s a far cry from last year, when it seemed like half the team was coming into training late. Ospina’s a backup, and Alexis is a freak of nature, so I don’t expect that either summer absence will be a huge deal going forward.
Back to Szczesny. He’s a good goalkeeper, but not a great one. Luckily for Arsenal his departure coincides with the acquisition of a great goalkeeper, and one who you the reader know quite well! Petr Cech has only played a few games for Arsenal, and all friendlies, but his influence is already clear. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are quite a good defensive partnership, which shouldn’t be a surprise as Arsenal conceded the third-fewest goals in the league last year, but with Cech behind them they look even a bit better so far. If Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin match their form from last year, I’d expect a slightly stingier Arsenal defense than last season.
That’s all internal stuff, but there’s one thing external to the club itself that leads me to think Arsenal can make a legitimate run at the title this year. There are a few good teams in the Premier League. Chelsea, obviously, more or less ran away with the league last year, Manchester City have too much money not to be good, and Manchester United have made some fine summer moves.
But as you’ve seen, I feel pretty good about this team. And despite what happened last season, I really don’t think there’s one team around that’s going to overpower the rest of the league this year. Any of the four could conceivably come out on top, and it’s probably going to be close until the end unless something strange goes down.
With this Arsenal team, as it stands today, actually winning the title’s probably just a bit out of reach. It’s a weird league - just look at Liverpool a couple of years ago - but if I had to bet money on it, I’d say Arsenal probably finish second. But there are still a few weeks left before the transfer window closes, and a holding midfielder or a world-class striker would change the whole ballgame. Either way, though, the whole of last season’s top four will have a fight on their hands.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits