Ah Arsenal, the great underachievers of English football. Where legends are born (before they move on) and not a penny goes unpinched. In a world of constant change, at least we have Arsenal.
Manager: Arsene Wenger
First Team: Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin; Sanchez, Xhaka, Ozil, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Lacazette
Strengths: Arsenal have a clear identity, a (too) long term manager and a couple of (disgruntled) world-class stars. Lacazette may well prove to be a shrewd acquisition without breaking the bank (as is Wenger’s economist style), while keeping hold of both Sanchez and Ozil would be unbelievable.
Weaknesses: A lack of ambition. Arsenal have consistently settled for fourth place in the Premier League over the last decade, but with the rise of Tottenham and the resurgence of Klopp’s Liverpool, they have missed out on the Champions League places for the first time in what might as well be forever. Disappointing? Yes. But not nearly as disappointing as losing Sanchez would be if they don’t qualify next year (assuming they manage to keep hold of him this year).
Opportunities: Lack of Champions League action. Though it does pose Wenger with a serious issue – does he do a Mourinho and throw away the league for a chance to qualify for Europe’s top competition through the Europa League, or does he forgo the Europa League to keep his squad fresh for the Premier League? Whatever he decides, going without serious European competition could be Arsenal’s best ever chance of challenging for the title.
Threats: Lack of ambition. Arsenal believes fourth place is a trophy. Its in their DNA. They certainly don’t have a deep enough squad to seriously challenge in all competitions, so Wenger will have to pick and choose. No doubt he’ll settle for fourth in the league and try to pick up the odd trophy to ensure a new contract. But with United strengthening significantly and the top four not showing signs of weakening, Arsenal fans would do well to prepare themselves for a few years out of Europe’s top competition.
Poor old Arsenal, they really could just use a break. Wenger has tried a new style of play (he’s learnt to play the Mourinho way, but he’d never admit it), which might just help them this season, but its difficult to imagine anything other than Arsenal once again flattering to deceive as they wave Sanchez off to Manchester City.
That was a bit dreary wasn’t it? Let’s reboot with a quick visit to one of Arsenal’s only trophies in the past decade.