Arsenal now a force to be reckoned with on and off the pitch
The Gunners are firing again. Previous blanks have been replaced by damaging ammunition, and any chinks that were evident in their armour have been reinforced. They are now 13/2 to win the Premier League this season.
Commander-in-chief Arsene Wenger plugged a Per Mertasaker-sized hole with 19-year-old Calum Chambers for the Community Shield, who performed like a lieutenant of industry. This £16m signing could turn out to be, not only a bargain, but a visionary masterstroke from the economics graduate, who unearthed gems like Thierry Henry, Denis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, and Robert Pires, turning them into world beaters.
Wenger’s last regiment of winners, dubbed “The Invincibles” for going unbeaten in the Premier League, could suitably challenge Barcelona’s best of the last decade.
Since then, the manager recognised a need to rebuild, and not just the team. A number of years, theoretically, had to be sacrificed, with a stringent recruitment budget, as well as an understanding that realistically they couldn’t turn down huge bids for class players.
This is where the Frenchman comes into his own. A manager manages. This meant spinning a number of plates, and handling an offensive on multiple fronts. Number one priority was securing Champions League football; something that the club achieved every season. Paying off the stadium went hand in hand with competing in Europe. One of the next steps is conquering Europe. They are 20/1 to win the the continent’s elite competition this term, though Wenger will have earmarked the domestic title as the next priority.
Signings like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have been a decade in the making. When the board sat down and decided to move from Highbury to their new high tech, super stadium, these were exactly the moves they had in mind. It was planning of military precision; Sun Tzu style. Identifying the need to surrender their current bunker, they invested in what is more like a digital fortress. Wenger knew his team couldn’t realistically compete with clubs such as Chelsea and both Manchester teams, and didn’t try. Understanding at that moment in time, their priority was securing a top four finish, he didn’t lose focus. Or more importantly, belief. What was even more impressive and endearing, was that almost everyone in the club’s higher echelons were on board with the sacrifice.
Almost as if on purpose, the £42.5m record amount splurged on Ozil, out of the blue, led to the Gunners’ first trophy since 2005. There was no coincidence in the fact that, with the Emirates finally paid off, it motivated an upward surge of activity, and Ozil was the catalyst. Add to this a record-breaking £30m-a-year kit sponsorship deal with Puma over the next five years, they pretty much enter a league of their own in a commercial aspect. It increases their spending power to bring in top players, who will inevitably pay for themselves and then some, when factoring in shirt sales. A business model not too dissimilar from Real Madrid, though without any debt.
Either side of the summer break they have won two pieces of domestic silverware. Although the Community Shield is dubbed merely a ‘curtain raiser’, Arsenal’s performance switched on the spotlights, and dazzled the audience, upstaging Man City and stealing the show, with overall ratings at box office standard.
Often criticised for lacking an end product to their incisive probing, Arsenal were clinical. Yaya Sanogo’s impressive first half cameo could well be a sign of things to come. Holding the ball up as the Gunners broke on the counter-attack, he found Aaron Ramsey surging into the area, who held his composure to net with quality.
Santi Cazorla did his chances for a starting spot this season no harm at all. His well-worked shot from outside the area gave Arsenal the lead, deceiving goalkeeper Willy Caballero, who was making his debut. The Spaniard has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid this summer, though clearly Wenger wants to keep him.
Olivier Giroud demonstrated a desire to carry on where he left off last term, and seems to have gone from strength to strength. His lofted finish from outside the area midway through the second half was bold and imaginative. The type of attributes you would associate with Bergkamp and Henry. It is reasonably safe to say that fans can expect more of the same from Giroud this term, as he looks to adapt from his past role of a typical target man.
It is unclear whether Wenger will bring any more players in. There had been talk of a defensive midfielder, or a centre back if Thomas Vermaelen left. Now the Belgian has agreed to join Barcelona for £15m, however Chambers’ impressive performance could hand Arsenal’s boss a conundrum. Originally, the Frenchman’s first thought was that the former Southampton star could be converted into a holding midfielder, though after such an impressive showing at centre back, it may affect which type of player is brought in next.
Mathieu Debuchy impressed at right back going forward, though was at times caught off guard defensively. Chilean star Sanchez however, will have warmed fans hearts already. Key to their counter-attacking play, he took the role of transition. Occupying the space in between City’s midfield and rearguard with the Gunners defending, he was hard to pick up on the break, and Matija Nastasic didn’t know what to do. Unlucky not to score in the first half, after a superb exchange with Sanogo, Sanchez was involved in the second. It was his pinpoint pass that found the young Frenchman’s well-timed run.
This type of quality will make a difference this season, and their main rivals can no longer afford to think they are beatable. While both Liverpool and City dismantled Arsenal last term, the Gunners fired a warning shot to the rest of the Premier League that they are back from the shadows, and ready to strike again.