Premier League profile 2015/16: Arsenal
The Community Shield usually tells us little of what the season ahead has in store, but this summer’s campaign opener between Arsenal and Chelsea could prove to be a significant turning point for the Gunners.
Before the clash at Wembley, Arsene Wenger had failed to overcome his now bitter rival Jose Mourinho, but a sublime strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain secured the Frenchman’s maiden victory over the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’.
Having overcome a severe mental block, Wenger will believe his talented Gunners can now go all the way and challenge the defending champions for the domestic crown, with his side 7/2 with Coral to taste victory next May.
Between the Emirates sticks for the new term will be Petr Cech, sensationally snapped up from their London rivals, and the Czech Republic stopper could prove instrumental in a bid to become English champions again.
In Cech, Arsenal finally possess a goalkeeper capable of sustaining top class performances throughout an entire season, giving them every chance of returning to summit of the Premier League table.
In front of their new shot stopper, the Gunners hold a talented crop of defenders that can astutely protect Cech’s goal. Per Mertesacker has been criticised in the past but can call on his experience this season alongside Laurent Koscielny, while Kieran Gibbs and Hector Bellerin provide the width.
Gabriel Paulista endured a tough beginning to his Arsenal career, but this term could push on and become a more dominant defender at the Emirates, though it’s clear Wenger will need another centre back at his disposal to be fully assured.
The midfield ranks are where Arsenal’s hopes of claiming the title will stem from, with such a well-balanced variety of stars available, including attacking and defensive duties being perfectly covered.
Whether Jack Wilshere can remain fit for the entire season is questionable, having been so far unable to stay clear of injury regularly, but his role in the hole or as an anchorman should be key if he can avoid further setbacks.
Aaron Ramsey proved he can be a genuine match-winner under Wenger in the past two campaigns, and the Welsh midfielder will want to continue that clinical form this term, with his goals from deep set to be crucial towards any success.
Mikel Arteta may be ageing but ferocious holding midfielder Francis Coquelin will provide the dominant defensive force in the centre, having returned last season from loan spells as a seemingly new player.
The Frenchman will seem like a new signing himself, and could become what Nemanja Matic was for Chelsea last season, with his supreme tackling and aggressive nature set to give Arsenal a new Patrick Viera-type enforcer.
Mathieu Flamini is a potential departure from the club but could end up playing a part in the squad if injuries do occur, while Wenger’s more attacking midfield stars could be the decisive factor this term.
Tomas Rosicky’s experience could prove vital over the course of a hopeful campaign, but Mezut Ozil and Santi Cazorla will have to perform to their full potential for that desired Premier League trophy to arrive at the Emirates.
German World Cup wining Ozil endured spells of indifference last season, but will need to constantly find his deadly creative form to provide the Gunners front men with goalscoring chances. Tricky Spaniard Cazorla should give Wenger that extra threat from deep with his long-range abilities and dangerous set-pieces.
Despite the classy midfield ranks, forward danger Alexis Sanchez will undoubtedly be the main man, with his goals and outstanding work-rate giving Arsenal an edge over their rivals. The Chilean has become a sensation in London and that unstoppable force should propel Arsenal closer to glory, with their star striker 20/1 to finish top scorer.
Olivier Giroud isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the towering France frontman will chip in with vital top-flight goals, with English attacker Danny Welbeck providing another pacey alternative. Theo Walcott’s new deal means he will surely play a massive part, if he can stay fit, but more likely from a wide position rather than a lone striker, as he has previously desired.
After clinically dispatching the decisive striker in the Community Shield, Chamberlain has proved he can do it against the best sides, and it could be a massive season for him, ahead of Euro 2016 in France next summer (12/1 England win).
Having lifted back-to-back FA Cups, Wenger will now target the Premier League trophy with a squad that possesses all the right attributes to overcome his Portuguese counterpart and his previously dominant Blues.