If Arsenal's campaign goes as well as the transfer window have gone thus far, the 2012-13 Premier League season will be one to saviour for years
This article is to analyse and evaluate Arsene Wenger's squad for next season, in order to determine whether the North London side really have a shot at winning the Premier League crown. We begin by looking at each playing position individually;
After just 3 years at the club, and at the tender age of 22, Wojciech Szczesny has affirmed his place as first-choice goalkeeper for both his club and country. In my opinion, Arsenal have one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, as Szczesny's composure, agility, and his imposing stature have made him one of the most talented and feared keepers around. Arsenal's second-choice keeper, Lukasz Fabianski didn't feature last term after vowing to challenge for the number 1 spot, and it's very unlikely he'll play any major role next season. Vito Mannone is also unlikely to feature next season.
We'll start with the right-back; Bacary Sagna is undoubtedly Arsenal's best player in that position, however a fracture to his right fibula has ruled him out for the start of the season, with Francis Coquelin likely to feature in his absence. Coquelin is naturally a defensive midfielder, but his ability to play at right-back shows his impressive versatiity. Youngster Carl Jenkinson could also start in the Frenchman's absence. Moving on to - in my opinion - one of the best centre-back partnerships in world football, Arsenal fans should have nothing to worry about the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen. When Wenger took over in the mid-90's, he had an incredibly well-drilled and organised defense, however since then the overall quality of the defense has been comparatively ignored in favour of more attacking players. Now, however, with Koscielny (arguably the second best centre-back in the league) and Vermaelen, the Gunners have the solid base that allows more attacking players the freedom to roam and create. Per Mertesacker is more than capable to feature in the absence of either first-choice centre-back, however the other two centre-backs (Djourou and Squillaci) have made less of an impact since their arrivals to North London, and may be heading out of the Emirates. At left-back, Arsenal have more of a dilemma; Andre Santos or Kieran Gibbs. The latter was the preferred choice for much of last season, however Santos has been mostly solid in his performances since around October. Gibbs is likely to be first-choice for the time being, however the question remains as to whether either are title-winning quality, and also whether to dip into the transfer fund to acquire a 'world-class' left-back.
The real headache begins with the midfield. With so many players at their disposal, and so few places to fill it is inevitable that some players who are used to first team football week-in-week-out, will have to settle for the bench more often next season. With a 4-3-3 formation likely to be used, players like Ramsey and Rosicky will have to be rotated in order to accommodate new signing Santi Cazorla. Alex Song will surely start, probably alonside Arteta, with Cazorla in a more advanced position. However, as the season progresses and Jack Wilshere returns from his seemingly-never-ending injury Wenger will have more decisions to make. Wilshere will be rusty and be eased into the side, but when fully fit, who does he replace? Arteta would be the most obvious choice, but it all depends on what happens in the transfer window; with rumours rife that Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin is on the way to North London on a loan deal and speculation of a shock bid from Barcelona for Alex Song. If Sahin were to come, he would be the defensive rock that Song oh so craves; with a true defensive-midfielder behind him, Song would have the freedom to move further up the pitch and supply the striker(s) with the type of balls that made mouths water last season.
Will he - won't he? The RVP saga rumbles on as it seems increasingly likely the 29-year-old may stay at the Emirates, although Juventus and United still seem keen. van Persie or no van Persie, Arsenal still have a strong forward line going into the new campaign, with new signings Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski hoping to impress in front of the Gooner faithful. Giroud, unlike Podolski, is an out-and-out striker. He'll most likely play ahead of Cazorla as a lone central striker, with two wingers to assist him. This is where Podolski comes in; although he is capable of occupying Giroud's position, he has accumulated most of his 101 international caps in a left-forward role. With his ability to cut inside and provide excellent service to the main striker, or even have a shot himself, this role suits him to a T. As for the right wing, things get a little more tricky. Walcott? Gervinho? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? It's a tough one. Personally, after an excellent season out on the right I would be inclined to opt for Walcott. With Gervinho seemingly favouring the already-occupied left-hand-side and AOC still inexperienced, Theo's sheer pace can sometimes be enough to terrify full-backs and turn them inside-out. Sure, his end product has been called into question, however I believe this is improving, plus people can forget that he's still only 23 and has much improving to do. 19-year-old Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi may get his chance to shine after a successful loan spell at Bolton too.
With Wenger already stating that both Giroud and Podolski will be eased into the side, Arsenal's line up for the opening game against Sunderland may well look like this:
In my opinion, if Arsenal get rid of the 'dead wood' e.g. Park, and players like Wilshere, Sagna and Diaby return from injuries sooner-rather-than-later, then they stand a real chance of winning the title. I also think that both Frimpong and Ramsey must go on loan another season to not only gain first-team football, but also to experience different styles of play. The performances of a certain Robin van Persie (if he stays that is) will also be crucial, as will those of fellow forwards Giroud and Podolski. In reality, a top 3 finish would be a superb achievement, with both Manchester clubs looking to slog it out for the title, and Chelsea splashing the cash. However, if Arsenal's campaign goes as well as the transfer window have gone thus far, the 2012-13 Premier League season will be one to saviour for years to come.