After Arsenal's nil-nil draw vs. Sunderland, there doesn't look to have been much improvement from last season.
Someone please remind me why I support Arsenal. This season was supposed to be different. Three big signings, fresh faces, players returning from injury. I told myself that maybe this would finally be the year the trophy drought ends. Yet it seems that once again Arsenal won't be challenging for the title. Sure, many would have said this before the season even started. And of course, only one game has been played. But after a disappointing 0-0 draw against Sunderland at the Emirates, it seems the same old Gunners, and I can't see Arsenal finishing any higher than they did last season.
First, the positive:
1. Santi Cazorla played brilliantly. Although it's early to judge, I believe he could be the Prem's signing of the season. His passes were precise, he rarely (if ever) lost the ball, and set the pace in the midfield. His through ball for Giroud in the 81st minute could and should have proved critical to the game's outcome, but the Frenchman wasn't able to finish. I can't wait to see him pair up with Jack Wilshere in the midfield and he was definitely the man of the match in my eyes. It won't be long before the Spaniard is creating goals and netting some of his own.
2. Gervinho showed improvement. The Ivorian looked much better than he did last season, and looks much quicker on the ball. His footwork was impressive, and he did create some chances, but still could not provide the decisive ball.
3. The defense held up. I liked Arsene's choice of Vermaelen as captain, I believe that will inspire Arsenal's defence throughout the campaign. Although Sunderland seemed to threaten on the counter early, with James McClean forcing a save from Szczesny in the sixth minute, the Sunderland attack did not threaten much after that. Mertesacker, despite looking a bit slow, looked steady as ever and the full backs were solid.
4. Arshavin's faux hawk looked great. Way better than Jenkinson's.
And, the negative:
1. Neither Podolski, or Giroud, could finish like Van Persie. I'm not saying that they won't. Both strikers have time to prove themselves. Giroud looked a bit brighter and more comfortable in the striker's role than Podolski, and unless Gervinho starts to create some goals, I would like to see Poldi out on the left and Giroud up front. In addition, the Gunners had 23 shots but only three on target. That needs to change. They need to get more shots on target and obviously, in the back of the net.
2. There is a missing presence in the defensive midfield. It was nice to see Diaby back from injury, and he played decent, but he's no Alex Song. And with Song the latest of Arsenal's top players to head for more promised lands, there is now a void in the midfield. And a massive void. Arsenal need to sign someone smart, physical, with a high work rate who can help win the midfield battle. (Side note: if Wilshere doesn't return by Christmas, I've lost all hope he'll ever come back...)
3. The full backs couldn't do anything offensively. Gibbs and Jenkinson, I'm afraid, just aren't going to cut it. Of course, Sagna will do better going forward, and although Andre Santos always looks great in the attacking third, he sometimes neglects his defensive duties. Would love to see a new signing here.
The Premier League season is long, and Arsenal have plenty of time to improve. But they need to be more clinical. They need to continue to create chances but to actually score some goals. If they want to compete with those two teams in Manchester, and even Chelsea, they are going to have to improve and to grind out some wins. Arsene is going to have to spend some money and continue to strengthen his squad. The past few years in the Prem have shown that you can't get anywhere without spending some money. Right now, Arsenal is heading for another finish outside the top two and maybe even the top three. But please prove me wrong, Gunners. Please prove me wrong...