Arsenal: the Expected and Unexpected Title Contenders

Arsenal: the Expected and Unexpected Title Contenders

Arsenal fans will be experiencing a sense of deja vu. They’re here every season. The team is performing supremely well, Arsene Wenger is getting his decisions right, and there is a sense of confidence and assuredness within the squad. However, every season since we can last remember, Arsenal go crumbling down and end up competing for a Champions League berth. We all know how it went last season. For the uninitiated, the Gunners had their best shot at winning the title, with their direct rivals all failing to do the deed; however, they didn’t capitalise on it, and Leicester City ended up being the winners.

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Despite all the competition this season, and all the rivals strengthening the squad, as well as managers, the Gunners’ hopes of getting the elusive title look bright once again.

Arsenal are playing admirably. The attack seems like a dream, and the defence looks solid. Everything is clicking for Wenger. The work in the transfer window appears to be paying dividends.

The squad depth at Arsenal is incredible, and is possibly the best Wenger has had at his disposal for some time, which means that Arsenal can deal with injuries — something that always plays a significant role in their capitulation every year — and absentees better than they have in the last few seasons.

Not only have they now got more strength on the bench, but they have also upgraded on the field. Mustafi is doing better than Mertesacker, Sanchez is doing better in the number nine role than Giroud, Xhaka certainly possesses more quality than Coquelin, or Wilshere, whatever role one sees him in.

Aaron Ramsey is yet to come back to the side, and for a change, it will be difficult to accommodate him in the team if they manage to play with the same tenacity.

The squad is arguably better than it has been in the last few seasons. The quality is certainly of one of the best in England.

Encouragingly, Mesut Ozil has also found his scoring boots again. The German scored his first hat-trick against Ludogorets, which will come as a relief since this season didn’t begin on a great note for the player. Alexis Sanchez looked like a square peg in a round hole when Wenger gave him the number nine spot, but he has slowly managed to make the place his. Despite the arrival of Lucas Perez from Deportivo in the summer, Sanchez looks like the “striker” Wenger should persist with, and the one he has been missing for some time now. He has six goals and five assists in all competitions in the centre-forward role this season. Sanchez makes runs in behind opposition defences and has also forged a successful triumvirate with Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil.

And yet, the fact that they have so many quality players means Wenger’s team doesn’t risk getting one dimensional. Against Ludogorets, Wenger brought on Lucas Perez from the substitute bench, and the former Deportivo player set up two goals. Wenger can also bring in Olivier Giroud at any time to use the strength of Sanchez is giving more width to the team, and use Giroud’s abilities in the box.

Certainly, the brightest point of Arsenal’s season so far has been the success of Theo Walcott. Walcott, once a prodigy, failed to deliver on his early promise. Injuries and doubts over his best position had an influential part in this. Finally, the England international looks like he is doing justice to his hype. Walcott is flourishing in the right wing role and has eight goals and two assists in all competitions.

With Pep Guardiola at the helm at Manchester City, José Mourinho at Manchester United, and Antonio Conte at Chelsea, early season build-up naturally pointed to one of these three running away with the title.  Even Spurs and Liverpool had more mention than Arsenal as title contenders. However, Arsene Wenger has shown why he is such a consistent manager, and why in a fickle football universe, he has managed to have the same job for 20 years.

Then again, we’ve been here plenty of times before.