The new campaign is nearly upon us and our pre season fixtures have been completed. A draw, followed by four successive victories, represents a positive summer in terms of the results but the question is, what have we learned from our five non competitive fixtures?
From a personal perspective, I have learned nothing that I didn’t already know. Although there are undoubtedly some positives to be taken from the performances, ultimately we remain short of the top class centre back and forward that we’ve been crying out for.
It is evident that we have the nucleus of a very good side, however, it is one that still requires a few tweaks to move us closer to becoming the finished article. Sadly, this is a familiar scenario and something that has been said frequently for a number of years.
Prior to Per Mertesacker suffering his long-term injury, I considered us to be short of quality in the central defensive positions. We are now short of experience too. Gabriel has been ruled out for two months but he’s been far from convincing in his Arsenal career to date.
In all honesty, he’s shown nothing to suggest that he’s got the footballing intelligence or the positional awareness that’s required to be a top class centre back. The comparisons made between him and Martin Keown by some supporters, in the not too distant past, are somewhat insulting towards the latter.
The reported move for Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi, is one that the majority of Arsenal supporters would welcome. Although with Per being ruled out for several months, it is difficult to understand why Arsene didn’t at least attempt to rival Everton for Swansea’s Ashley Williams, in conjunction with any deal for Mustafi.
Despite his age, a modest fee of £12m for a player who is proven in the English top flight and a natural leader, something we lack, is a no brainer in today’s inflated market. Taking the availability of Williams into consideration, Wenger’s reported interest in West Brom’s Jonny Evans, is even more puzzling.
Some supporters will undoubtedly argue that signing an experienced player, such as Williams, would impede the development of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding. However you could also argue that if a young player is good enough, then he will break into the side anyway. After all, the cream always rises to the top. Playing alongside and training with experienced professionals also has obvious benefits.
On the subject of youngsters, Chuba Akpom has impressed with his goalscoring exploits during pre season. With some supporters suggesting that he deserves a chance in the first team this coming campaign. Personally I am yet to be convinced. At times his touch is heavy and he followed up an impressive pre season last summer by struggling to break into the Hull City side. Delivering a meagre three goals in thirty-six league appearances.
In terms of our other attacking options, Theo Walcott has demonstrated once again that he is far more effective when coming in from a wide position. Opposed to running on to through balls from a central position. He also confirmed that his instinctive finishing is far superior to the end product produced when he’s given time to think.
The more I see of Granit Xhaka, the more confident I am that he will prove to be a great signing for us. Everything he does with or without the ball, shows class. Alex Iwobi gets better by the game and I hope that he’s able to improve his in-game stamina this season. As at times, he appeared to tire after an hour or so during his appearances in the last campaign.
In the friendly win over Manchester City, one of the biggest positives to be taken, was that we looked ahead of them in terms of our preparations for the new season. By this I am referring to our team shape and how comfortable the players appeared to be with what was being asked of them by their respective managers.
This is of course no surprise considering that Pep Guardiola has only been in his job for a few months, whilst Wenger has been in his position almost twenty years. What will be intriguing moving forward, is whether it takes Pep years to identify the weaknesses of his team in the same way it does Arsene.
Another summer is almost complete and once again it looks like we are going to be waiting until the closing stages of the transfer window before we find out whether Arsene has let us down for yet another year.
Hopefully his last….