By 1970's Gooner
The bookies, as to be expected, have installed Man Utd as favourites to win the title again followed closely by Chelsea. Liverpool are priced at half of Arsenal’s odds and the rest, especially Spurs, are really nowhere. These are prices quoted at the time of writing this post.
Man Utd 11/8 Stan James
Chelsea 13/8 Ladbrokes
Liverpool 6/1 Betfred
Arsenal 12/1 Sporting Odds
For those interested Spurs are quoted at 100/1 by Stan James but Ladbrokes fancy them more at 66/1.
Most of the teams have not yet of course completed their annual summer retail therapy. But most of them, especially the top four, have made significant moves. More is still to come but the areas that teams need to strengthen are to me discernible enough.
In this four part series I try to analyse each of the top four’s strengths and weaknesses and based on the state of play so far try to come up with a reasonable prediction as to where they might end up by the end of next season.
Arsenal against the odds?
There are quite a lot of weaknesses that Arsene Wenger needs to address and rectify if Arsenal are to challenge seriously for honours next season. Many, many more than his closest rivals.
Fortunately they are all correctible as a lot of the changes needed involve a change of attitude or better coaching and organisation on the pitch rather than very radical surgery in the personnel (although they are needed too).
These include ( and take a deep breath) tightening up the defence, adopting the appropriate formation to suit the players at Wenger’s disposal (and I don’t mean 4 4 2), learning how to break up packed defences, killing teams off when on top, winning ugly if need be, buy at least one more quality player and lastly managing the impending takeover bid correctly. Not a lot is it?
For a more detailed analysis of these points check out my earlier postings: What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season? (Parts I & II)
Obviously Arsenal’s transfer policy should concentrate on correcting the glaring weaknesses of the past season. And it was very apparent that the team faced a real problem in scoring from open play and seriously lacked width; which affected the balance of the team on the pitch.
There are those who may maintain that with Eduardo’s arrival Arsenal may not need another forward. I beg to disagree.
The most obvious weakness in the forward line up of the current squad is that there is a distinct lack of experience. With Henry gone there are now only two relatively experienced players in Robin Van Persie and Adebayor. They are however only 23 and 22 respectively.
The addition of Eduardo to the squad (aged 24) does not of course do much to increase the average age and one has to allow for the dreaded adjustment period to Premiership football.
Not to mention Bendtner who is 19 and has not yet played in the Premiership! Or even Walcott who theoretically could play as a forward but for now is a wide player and is only 18!
Additionally account has to be taken of injury, suspensions, loss of form and the Africa Cup of Nations. Remember what happened last season when injuries to Henry and Van Persie in particular deprived the team of its two most lethal forwards.
Taking into account that Adebayor will be away at the ANC for about a month then it becomes obvious that the squad will lose serious depth.
Now if a premiership experienced forward with goalscoring ability was recruited (there is talk of Anelka again or someone like Kanute) then it suddenly gives a very attractive outlook on this Arsenal team and becomes an altogether different ball game.
For the wide midfield position, on the face of it, Wenger has two strategic options. Either he recruits a tried and tested winger who would of course have pace, dribbling ability and will not be afraid to shoot.
Or he “promotes from within” by moving Eboue to this position and utilising Bakary Sagna as a right back. Indeed Eboue has performed exceptionally well in the Emirates Cup. The rationality of this option is analysed in my posting “Is Wenger about to abandon his search for a wide midfielder?”
On the positive side of things all the young players have had a really good introduction to the Premiership and I would expect a vast improvement in their maturity and consistency levels. Something that was distinctly lacking last season.
Assuming the weaknesses listed above are addressed adequately, no more first team players are sold on and Wenger and the Board manage to steady the ship then I believe that Arsenal are one player away from being ready to mount a very realistic challenge for the title.
However these are all very brave and “courageous” assumptions as there is a quite a lot that needs to happen for all these conditions to materialise. There are in fact so many variables in Arsenal’s success equation that the probability of any or a combination of them becoming unstable cannot be discounted.
This is not to say that challenging for the title is an impossible task. But if Wenger succeeds then it will indeed be his greatest triumph!
Prediction: With an additional quality signing “surprising a lot of people and challenging for the title”. But as it stands a very close third place.
IN Eduardo da Silva (D Zagreb, £8m), L Fabianski (Legia Warsaw, £2m), H Nordveit (FK Haugesund, £2m), Bakary Sagna (Auxerre, initial £6m rising to £8m)
OUT J Aliadiãre (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), T Henry (Barcelona, £16.2m rising to £20.2m), M Poom (Watford, free), A Lupoli (Fiorentina, free), F Muamba (Birmingham City, undisclosed), M Connolly (Colchester, loan), Freddie Ljungberg (West Ham, £3m).
Part II:Liverpool.It's getting serious
Part III:Chelsea come back?
PartIV: Back to back for Manchester United?
Ed: You can leave a comment on what you think and also vote on the poll we have set up "who will win the title?"