This season has to be of the strangest seasons ever. We started well, flopped against the big teams, got back into it, flopped against the big teams, got back into it, and then lost to Sp*rs, Wigan and Blackburn whilst drawing to Birmingham before and drawing to Man City afterwards. Meanwhile, our north London rivals, Sp*rs, went about winning 11 out of their last 12 to qualify into the Champions League, beating us, Chelsea and Man City on route. Meanwhile, Liverpool finish 7th in the league after being United’s main challengers last season and we have 134 more injuries than any other team in the league. On top of that, we bring Sol Campbell out of semi-retirement – who then goes on to win Arsenal player of the month for April, despite us conceding 7 goals in 4 games and Fulham reach the UEFA cup final, beating the likes of Juventus on the way.
Did this season really happen?
Did Van Persie really miss 6 months of a 9 month season again? Did Cesc, Song, Gallas and Vermaelen all get injured for the final month of the campaign? Did Bendtner really score a hattrick at Porto? Did this season actually happen? Am I dreaming? Someone pinch me.
It’s funny because a lot of Gooners were undecided whether they wanted Man City or Sp*rs to win last night, with many people lambasting City’s finances and saying they’d be challenging for the title. What happened last night was not what I wanted. It seems like a lot of people forget how much money Sp*rs have and how ambitious they really are. They’ve already got Sandro lined up for next season, practically have two teams worth of players and will probably spend in the region of £100m in summer – where they get the money from is anyone’s guess… but they will not lie down now, this is the chance they’ve been waiting for. They now sit 2 points behind us with 1 game to go. It hurts.
So, back to all things Arsenal, and Maroune Chamakh has all but confirmed that he will be an Arsenal player next season…
“I am delighted to join the English football atmosphere, it is something amazing. I love Arsenal’s game. I know I will have to adapt but I know the short passing game with (Bordeaux midfielder) Yoann Gourcuff. In February, I made my decision. A departure clause (in a potential new Bordeaux contract) was not logical after refusing Arsenal last summer. Arsenal were not alone. There were Liverpool, Tottenham and crazy offers from Russia. But I was only focused on the Premier League. For my last matches with Bordeaux I can feel a lot of emotion. But I am leaving for a new challenge. At Bordeaux I was the club’s child. In London, I won’t be a kid anymore. I have grown, I have things to prove and I am motivated to achieve it.”
Arsene did say he would sign one player before the world cup and it looks like the world’s biggest kept secret – it will be Maroune Chamakh. So what do we get from the Morrocan? Well, we get an absence during the African Cup of Nations. Okay, only joking… (well not really), but we do get a player with an eye for goal, with experience at top level, for club, country and of course Champions League experience. Last summer clips showed his wastefulness in front of goal, but this season he has been knocking them in for Bordeaux and his link up play has been very good.
Next season, it looks like we’ll start the season with 5 international strikers in Van Persie, Niklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Eduardo and Maroune Chamakh. If Eduardo and Vela do feature in the first team more – which I think they will as Arsene has spoken how he holds them both in high regard, then it’s anyone’s guess how we’ll set up, who will be first choice and who will play on either side of the main striker. Stick in Arshavin and Walcott and there is a bit more guile and pace, and that should be an impressive forward line. I would expect to see Nasri and Rosicky in the middle of the park if the above players are all available, and looking at the squad, I don’t think we’ll see any more attacking players.
Arsene isn’t a man for buying for the sake of it, and unless we sell a lot of players, they’ll be no room in the 25 man squad. I’d expect him to buy a centre back as Gallas and Silvestre should both be off. Gallas avoiding the question to French media about whether he will sign a contract – and it’s obvious that he won’t. He’s 32 and he can sign for a host of European clubs. I think it would have been beneficial for us if he stayed, but even though Gallas and Vermaelen looked like a great partnership, they couldn’t get the better of the big teams.
So, a centre back could come in, leaving the pool of centre backs: Vermaelen, Player X, Djourou, Campbell and potentially a youth player – maybe Harvard Nortveit, currently on loan at Nurenburg and having a decent season. The other position has to be a goalkeeper and I can’t see how either Almunia or Fabianksi could possibly be at the club next season. I don’t think the fans or players have any confidence in either of them. We’ll see.
So, a striker is virtually in. A centre back to replace Gallas and a goalkeeper to replace Almunia. Is that enough to turn us from nearly rans to world beaters?