Two days to go.
After getting last night’s pointless international friendly with Holland out of the way, it is time to get to the real action – this weekend the Premiership finally returns. It seems like forever since that final day victory over Stoke, meandering through transfer rumours and over hyped warm up games, but we’re back. At last.
And so it’s time for a look at our squad, how the summer’s gone, and what we can expect from the following nine months. With the World Cup on the horizon, it is a big year for many players, and they may have just had the longest break from football they’ll enjoy in a long time.
So let’s get to it.
So far, this reads: Toure out, Vermaelen in, but with the hidden extras of the return from loan of Senderos and Traore. Even if, as seems inevitable, Senderos moves on to Everton, Wenger has already indicated he will be replaced. That, to my reckoning, puts us a centre back and left back up on last season.
Which is ironic, really, because this is where the press seem to think we’ll suffer the most. Certainly it would be a worry if Gallas or Vermaelen picked up a long term injury, as the backup is not of their experience or quality, but look at United, Liverpool and even Chelsea – where are their reserve centre backs? We suffer more because ours are more injury prone, not because we have fewer numbers.
If Senderos is properly replaced, I think we’re fine here, I really do.
The good – offensively we are packed with possibilities, even with injuries to Nasri and Rosicky. We still have Cesc, Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey and Wilshere, which makes seven players who can fit into what appears to be two attacking midfield berths. No problem there.
The bad – defensive. Song is the prime option, with Denilson his likely backup. We could turn to Djourou if our centre backs remain unscathed, but it is hard to argue that we’ve got enough numbers here, especially with Song likely to miss a crucial month while the African Nations Cup is played. If we are to make another signing before the window closes, I desperately hope it is here.
As with the defence, the media have put two and two together and made seventeen. Losing Adebayor = weakened. But that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, given that we signed Arshavin in January and have got Eduardo back from missing essentially the whole of last season.
So it seems to be three from Van Persie, Bendtner, Arshavin, Eduardo, Vela and Walcott, which is a nice mix of pace, power and skill. I don’t see a problem here at all.
We are generally regarded as the weakest of the top four, based on last season’s poor showing and the losses of Adebayor and Toure. But we’ve replaced unhappy with hungry (Toure-Vermaelen) and lazy with exciting (Adebayor-Arshavin) since the window shut last September. Given that Toure’s legs are going (if not gone), and Adebayor lost all connection with the fans, a £15m profit is great are bringing in the experience and leadership qualities of Arshavin and Vermaelen, two traits we are supposedly short of.
Add to that the return of Eduardo and the possible return of Rosicky, and we’re up personnel-wise, without including Senderos, his possible replacement, or any other new signings.
And add to that the improvement that the likes of Song and Denilson showed last year, and we’re looking a lot better than the press will have you believe.
I’m not saying it’s enough to win the league yet, because I have a horrible suspicion that Chelsea will be nigh on unstoppable this season once they get going, but I think we’ll have a better season than the last, and certainly a lot better than is being predicted.
Stay optimistic. It promises to be fun.