Arsenal Season Preview

arsenalThe Football Lab spoke to Arsenal fan @DezilDez ahead of the new season. Here, he gives his expert tactical views on new signings Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, and Sami Khedira in prospect.

I don’t know many managers who polarize opinion more than Arsene Wenger. After Arsenal won that elusive trophy, are more supporters now backing him?

Yes more fans are backing Arsene Wenger now, but not just beacause of the recent cup win but because for years we have been told the financial burden will be lifted, for years many fans had thought it was Wenger holding us back, but now with the cup win giving us hope. and the new signings, a lot of those fans are starting to believe and trust again.

The club’s big summer signing is Barca forward Alexis Sanchez. Tactically, will this move get the best out of Olivier Giroud, or has it come at his expense?

Wenger has always maintained that he wants a forward who can play with and without Giroud, that was the reason behind him trying to sign Luis Suarez, I think the plan here is still the same because Wenger has repeatedly mentioned that Alexis is a versatile striker who can play all across. I think Alexis will definitely be great for Giroud, Olivier is the type of striker who relies on support, when the ball. goes up to him he wants to flick it first time to a player close by and in Ramsey and Walcott he quickly built a partnership there, we.. challenged for the title last season and he performed to a decent standard until both support picked up injuries and he became isolated. Alexis brings depth to that area of players who look to shadow the striker and therefore I believe Giroud will gain from Alexis, but tactically I can also see Alexis replacing Giroud in the side for certain games, because although Alexis prefers to play off a partner, he has the ability to be the lone man if required, and if he performs well when given the chance then there is a possibility that he could replace Giroud in the side, especially with Chamberlain looking to impress and win 1 of the 3 forward spots.

Departing Bacary Sagna was kept out of the French World Cup team by Mathieu Debuchy, who has signed for the club alongside Calum Chambers. Have you strengthened in the right-back position?

I wouldn’t say we have strengthened because Sagna is a better RB than Debuchy, but that doesn’t make Debuchy a poor signing because where he lacks defensively in comparison to Sagna, he improves us offensively in comparison because Sagna wasn’t a great offensive full back So it’s basically a trade off for a more offensive full back which could be a lot more useful to us in 80% of games than a more solid Sagna because most teams would sit against us anyway.

Another thing Sagna offered was that he was able to act as a CB cover because of his versatility, this is something Debuchy can’t do, but with the signing of Chambers we now have 4 CB’s compared to 3 therefore we don’t need Debuchy to be a 4th choice CB cover like Sagna was, oh and watch out for a young RB called Hector Bellerin. He could be our future RB.

According to Who Scored, Laurent Koscielny & Per Mertesacker had the highest pass success rate in the Premier League, 93.5% & 93% respectively. Do you feel the tendency to play it short from defence limits counter attacking opportunities?

Yes and no; yes because Koscielny is often marked out by opposition due to being the more superior passer whilst Per is very cautious.. similar to Arteta so yes it slows down our counter-attacking, but no because it isn’t only down to Per and Koscielny, as Arteta and Sagna.. were also to blame, Arteta for being too cautious with his distributing and Sagna because when pressure he often looks to go backwards.. With the possibility of a new defensive midfielder and Debuchy who is superior to Sagna (in possession and offensively), and our depth.. in the wide areas, we should be able to counter-attack a lot more now compared to last season with Arteta, Sagna and our lack of quick.. wide players due to injuries to Chamberlain, Walcott and Podolski. The addition of Alexis and Joel Campbell gives us more depth in this area.

There has been a bit of a saga as to whether or not you’ll sign Sami Khedira from Real Madrid. If he does sign, and plays alongside Aaron Ramsey, is there a danger the midfield will lack tactical discipline?

I don’t believe that the midfield will lack discipline, simply because both players are intelligent, complete and disciplined midfielders. there is always a fear to partner 2 players who are capable of affecting the game offensively, but being able to affect the game offensively doesn’t mean they both can’t be disciplined and patient in how they defend and attack, it’s all about intelligence and realizing that you can’t roam forward when your partner is already out of position, Khedira has been a starter in CM for Germany for the past 5 years and he was a starter in CM for Mourinho for 3 years, I don’t believe he would last that long in great sides if he lacked intelligence or discipline (especially under Mourinho), so I don’t believe that would be a problem, whilst the advantages of having 2 complete CM’s playing deep is huge, and allows your team to be unpredictable.

Over the last couple of years, Jack Wilshere has not improved as much as Arsenal and England fans might have hoped. Are you disappointed by his lack of development?

Yes, because when be broke through into the side all Arsenal fans had high hopes for him, unfortunately injuries have set him back time and time again, I’m disappointed but I have seen him reach close to his best in 2013 when he was fit for a short period before another set back and technically he hasn’t lost anything, whilst tactically he hasn’t improved, but this is due to the lack of game time that injuries haven’t allowed him to have, lucky for him he is still very young and has a lot of time to improve tactically, and he is working with the right manager at the right club who will give him that opportunity, so I’m disappointed, but optimistic about his future. I believe he will be a great player.

With most bookmakers, Arsenal are at around 11/2 to win the title. Where will you finish?

The best sides in the country are Chelsea and Manchester City without a doubt, after that you have Arsenal then United and Liverpool. As it stands that is my order in terms of where the teams will finish, I think at the moment Arsenal lack the 2 biggest signings needed.. to make that final push, although I believe we can still challenge. The signings of a defensive midfielder and a striker would give us the best chance to win the league and actually make us favorites like Chelsea and City are being called, but at the moment I think 3rd is likely.

TFL Verdict

With Sanchez coming in, Arsenal have enough individual quality to compete for the title. To do so though, the team needs better luck with injuries, and an ability to compete in big games. 3rd