Arsenal Will Surprise People This Year - Even Without New Signings

They may not have made any significant signings (yet), but Arsenal's chemistry has improved, as have lots of their players. They may do better than expected this season.
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They may not have made any significant signings (yet), but Arsenal's chemistry has improved, as have lots of their players. They may do better than expected this season.

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This seems to be an article written by Arsenal fans ever season – similar to Liverpool fans’ infamous ‘This is our year’ stuff – but there’s usually good reason for that. After all, every season seems to be the one predicted as being the one where The Gunners finally slip out of the top four, and it still hasn’t happened.

While Arsenal may be seen as under-achieving when taking their proud, trophy-winning history into account, it has to be said that they’ve often gone above and beyond expectations for them in the media. The best example of this would be the 2007/08 season, in which they lead the chase for the league title up until an unexpected collapse in late February.

That summer had seen Arsenal lose captain and all-time record goal-scorer Thierry Henry, as well as Freddie Ljungberg and Jose Reyes, bringing in Bacary Sagna and little-known Eduardo da Silva. They were predicted to struggle given the loss of their main man, but ended up surprising people. Emmanuel Adebayor took on much of the burden left by Henry, while the midfield four of Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb had fantastic chemistry.

The main business Arsenal have done so far has been bringing in Yaya Sanogo with Gervinho  leaving, with most other departures being fringe players who probably played five games between them last year, so transfers aren’t something to take into account yet when predicting how they’ll do next season in comparison to last. The latter point, however, certainly is: the chemistry of the side will be much improved, partly due to the afore-mentioned lack of first-team exits.

This summer stands to be the first summer in which Arsenal don’t lose anyone from the first team, let alone any key players. They won’t have to adjust to a new system built around different players, but will head into a season with pretty much the same system. It took the current side time to adjust last season, but once they had formed a cohesive unit, the Gunners hit form at the end of the season, winning eight of their final 11 games in the 2012/13 season.

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It stands to reason to think that only the final portion of the season was representative of Arsenal’s current squad’s true quality – it took them a large chunk of the season to find their way, gel and establish a style of play, but once they found the right formula they hit form. It’ll be difficult to maintain form like that all season, especially with some gaps in the squad still, but they’ll certainly be able to produce their end-of-season form regularly in the up-coming season.

Not only will the team have gelled more since the beginning of last season – and team spirit is also much higher, naturally – but individual players will be better than last season. There’s no better example than Aaron Ramsey, who ended the season in fine form, and stands to continue in the same vein. He’s stood out in pre-season as an all-action midfielder and should start adding goals to his game.

And it’s not just players improving as their careers progress, but players getting proper pre-seasons under their belt. There were many players in the Premier League last season who missed out on one thanks to the European Championships, but Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna in particular have missed out in the past due to injuries, and both have come through unscathed and will be all the better for it.

It all seems to come back to the chemistry of the team though – the continuity gained by keeping the side together cannot be understated, especially since that is one of the things that United have benefitted from under Alex Ferguson. Arsenal’s famed ‘British Core’ of Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott all signed new contracts last season and have been together for a while.

That’s not just encouraging for morale but also for fluidity, and that showed against City – Walcott and Ramsey dove-tailed superbly for the first and second goals. The first saw the Welshman spotting Walcott’s trademark run and splitting the defence in half to find him perfectly; the second was a one-two between the two, with Olivier Giroud dummying well to let Ramsey in on goal.

Giroud also should be improving in his second season in the Premier League, with his fellow recent recruits Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Nacho Monreal also hopefully improving on impressive first campaigns. This isn’t to say that Arsenal don’t need reinforcements – they do, and not just up-front; a defensive midfielder is essential, as if Arteta is unavailable, they have nobody with enough defensive nous to protect the defence.

However, Arsenal certainly have enough quality in their squad to challenge for honours this season. Until they add in positions that need reinforcements (which are obvious to most: right-back/centre-back – depending on Bacary Sagna’s positional future – centre midfield and striker) those challenges will inevitably fall short when injuries hit, but they may do a lot better than expected this season.

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