Yes that is how strong this squad is shaping up to be. The strength in depth of both talent and experience truly is different this season. The coaching staff know it, the players sense it and the fans are staring to believe it.
For many years Arsenal’s detractors and indeed our own fans have bemoaned the fact that Wenger won’t spend the money available to him. Another common gripe has been that our squad lacks depth in quality when compared to the other top clubs with whom we are competing. I have been known to moan myself, although not often. There is little doubt that our ill-luck with injuries in recent seasons has exposed the lack of strength in depth in the first team squad, but it seems, to this observer at least that the Arsenal of 2012/13 might be a different beast.
I have a question for you: What has 796 Premier league games, 85 Premier League goals, 348 full international caps and 59 international goals?
Answer – Arsenal’s 2nd team
|Arsenal 2nd String||EPL Appearances||EPL Goals||International Caps||International goals|
Now you could argue on a few of these. Certainly a fully fit Wilshere may well displace Diaby. Theo, if he signs a contract, might get the nod over Gervinho. In a few weeks, a fit again Bacary Sagna might slot in at right back but Jenkinson has been a revelation and Sagna’s outburst in the French media will not have been forgotten. However what is abundantly clear is that these 11, and you could add Ramsey or Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arshavin and Rosicky, could easily be an Arsenal first team.
In fact I would argue that this 11 would be a match for virtually any team in the top division on their day. In fact 7 of them (highlighted) were in the team at the start of the 2010/11 season. A season, let us not forget, which saw us still in all 4 competitions in February only to fail in all 4. Ultimately it was the injuries to key players at crucial times, such as Fabregas and Walcott and Vermaelen all season which saw our multi-competition challenge falter. Why? Because at that time we did not have the squad depth that we have for 2012/13.
Last season a resurgent Rosicky lead by example, using all his experience and talent to drag us into 3rd place. We voted him our third best player. Not a bad stand-in should Cazorla need a breather of heaven forbid get an injury. The ‘Little Mozart’ can cover all 5 midfield/wide berths. I would include the deep lying new Arteta role as there is little doubt that like Mikel, Tomas could easily sit deep and read the game. I think it was either Dortmund or Udinese away where he did so early last season.
The form of Per Mertesacker and the captaincy being given to Vermaelen leaves Koscielny as first change! Who would have envisaged that last season when he was easily our most consistent defensive performer? Not I, but a fabulous first change or to rotate with Per for matches against certain opposition.
Bacary Sagna has been voted the best right back in the EPL on 2 occasions by his fellow professionals and until his injury woes was, I imagine, the first name on the Arsenal and France team sheet. He will be fit and raring to go in a matter of weeks but will Wenger drop Carl Jenkinson? Cannot believe he has converted me so swiftly but this lad could be our right back for years and Sagna will be 30 in February.
Theo Walcott has been a fixture in our strongest 11 for years now and whilst he can frustrate it has been hard to argue with his regular inclusion. However his contract stalling and the form of Gervinho and arrival of Podolski have threatened his comfortable position. Indeed Oxlade-Chamberlain has been given the nod over Walcott not just by club but by country also.
Then of course we have Jack Wilshere fit, well and close to fitness. All last season we counted the days to each new return target date set, only to be disappointed. Last year we were crying out for his special blend of combativeness and vision. But last year many had written off Abou Diaby who has returned first. Ironic that Jack was thrown in at the start of 2010/11 only because the tall enigmatic Frenchman was again injured. Now it is Jack who will have to dislodge Diaby if he is to return to the midfield berth he filled with such distinction, alongside Song and behind Cesc 2 seasons back.
I could go on but I think the point is well made. Arsenal in 2012/13 is very different to the wounded animal that threatened so much, but ultimately limped into only Champions League qualification With the exception of Mannone and Coquelin all the other stand-ins are full internationals. There is sufficient experience now in the current first choices and on the bench week in week out for us to mount a serious challenge on all four fronts again. I am extremely hopeful that the depth and talent of this squad Wenger has quietly built combined with its abundant and obvious togetherness and spirit will deliver. Is is noticeable that all 3 of our new signings have commented on the camaraderie in the camp. This is what Lukas in partcular needs to excel and it was why he failed to deliver to his potential at Bayern. If Poldolski feels loved by team mates and fans he will deliver on a consistent basis and the sky is the limit. The only arguable weakness is Chamakh as a direct understudy for Giroud. However Wenger has played Lukas and Gervinho there and has this week hinted he will finally give Theo a go through the centre.
Enough ramblings for today.
2012/13 – It smells like Team Spirit!
Published with permission from 1 Nil Down 2 One Up1 Nil Down 2 One Up.