Either you believe that Wenger has lost it and should be put out to the funny farm, or you think that he has got something up his sleeve. Just like this time last year when everyone except Charlie Nicholas said, “Arsenal will drop out the top 4” and Wenger got us within four points of the title. He showed he really has it.
So, could Wenger has got it right? Are we stronger in every department?
Goal – we started off looking very dodgy until Almunia took over, and Almunia now has a full season’s experience behind him, which ought to help him. So, yes, better.
Left and right back – young players with another year’s experience behind them, which surely must make them better. Sagna was extraordinary for year 1, who knows what he can do in year 2?
Central defence – Senderos never looked right to me, so replacing him with Silvestre looks like a step up. Our captain was not right as captain last year, so maybe with an extra year’s experience he’ll be better, although I must admit, against Fulham that did not appear to be the case. Djourou looks better than when we last saw him. So better by one player, but it is hard to understand the captaincy.
Wide midfield. No one can deny that Theo is better than a year ago. Of Rosicky we can’t say until he returns, but the hope is that the surgery will finally have solved those niggling injuries. I’d say thus far Nasri is better than Hleb for the simple reason that he is much more like Pires than Hleb. He can move, look, find, and do the great pass. And score. Eboue looks like Eboue – a few great crosses, but…
Central midfield. Cesc is still young and so must be getting better and better = his best years are ahead of him. But who is to take Flamini’s role, or before him Gilberto’s role. It is easy to forget now how Gilberto was criticised before his year out with a back problem, and how much he was welcomed back after that injury. So we don’t have to have Flamini II, it could be Gilberto II – a very different player. But who? Has Wenger seen Gilberto II in Denilson? Or Flamini II in Song? Or is it Bischoff? or Diaby? We’ll find out, but for now we have to say we are weaker at this point. Except that with this many contenders for that second central midfield slot, if one of them turns out to be that good, maybe we really have got it.
Forwards. Here we are stronger for sure. The same four as last year – and all still growing in character and ability, plus Vela who looked terrific in the pre-season games and keeps scoring for Mexico. Eduardo’s not back yet, but when he is, we’re going to have problems fitting all of them in.
So, in every department save two I see improvement if for no other reason than the experience of last year. Captain and one central midfield.
The only explanation left for the fact that we did not sign someone in central midfield is that Wenger thinks we have got him. He just hasn’t told us who he is yet. As for captain – I was puzzled, until I remembered how Adams used to be sometimes, just standing there, doing nothing, not even bothered to walk over to the ref when a player is being talked to. Maybe we all forget too quickly.