Premier League Preview - Arsenal
NICKNAME: The Gunners
MANAGER: Arsene Wenger
STADIUM: Emirates Stadium (60361)
LAST SEASON: 3RD
A lot has been spoken of Arsenal last season and the highs and lows that seem to be a mainstay for their supporters over the last few seasons. A rather typical lack of expenditure and the loss of Cesc Fabregas meant that scepticism was high. Couple that with a damning 8-2 defeat against former title rivals Manchester United and a sizeable gulf was starting to divide the top two from the rest of the league.
Step forward Robin van Persie - a striker possessed scored 38 goals in all club competitions and helped bolster a waning Arsenal side that were over-reliant on the Dutchman's exploits to spearhead an attack that was rapidly stalling - Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott but a shadow of their former selves as the Gunners placed their faith in Van Persie - faith well-founded as the forward fired them to third.
IN: Santi Carzola (Malaga, £16.5m), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier, £13m), Lukas Podoloski (Cologne, £11m)
OUT: Gavin Hoyte (Dagenham, free), Manuel Almunia (released), Joel Campbell (Real Betis, loan), Denilson (Sao Paulo, loan), Ryo Miyaichi (Wigan, loan)
Pre-season has been both typical and untypical for Arsenal. Typical in the respect that the word 'ambition' has got one of their stars longing for a move away from the Emirates - on this occasion it is van Persie - the goalscoring hero and skipper of the last campaign. A summer shrouded in mystery has seen the Dutchman eventually take to the exit, and more surprisingly to rivals Manchester United - a bitter pill indeed.
Where Arsenal have bucked their trend is where it comes to buying experience, and buying well. Santi Carzola already looks to have taken to the Emirates like a duck to water and proven that he could indeed by that creative influence they have sought for some time. In Olivier Giroud they have an underdog made good as he fired Montpellier to an unlikely Ligue 1 title and Lukas Podolski is a stroke of genius from the effervescent Wenger.
KEY MAN: Santi Carzola
A new introduction to the club in Santi Carzola could help Arsenal take that extra step required and give them that extra cut and thrust in the final third. Starting off his career at Villareal where he established himself in the first team set up in 2004-05, scoring goals in Europe. A brief stint with Recreativo saw him net five times before announcing his return to Villareal.
It was here where he made the headlines, linking up well with Giuseppe Rossi and Nihat and despite becoming a regular fixture in the Spanish national squads, he regrettably was forced to miss Spain's World Cup win in 2010. He joined free-spending Malaga for 21m euros - the club finished fourth in the table and qualified for Europe in the first time in the club's history - from there he signed for Arsenal in the summer for a fee reported to be around £16.5m.
I expect that even though Arsenal have strengthened in the right areas they may well rue their potential loss of van Persie, if not this summer then almost certainly in January. A good squad brimming with the exuberance of youth - I would expect them to play in flurries but not maintain the level of consistency required to mount a title charge.