Premier League preview – Arsenal

Last season:

Premier League: 4th

FA Cup: Fifth Round

League Cup: Quarter Final

Champions League: Last 16

With days until the start of the new Premier League season, Arsenal are set to commence their campaign without any major summer signings despite seemingly being the most active club in the transfer window.

After sneaking into fourth place ahead of rivals Tottenham at the end of last season, this was supposed to be the summer everything changed for Arsenal. Speaking in June (and a few more times since then), chief executive Ivan Gazidis spoke of the club’s new “financial firepower”. Namely, due to newly negotiated sponsorship deals, commercial links, player sales as well as an already substantial kitty of transfer reserves, Arsenal were ready to set the transfer window alight with big-name signings.

These signings would change the alignment at the Emirates. No longer would the Gunners simply be fighting to finish in the Champions League places. This summer, particularly with Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City all in a period of flux under new management, Arsene Wenger would finally flex his and the club’s financial muscles and catapult them back into contention for the trophies they have failed to add to since their 2005 FA Cup triumph.

So the speculation began. Marouane Fellaini, Julio Cesar, Wayne Rooney, Gonzalo Higuain, Bernard, Cesc Fabregas and latterly, Luis Suarez have all been heavily linked with a move to North London since the end of last season.

However, up until now, the warchest reportedly worth between £70m and £100m, depending on which newspaper you read, has been firmly untouched. Indeed, at the time of writing, the only summer arrival at London Colney has been a player far different from the names mentioned above, 20-year-old French striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre, the archetypal Wenger signing.

Whether Suarez eventually signs on or not (and more than enough has been said on the saga already), frustration continues to build amongst the supporters and potentially even in the playing squad, where almost the entire first-team squad have given interviews publicly urging their manager to use his cheque book.

Part of the frustration is the feeling that it would only take a couple of purchases, namely the addition of a top-class striker such as Suarez or Higuain, who was allowed to move to Napoli after looking certain to begin 2013/14 in North London, to enable the Gunners to challenge for the title.

Doubts do remain in the goalkeeping department, though Wojciech Szcz?sny still represents good potential. Defensively, only Manchester City conceded fewer goals in the Premier League last season, but with Thomas Vermaelen suffering from a back injury the feeling remains that another centre-back could be sought as insurance.

In Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, the mercurial Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and for the first-time in almost two years, a fully-fit Jack Wilshere, Wenger will not be short of options in midfield, but he is still lacking a truly dominant presence.

And, though Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can be explosive, the chase for Suarez outlines Wenger’s endorsement of the feeling that often resided last season, that for the Gunners to compete with the big boys, an upgrade on the wasteful Olivier Giroud must be bought before the end of the transfer window.

Arsene Wenger is now the longest-serving manager in the Premier League

Manager – Arsene Wenger: With the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger enters the 2013/14 campaign as the Premier League’s managerial godfather. In the last year of his contract at the Emirates, Wenger is under more pressure than ever to deliver a trophy to the club’s increasingly restless supporters but will he provide them the big-money signing they crave?

Key signing – None: Yaya Sanogo may have arrived but the Frenchman firmly represents one for the future. Elsewhere, it’s pretty much status quo all around the club but that would change in an instant were the Suarez deal to eventually be completed.

Key sale – Gervinho: 26 players have left the club this summer with only five of those on loan deals. However, perhaps the sale of the Ivorian, who though often criticised did make a contribution in the form of seven goals last season is somewhat surprising. Expect the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry and perhaps Ryo Miyaichi to be handed more opportunities to impress.

Keep an eye out for…Gedion Zelalem: Whispers abound that the young German midfielder represents the best player to come out of Arsenal’s youth academy since Cesc Fabregas and with Jack Wilshere already in the first-team, that is some marker of the 16-year-old’s talent. Despite a pre-season which has seen him break into the first-team set up, any contribution is still likely to be minimal this season though when he does appear, he will certainly be one to watch.

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