Firstly, the north London club simply have a better squad, whether Robin van Persie stays or not. Arsène Wenger has acted adroitly in the transfer market, with the swift additions of three top attackers: Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. They are all established players in the peak of their careers, and will add genuine calibre and quality to the side.
In recent years, Wenger has been criticized for building a team too young to mount a serious title challenge. No longer can this be said. The forward triumvirate acquired this summer has an average age of 26, and a total of 155 international caps. Arsenal now have the appropriate balance between experience and youth to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title.
Moreover, for the first time in years, Arsenal have strength in depth. On several occasions last season, when the Gunenrs were in need of a goal, their only options from the bench were Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young.
Now, presuming Cazorla, Alex Song and Mikel Arteta start in midfield, with Theo Walcott, Podolski and Gervinho as the forward trio, the bench will, ignoring inevitable injuries, include players such as Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky, Andre Santos and Aaron Ramsey – not to mention the injured Jack Wilshere.
While the defence has not yet been strengthened in terms of new signings, the ‘Bould Effect’ will play a massive part in Arsenal’s title challenge. Since his accession from manager of the Under-18s – where he excelled – the former centre-half has already implemented new training drills for the defenders.
Steve Bould was an extremely underrated player, ubiquitous in George Graham’s Arsenal side of the late 80s and early 90s, which was renowned for their strength at the back. Bould arrived at Arsenal from Stoke City and was identified by his no-nonsense approach and reading of the game. This is what he will instill in Arsenal’s current crop of defenders: discipline, communication and a sense of meanness.
Just by the quotes coming out of the pre-season camp, you can tell how big an influence Bould will have on the side.
“We’ve done a lot of shape stuff, when we lose the ball and a lot of defending on crosses,” said goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny, who conceded 49 goals last season.
“We’ve done a lot more work on defending at set-pieces than we did last year, which makes me believe we’ll concede fewer goals because the number we conceded from set-pieces last season was pretty high.”
Young centre-half Kyle Bartley added: “He’s going to have a massive input into the defensive unit. He could be as big a signing as any player could be, having Steve in the first team squad.”
Bould’s style as a coach is almost the antithesis of his predecessor Pat Rice, who was known for his calm, father-like approach. Bould is vocal, even intimidating.
Furthermore, Arsenal’s crop of youngsters who Bould nurtured through his tenure as Under-18s manager, will feel at ease playing in the first-team under his tutelage.
Arsenal will pick teenagers such as Kris Olsson and Serge Gnabry to feature in the Capital One Cup this year, and Bould’s knowledge and understanding of their ability will play a massive part in their development in the first-team.
There is no hiding the fact Arsenal still need defensive additions, especially at full-back, but with the three summer acquisitions, the resulting strength in depth in those areas, and the Bould Effect, the Gunners have the ability to challenge for the title.
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