Nickname: The Gunners
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|Last Season - Close but no cigar||Position: 2nd|
Unbeaten in 2003/04 there were high hopes for 2004/05 but once Manchester United ended the Gunners' 49-game unbeaten run with a 2-0 defeat the wheels temporarily fell off. Following the loss the self-belief, and some might say arrogance, that the run had fostered crumbled and the Gunners continued to drop points before losing again to Liverpool and being knocked out of the League Cup by United. That blip was enough for Arsenal to slip behind Chelsea in the league and despite returning to sparkling form towards the end of the season the Highbury outfit lost their title. Arsenal saved the season by gaining revenge over United in the FA Cup final and were further consoled by the emergence of some top-class young talent, for which Arsene Wenger has always had a good eye.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Aleksander Hleb (Stuttgart) - £9.94m
Alexandre Song Billong (Basita) - Loan
Mart Poom (Sunderland) - Loan
Patrick Vieira (Juventus) - £13.75m
Stuart Taylor (Aston Villa) - Undisclosed
Adam Birchall (Mansfield) - Free
Eduardo Gaspar (Valencia) - Free
Daniel Karbassiyoon (Burnley) - Free
Frankie Simek (Sheff Wednesday) - Free
Olafur-Ingi Skulason (Brentford) - Free
Sebastian Svard (Guimaraes) - Free
Jeremie Aliadiere (West Ham) - Loan
David Bentley (Blackburn) - Loan
Justin Hoyte (Sunderland) - Loan
Graham Stack (Reading) - Loan
Jordan Fowler - Released
|First Choice XI|
GK Jens Lehmann; RB Bisan Lauren, CB Kolo Toure, CB Sol Campbell, LB Ashley Cole; RM Aleksander Hleb, CM Francesc Fabregas, CM Gilberto, LM Robert Pires; ST Jose Reyes, ST Thierry Henry.
|The Gaffer - Arsene Wenger|
Arsene Wenger's cool, calm and collected approach has prompted universal praise from his players and the Frenchman's studious approach to the game has earned him the nickname 'The Professor'. He is renowned for his ability to spot young talent and potential and last season the emergence of Philippe Senderos, Francesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini proved the point. Wenger's flowing, quick-paced style of football at Highbury has prompted some to claim that Arsenal are the most attractive team in Europe. Ironically, it is in the UEFA Champions League that Wenger's side appears to struggle and until the Highbury boss can crack that particular nut Arsenal cannot take their desired place amongst Europe's great teams. However, the smart money says the former Grampus Eight manager will eventually add that particular piece of silverware to his already highly decorated trophy cabinet and he also needs to reclaim the Premiership crown this coming season.
|Player to Watch - Aleksander Hleb|
Hleb became Arsenal's first signing of the summer of 2005, moving to Highbury from Vfb Stuttgart for a total fee of £9.94million. The Belarus international has carved out a reputation as an exciting and skillful midfielder in the Bundesliga and he will be expected to bring that brand of football to the Premiership. The winger may have a big role to play if the rumours of discontent from fellow Arsenal winger Robert Pires has any foundation in truth. For Stuttgart, the Belarusian lined up either centrally behind the strikers or floating wide on the left and that is the kind of role that Wenger has fully exploited at Highbury. During the 2004/05 season no one in the Bundesliga created more goals than him and he will be expected to have the same impact in the Premiership.
|Young Gun - Quincy Owusu-Abeyie|
Flamini, Fabregas, Senderos and Van Persie are all great young talents but it could be argued that they have already broken through at Arsenal - they have certainly received more than enough column inches. So this year Soccernet is tipping Quincy Owusu-Abeyie to become the next young player to be lavished with plaudits at Highbury. The Dutch striker played a bit part last season, making seven appearances, and has since made a huge impact at the World Youth Championships in Holland where he eclipsed much-hyped starlet Jon Obi Mikel. The 19-year-old striker has plenty of pace and composure on the ball that belies his youth. He has all the attributes to succeed he just needs to get a run in the side, and that is not easy with Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes and Dennis Bergkamp ahead of you.
|From The Terrace|
If the upcoming season were a chapter in a book of Arsenal's history, it'd be: "What Arsene Did Next". Success or failure will depend on how the team deals with the Vieira 'ex-factor'. Apart from his departure, the close season has also seen Edu exit, Ashley Cole fall out of love with Arsenal (and Arsenal a little bit out of love with him) and the most-audacious transfer bid fail. It wasn't all negative - Ljungberg, Clichy and Reyes all signed long extensions to their deals.
"Rebuilding" seems a euphemism applied to teams that underperform. For Arsenal to avoid falling under this tag, they need to improve on last season which was one penalty kick away from being a total letdown. Wenger's reluctance to invest more heavily in the squad at the expense of the youngsters is a risky strategy. The current squad isn't strong enough to compensate for long-term injuries to key players. There's still time to add to both attack and defence.
Up front, Ljungberg, Captain Henry, Pires and Bergkamp have each had neat pre-season tune-ups. Alexander Hleb, the only summer signing who can be expected to play a significant role in the trophy chase, has shown exciting pre-season form. He's quick, likes to run with the ball, can pass it without disrupting the flow of a move and needs no second invitation to shoot.
Or will he be another Reyes? Flashes of spectacular brilliance punctuated with nervous spells of being easily brushed off the ball just as the attack threatens to reach its climax?
With Wenger preferring to keep faith with the players already there, Gilberto and Fabregas should form the first-choice central midfield partnership, although in pre-season Mathieu Flamini has been an able deputy, helped and hindered in equal measure by Robert Pires. At the heart of the defence, it's unlikely Sol Campbell can play himself into the form that will see him dislodge either Senderos or Toure if his injury jinx persists.
It's hard to make predictions when surely the spending is not over but those predicting Arsenal will struggle to be competitive and will end up outside of the top four have obviously not been paying much attention to the Wenger Years.
By IJ, from website Arsenal-Mania.
As the Highbury era is ending, the team will also be embarking on a new phase following the departure of Patrick Vieira to Juventus earlier in the summer. How Arsene Wenger intends to reshuffle his midfield still remains to be seen.
Should he stick with the players he has got, greater responsibility would certainly fall on Gilberto's shoulders to break up opposition play and give the back-four protection. Playing the hard-running and harder-tackling Mathieu Flamini alongside the Brazilian would provide the heart of midfield with further Vieira-style energy.
Alexander Hleb has been the club's only major signing of the summer so far and he has looked impressive in preseason games. Two-footed and able to play anywhere in midfield, he runs at defenders and displays wonderful touch and accuracy in his passing.
Cesc Fabregas, Philippe Senderos and Gael Clichy all grasped their first-team opportunities with both hands and absorbed the experience. They will now start this season pushing hard for first team places.
With David Bentley returning from his loan spell at Norwich City and Quincy, Arturo Lupoli, Johan Djourou and Justin Hoyte also now staking claims in the squad, these exciting youngsters can provide the depth and cover required for the long season ahead.
Led by newly-appointed captain Thierry Henry, the Gunners' preseason programme has gone well. Three wins out of three on their trip to Austria and triumph in the Amsterdam tournament will have built confidence ahead of the real business beginning.
The principle objective for the season will be to regain the Premiership and it will be to the Gunners' advantage that all the pressure and weight of expectation will now be on Chelsea as reigning champions.
On paper, winning the Champions' League looks a tall order. However, as Liverpool's success last season demonstrated, with belief, spirit, teamwork and a little bit of luck, incredible feats can be achieved - and if that Liverpool team could do it, then why not Arsenal?
Having played a starring role for Holland in this summer's FIFA World Youth Championships, Quincy will be looking to burst onto the first-team scene with Arsenal this season.
Blessed with searing pace and an array of tricks, he is a skillful and exciting striker who can also play on either wing. In a squad packed with world class players, the chances for young players to get extended runs in the first-team at Arsenal tend to be remote.
However, as Cesc Fabregas and Philippe Senderos proved last season, if an opportunity does arise and it is properly taken, a youngster can establish himself. This season, it could be Quincy's turn.
By David Young, Soccernet's Arsenal Correspondent.
|Best - Champions||Worst - 3rd|
Another season on top of the domestic game beckons for the Gunners. Skipper Patrick Vieira may have departed but few doubt that Wenger has a masterplan that will ensure his side will compete with Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premiership. Europe is another story, anything other than disappointment would be a surprise.