By: Aiden Durgerian
Many are questioning the depth and consistency of Arsenal Football Club this season as they hunt for their first Premier League title in over ten years. While the Gunners lead the race into the new year, one can't help but look back just a few seasons, 2013-2014, when, despite the promising first half of the season, Arsene Wenger and his team stuttered to the finish line, ending in a very familiar fourth place. Back to back FA Cups victories have definitely eased the mounting pressure on the manager, but the fans will no doubt be squirming in their seats to be named domestic league champions.
Having played twenty league games so far this season, Arsenal sit three points above their closest legitimate rivals, Manchester City (Leicester City are currently two points off the top, but will likely trail off in the second half of the season). City will definitely look for cover for Mangala and Otamendi with their seemingly endless transfer budget and their results will be more consistent in the second half of the season. More of a reason for Arsenal to do the same. Wenger revealed a deal for 23-year-old defensive midfielder Mohamed Elneny should be wrapped up in two to three days (possibly available for the trip to Anfield this Wendesday). Wenger will search for a center forward who would provide real competition and cover with Giroud for that number nine position. The lack of rotation in the squad contributes to injuries and lethargic performances such as the four nil drubbing at Southampton, drawing at Norwich and most recently, home to Newcastle, despite the unconvincing 1-0 win. Bulking up the squad would definitely lift the pressure off the players.
Arsenal's star player this season is without a doubt Mesut Özil, notching 16 assists and three goals, meaning he's has directly contributed to 19 goals in 19 Premier League appearances. That's already two more assists than his past two seasons combined. The Premier league record for assists in a single season is 20, set by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry in their famous invincible 2002-2003 season. Özil is just 5 assists away from breaking the record with 18 games to go. While many will claim that Özil is carrying the Arsenal team, consistent performers such as 10 million pound summer signing Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, and Laurent Koscielny have all done their part to increase the solidarity of the defense. Arsenal currently have the third best defense in the league, conceding 18 goals, only to be bettered by Tottenham and Manchester United. The most successful manager in English history, with 13 top flight titles, Sir Alex Ferguson, once said "Attack wins you games, defense wins you titles." Petr Cech would surely agree with this, as he looks to extend his all time Premier League clean sheet record, which he broke at home to Bournemouth in late 2015. Arsenal fans will also be boosted by the news that last seasons player of the year, Alexis Sanchez, should return for their trip to Stoke City on the 17th of January. Whether or not he stays fit for the remainder of the season will play a huge part of Arsenal's season, as his desire on the pitch is infectious and rubs off on his teammates.
In a season where television deals have increased the financial power of all Premier League teams, the league has never been so competitive. With Chelsea off to a hilariously poor start, United boring the socks off everyone under Louis Van Gaal, and City showing defensive instability without their captain, Vincent Kompany, Arsenal haven't had a better chance in over a decade of lifting the ever so coveted Premier League title.
Predicted top 4:
1. Arsenal FC
2. Manchester City
3. Tottenham Hotspurs
4. Manchester United