Arsene Wenger prepares to open another Premier League campaign with a storm passing over the Emirates Stadium. Fortunately for the French manager, the eye of Hurricane Robin has passed and Arsenal are on the tailing edge of the storm as it moves away in to memory. That's basically a really dramatic way of saying Robin van Persie is gone and it's time to get down to business.
Yet, logic dictates that the Arsenal fans will not let the Van Persie thing go any time soon. It's not to say that they'll take out their anger on Wenger, after all what was he supposed to do. He knew this was coming or at least sensed it and his off-season moves showed that. The Gunners added Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, and Santi Cazorla, three attacking players that could, and probably should, revitalize the Arsenal attack. There's ever reason to believe that those three players, along with the likes of Mikel Arteta, Alex Song and Theo Walcott, that Arsenal could be in better place going in to the season than they have been in awhile.
That optimism comes from the defense as well. The Gunners' back line is mostly healthy. Wenger will have newly minted team captain Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker ready to go at the start of the season, but Laurent Koscielny will miss the opening of the season with a calf injury. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny returns with more experience under his belt and looking to build on a solid 2011-12 campaign.
This isn't a bad Arsenal team, but it's a fragile Arsenal team that needs to get off to a fast start and can ill afford the rash of injuries that has beset them in recent seasons. Some of thise injuries are still lingering as well. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the start of the season, while Jack Wilshire and Bacary Sagna both continue their rehab back from injuries sustained last season.
There are two years left on Wenger's contract with the North London club and his managerial reign has been critcized by a cast of thousands over the past few years. Arsenal's slow start last season essentially knocked them out of the title hunt within weeks, so getting off to a more positive start could boost Wenger's standing and help him avoid the calls for his job that he's probably gotten fairly used to.
Then there's the specter of playing without van Persie. Say what you want about him Arsenal fans, but he was easily your best player last season and if he had been healthy throughout previous seasons, who knows what might have been accomplished. Now he's gone and Arsenal have to prove they can move on without him. Opening the season with some solid wins would help push RVP's shadow quickly away, but a slow start would only compound the doubts.
It's been seven years since Arsenal won a trophy. Despite a third place finish last season, a tremendous recovery considering their poor start, Wenger's reputation and legacy are on the line. Anything less than a league title or a cup run simply won't do because at this point, it's all about the silverware.
Last year: 3rd; 21W 7D 10L.
This year: 4th, Unless Arsenal makes a cup run, the trophy drought will likely continue. This team is relying on new faces and injury prone players to carry them and that's always a dangerous mix.
Key player(s): Lukas Podolski. When Podolski was signed, there was hope he would be able to partner with Van Persie and unleash fury upon the EPL. Now, Podolski will be the man up front for Arsenal and they're going to need him to do all the things that RVP was able to do. He'll have some help and if Arteta and others can stay on the pitch and contribute, it should only make Podolski better. If he has a big season, anything might be possible.
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