Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can Arsenal Be Serious Title Contenders This Season?

Arsenal had a shaky start to the 2010-11 Premiership season with the defeat at home to West Brom having the Arsenal fans worrying if it was going to be another one of those seasons. Many have already written off Arsenal as real title contenders with many seeing Chelsea, Man Utd and now Man City as the three teams that will be slugging it out come the end of the season. However none of the other three are without their weak spots, so can Arsenal take advantage of this and lift the league trophy?

Chelsea have looked in great form so far this season scoring a huge number of goals, however the squad is considerably weaker than last seasons so the question marks remain if they can last the full season with their current squad. A number of the Chelsea players, including Frank Lampard and Yossi Benayoun, are already on the treatment table and with some key players like Ricardo Carvalho having failed to be replaced in the summer injuries could be what derails Chelsea's title defence.

Arsenal of course could sympathise with Chelsea with injuries affecting them potentially more than any other club in recent years. However the Arsenal team now looks to have more depth. The signing of Koscielny and Squillaci has given the Gunners much needed cover in defence and with the advancements that young players like Jack Wilshere, who has been one of the star performers in Arsenal shirts this season, has made means there is now more depth in midfield . The signing of Chamakh has also given Arsenal an option they didn't have last year and gives them a more physical presence in the box.

Man Utd's problems are well documented at the moment, not only have they been unable to hold onto leads but their top striker has also declared he wants to leave the club. This type of news can only unsettle the players around him and with Man Utd already looking more vulnerable than we have seen them for many seasons this could be what ends Uniteds title challenge this season, especially if Wayne Rooney is indeed coming to the end of his days in Manchester United shirts.

This season Arsenal seem to have much more unity about them and they have managed to scrape out victories in games that you could have seen them dropping points in. Also with Fabregas having been injured for a large part of the start of the season other players like Wilshere have stepped up to stake their claim for a starting spot, and to show the Arsenal fans the future of the Arsenal midfield if Fabregas eventually gets his move to Barcelona.

Man City probably have the most talent packed squad with the main criticism of them at the moment seeming to be the inability to score goals. City sit second in the league at the moment so it is hard to criticise them too much but they have dropped points in games you thought they would have won, but then again so has Arsenal. City's main concern this season is going to be keeping all their very expensive players happy with many having to sit on the sidelines and watch.

The pressure on Arsenal has been removed to a certain extent at the moment, many already see them as out of the running for the title. However Arsenal may just have enough to surprise everyone and win the title if, and it is a big if, they can keep their players fit. Too often Arsenal have fallen short for this reason but with a larger and more talented squad this year the club could mount a serious challenge and take advantage of the weaknesses the other top teams have.

Written by Colin Hill, a sports blogger who writes about new soccer jerseys.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Capello's Jack Wilshere England Dilemma

Ahead of tonight's crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro, the topic dominating discussion around the England camp has been the role to be played of Jack Wilshere. Part of the under-21 side who secured a first leg 2-1 lead over Romania on Friday, pundits were split over whether the talented youngster should remain with Stuart Pearce's side or be pitched straight into the clash with Montengro at Wembley.

That Wilshere has a glittering future at international level is not on doubt. After a solid loan spell at Bolton last season, he has returned to Arsenal and broken into the side with a string of excellent performances, showing Arsene Wenger that he can take over the reins when the seemingly inevitable departure of Cesc Fabregas finally goes through.

Understandably, with England coach Fabio Capello keen to bring through new talent in the wake of England's disastrous World Cup, Wilshere has caught his eye and may well be pitched into battle against a Montengro side who should not be underestimated having won all three of their opening qualifying fixtures thus far.

On one hand, it seems a no brainer. Wilshere's performances in an Arsenal shirt have been both consistent and impressive and in the absence of Frank Lampard, there seems little reason to leave out his deft touch and creativity.

On the other hand, we have a tendency in this country to rush players through the system, perhaps hampering their development. Stuart Pearce has admitted that it's a tricky balancing act for the young players and is right when he says "if they are not going to play, leave them in the age group where they can actually play 90 minutes". It could be that Wilshere is better served ensuring the under 21s qualify for Euro 2011, an environment where Wilshere can further hone his talents next summer.

It's a bit of a no win situation for the England boss and one which will only be glossed over should England gain all three points on Tuesday night. The only thing that's not in question is that Jack Wilshere most certainly does have a future at international level.

Written by Colin Hill, a sports writer who blogs about new football kits.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why The Premiership Title Is Beyond Arsenal

I am a huge Arsenal supporter. Ever since the day Arsene Wenger walked into Highbury and went about turning the Gunners into one of the most entertaining and finest teams in world football, I have been a huge admirer of the football club both on and off the pitch. Arsenal's approach to footballl both on the park and financially is exactly what the game should be about and it pains me that they are not rewarded with trophies.

Similarly, I am by no means against Arsene Wenger and I fully support the approach he takes to managing Arsenal Football Club. Those who claim that Arsenal would be better off without him in charge are deluded and ignorant of the fact that were it not for Arsene's unparalleled ability to discover and bring through young talent, Arsenal would not be able to compete against the Arab riches of Manchester City, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea or Manchester United's unlimited debt financial model.

Despite this though, I don't believe Arsenal can win the Premiership title this season. I would love to be proved wrong but I fear that the weekends conquerers Chelsea are going to be too strong for those in Arsenal shirts this season.

The reality is, Arsenal dominated the game of football on Sunday. They went to the home of the Champions, a club with one of the best home records in Premiership history and were the better team for the majority of the football match. The fact of the matter is though, Chelsea are more ruthless, they are more clinical and once again, they organised themselves superbly defensively and stung Arsenal on the counter attack.

As impressive as Arsenal's attacking game is, the offensive side is only half of football and Chelsea's ability to defend and organise is as impressive as the Gunners flowing attacking instincts. As they always do, Chelsea restricted the space and formed a compact unit in a way that (in my opinion) only they can. Arsenal may have had all of the ball and they may have had their chances, but Chelsea's counter attacking caused the Gunners no end of problems and it was no surprise, nor co-incidence that they won the game.

It cannot be ignored that Arsenal were without key men in Thomas Vermaelen, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie and yes, had they played it could have been different. But how long can Arsenal keep using this as an excuse, for it seems they are permanently without key men in big matches?

The title is by no means beyond Arsenal and the break for the Euro 2012 qualifiers comes at a welcome time, affording the Gunners time to regroup after back to back defeats. A seven point deficit at this stage in the season is by no means impossible to make up, but it will be very tough and Arsenal need to both keep their key players fit and develop a ruthless streak if they are to mount a serious challenge for the title.

Written by Colin Hill, a sports blogger who writes about new football shirts.