Arsenal kicked off their season opener earlier today with a home game against Sunderland. The Wildcats fought hard and won their point well in a scoreless draw.
The recent departure of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie meant this was the first game without the goal-scoring captain as part of the team. It goes without saying that van Persie, scoring the most goals in the league with 30, was instrumental in Arsenal finishing third in the Premiership. The question now remains: will Arsenal have a shot at the title without him?
The answer is a resounding YES.
The loss of van Persie has been anticipated all summer. As disappointing as it is, not so much that the Holland striker left the club, but that he went to rival Manchester United. This time the club was prepared. Unlike last season’s end of summer transfer mess, Arsene Wenger spent time and money on three key players that will keep the Gunners in contention for the title.
German International Lukas Podolski came from the Bundesliga and scored an impressive 18 league goals for his Koln team and 44 goals in 101 appearances for his national team. Lukas started in today’s game and looked confident and eager but a lack of playing together as a team seemed evident.
Olivier Giroud is a fairly unknown French international player who played a pivotal role for his Montpellier team in the top French league. The 25-year old led the attack by scoring 22 goals and winning the league title. Giroud will not find the back of the net as easily as he did in Ligue 1, which was evident when he missed an easy shot in front of the net late in the match today. That goal could have given the Gunners a win, but hopefully the striker will shake it off and return to the kind of football he is capable of playing.
Last but definitely not least, Arsenal most recently purchased Santi Cazorla who represented Spain at Euro 2012 and played successfully in La Liga. He was given rave reviews from fellow Spaniard and Gunner Mikel Arteta and the two may often play together as attacking midfielders.
Cazorla is known for his pace, intelligent play and creativity. He is also a very versatile player, able to play left winger but can also play right, considering he uses both feet effectively. I predict his contribution will be crucial to the team and think he showed the most promise of all the players on the pitch today.
Obviously the team needs more time to get familiar with each other and gel but there’s promise from new and existing players. Andre Arshavin came in around the 75th minute and had some good touches. Defender Kieren Gibbs held steady against a more experienced Louis Saha and Gervinho had good possession of the ball, but needed help converting.
Even with quite a few injured players and an unusually hot day, the squad managed a point. The Gunners will have to step it up quickly though as I anticipate an early and dominant start from both Manchester clubs and we don’t want to fall too far behind. So happy the season has finally begun! Come On You Gunners!!