Whilst this season’s Premier League campaign has been largely dictated by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, with the same old formidable sides continuing to dominate the headlines in Europe, Arsene Wenger and his entertaining Arsenal outfit have somewhat been forced to operate under the radar for a change.
Very few seem to be talking about the Gunners this year. Although they still look a long way off from becoming the multiple trophy winning side their fans would love them to be, 2014/15 has pretty much turned out to be a crisis-free period for the ever-present Premier League side in the Champions League.
The January transfer window remained a relatively quiet time for the North Londoners, their defence has come on a long way with first teamers returning back from injury, and as for the lack of world class striking talent that unusually fills the talk of the Emirates terraces, the signing of Alexis Sanchez seems to have certainly done the trick in that department in great style.
Now though, since the Gunners successfully qualified from their group in Europe and subsequently face a relatively straight-forward tie in the next round, are Arsenal slyly well-placed to win the illustrious Champions League title in 2014/15?
The number one factor behind Arsene Wenger’s recent good fortune has been several of his key stars returning from injury. Mesut Ozil for one acts as a pivotal component within this current Arsenal squad, and with his cool demeanour and unmatched composure on the ball, the midfielder’s ability to set up his team-mates with classically fine through-balls certainly is a joy to behold. Yes – the German international may look too nonchalant at times, but with the right combination of players around him, the former Real Madrid man really can perform to a world class level.
One of those ‘right players’ would be another big talent returning from a lengthy spell on the side-lines – Theo Walcott. The England striker has the ability to destroy any defence on his day. Whilst inconsistency has unfortunately plagued the 25-year-old’s career so far, when the quick-footed attacker really starts to find his stride, Walcott simply has the ability to be one of the most deadly strikers in Europe.
That said, although Arsenal’s returning stars will see the North London based team certainly well placed for the Champions League knock-out stages, Wenger’s defence will simply have to up their game if they are to make any meaningful headway in the tournament. AS Monaco, the Gunners’ upcoming opponents in Europe, may not be the most aggressively attacking side Arsenal could have drawn, but with midfielder Yannick Ferreira Carrasco finding the net several times this season, and former Prem star Dimitar Berbatov leading the attack for the classy French outfit, Wenger’s back-line simply can’t take any chances.
The likes of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will therefore have to re-establish the defensive connection that seemed to work so well for them last season, with new signing Gabriel Paulista also needing to efficiently contribute for his new side at the back.
Of course Europe’s really outstanding teams and ever-present high flyers, such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, will obviously prove an undoubtedly strong force should Arsene Wenger’s determined side have to face them in the latter stages of the competition – but that simply doesn’t mean Arsenal should be prematurely written off.
If the Gunners can avoid the characteristic slip-ups and supposed psychological calamities that usually dominate their ill-fated quests for silverware, then whilst doing their business away from the spot-light for a change, 2014/15 really could be a year to remember for the Emirates faithful.
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