Arsenal ready to compete at the highest level this season after making the biggest signing in their history. We take a look at their likely starting XI.
Arsenal failed to sign a striker on transfer deadline day, but Gunners fans remained jubilant thanks to the acquisition of Germany international playmaker Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.
There is now a buoyant atmosphere around the north London side, with Arsenal players and fans alike heralding the capture of Ozil as the dawn of a new age.
The Gunners view Ozil as the first world class signing of many as their club begins to punch its weight in the transfer market, having had to step down a couple of weights in this horrible boxing analogy due to building a boxing ring. I mean stadium.
Whilst not completely paid off, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium debt is now much more manageable, and there may be further exciting signings to follow Ozil in the coming transfer windows.
For now until January though, we believe this will be Arsene Wenger’s first choice team.
Arsenal XI – 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny.
Poland international goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny can be expected to keep his place in the Arsenal line-up, after strong performances in recent weeks.
The 23 year-old is probably the most confident human on the planet – with the possible exception of Nicklas Bendtner – and now has to back it up with consistent performances.
Emiliano Viviano may have signed for the Gunners on deadline day, but will initially supply competition rather than take Szczesny’s spot. Lukasz Fabianski may play the odd game to remind everyone he exists.
Right back: Bacary Sagna.
Despite two leg breaks in recent years, Bacary Sagna remains amongst the best right backs in world football.
The France international is quick across the ground and positionally sound too. The 29 year-old is strong in the tackle, great in the air, and supports his winger well in attack when required. He is also able to cover at centre back in fine fashion, and when required to do so, Carl Jenkinson is next in line to play in the right full back position – still making his granddad proud.
Centre back: Per Mertesacker
6’6″ defender Per Mertesacker is affectionately known as the BFG amongst Arsenal supporters – not Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant, though that certainly encapsulates his personality, but Big F***ing German.
Mertesacker has the turning circle of a rotating restaurant, but reads the game exceptionally well, is a strangely graceful and clean tackler, and is naturally strong in the air given his colossal stature.
Centre back: Laurent Koscielny
Laurent Koscielny is one of the best centre halves in the world on his day.
The France international star has performed brilliantly against some of the best players in the world, with his deceptive pace adding to a great all round game.
Koscielny is prone to occasionally drop kicking his brain out of the stadium, with red cards on both his debut and eighth Premier League appearance for the Gunners, and the needlessly pulling down of Man City striker Edin Dzeko last season that earned him his marching orders.
Cut those out though, and there are very few better, and Koscielny makes a great foil for Mertesacker.
Left back: Kieran Gibbs
The Arsenal academy is a strangely prolific producer of left backs. In recent years, it has seen Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy and Kieran Gibbs come through, and if the latter was slightly less injury prone, he could be one of the best in the world.
Due to those struggles to maintain fitness, Arsenal brought in first the tragicomedy Andre Santos, whose Gunners career could be summarised as a football blooper reel, and then the Spain international Nacho Monreal.
Despite the pedigree and ability of Monreal, Gibbs has responded well to the challenge, and is a clear first choice left back at Emirates Stadium. He now works in tandem with Monreal on the left flank, with the Spaniard occasionally deployed ahead of the Englishman on the wing.
An England recall is surely overdue.
Defensive midfield: Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta is so valuable to Arsenal that after a strong start to his Gunners career, teams began to realise that stopping Arteta stopped Arsenal from playing.
However, the magnificently coiffed Spaniard made more passes (and successful passes) than any other Premier League player in 2012-13, as well as the most touches overall.
Arteta also led Arsenal in tackles and interceptions last season, showing that he has adapted well to his role at the base of the Gunners midfield.
Should the game require an enforcer, Mathieu Flamini could well come in. When the Frenchman replaced Jack Wilshere in the north London derby for a second Arsenal debut, it was great to see him gesturing with Gallic flair to where his team-mates should position themselves, and that could prove crucial in tough fixtures.
Central midfield: Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere is a wonderfully gifted midfielder. Tenacious in the tackle, with a massive heart in his tiny chest and always ready to perform a darting dribble beyond opponents, the England international ought to be one of the best players in the Arsenal squad.
However, when patience is required to break a stubborn team down, Wilshere can be guilty of forcing the issue, losing possession with players high up the pitch.
A more disciplined Wilshere will come with time though, and the 21 year-old will undoubtedly be an enormous asset for years to come.
He will be pushed hard for a place by Aaron Ramsey, who has improved immensely over the last year, and has even started to add a goal threat to his game – something that Wilshere has yet to develop.
Attacking midfield (left): Santi Cazorla
Santi Cazorla is one of the best footballers to watch in the world. He is a player who clearly loves football, and it shows in the way that he plays.
So often players are criticised for being one footed, but Cazorla is near equally adept on either side, and his quick feet, imagination and vision enable him to dribble and pass his way past opponents time and time again.
Cazorla has played most of his career on the right flank before a central attacking midfield role was given to him at Arsenal. Since February, he has tended to start from the left, cutting inside, and so it was against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
The diminutive Spaniard found space often, and was able to create almost all of the Gunners’ best chances. He may not possess the dynamism or explosiveness of backup Lukas Podolski, but is a very cultured player who would improve any Premier League side.
Attacking midfield (right): Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott is really fast. Really fast.
Fortunately, that’s no longer his only personal attribute. Walcott has added a coolness in front of goal to his game, but given that he no longer freezes so often when forced to make a decision, he must now be the… perfect temperature? Kill me.
Walcott’s searing pace does give Arsenal a different dimension. A squad entirely full of slight, tricky players would find it difficult to break down a compact team, but the England winger stretches play as a compact team would undoubtedly leave space behind.
Walcott also develops wonderful relationships with strikers, and was well known for his productive partnership with Robin Van Persie; both assisting the other to score.
The 24 year-old must now work on making more intelligent runs before he can be considered a viable option to lead the line (rather than play high on the right), and begin to play with his head up a bit more. There are plenty of players in the Arsenal squad who can teach him how to do that.
Attacking midfield (centre): Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil. Arguably the most exciting signing to have ever joined the Premier League, Ozil is a game changer for Arsenal. And not just for the potential Finding Nemo merchandise.
No players have provided more assists than Ozil in the last three seasons in Europe’s major five leagues, and the Germany international ought to help Arsenal make the breakthrough against teams that perhaps frustrated them last term.
Ozil could be the player that changes the Gunners from top four hopefuls to title and trophy contenders.
Centre forward: Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud has started the campaign in immensely prolific form, with the Frenchman scoring four times in the Gunners’ five matches.
After last season he was often derided for wasteful play in front of goal, and a tendency to shoot from near the corner flag, Giroud has improved his key attributes of finishing, hold up play, and handsomeness.
It is worth bearing in mind that Giroud has enjoyed a great second season at each of his previous clubs.
After nine strikes in the league in his debut campaign for Tours, he scored 21 the following season. He then signed for Montpellier, and scored 12 league goals in his opening campaign, before following it up with a further 21 strikes in a Ligue 1 title winning season.
Giroud scored 11 times in the Premier League last season, and with three goals in three top flight goals so far, it looks like another great second season is on the cards.
Arsenal now just need him to stay fit at least until January. Otherwise Yaya Sanogo may have to develop pretty quickly – or Nicklas Bendtner or *gulp* Park Chu Young may be required. And no one wants it to come to that.
Full line up below.