Alright, Brian, the EPL season starts this weekend. There have been some massive transfers this offseason, with Raheem Sterling going to City, Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino to Liverpool, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United, and Falcao to Chelsea. With all that movement, you'd think the top four team that stayed the most stagnant, Arsenal, wouldn't have a chance to win the title. But you'd be wrong.
Although the transfer season has been fairly quiet for Arsenal so far, they (finally) addressed their biggest need by signing a true top keeper, Petr Cech. None other than Chelsea Captain and longtime teammate John Terry warned that Cech could be worth 12 to 15 points to Arsenal, which would have won them the league last year. So, based on the expert, hyper-intelligent opinion of John Terry, I say Arsenal could win the league.
But just for fun, let's keep going. In what seems like a quite sudden change of circumstances, Arsene Wenger has amassed a deep squad. The surprising but welcome emergence of fullback Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal's shocking competency has given the Arsenal defense much-needed depth, allowing Calum Chambers to provide support for an otherwise thin center back platoon. Likewise, Wenger no longer needs to rely on Jack Wilshere to do good things, which is vital because he is often injured. For example, he's injured right now, despite having barely played soccer for three months. Wenger even has depth up front (seriously!) with Walcott appearing most likely to play in a forward role along with Giroud and Welbeck.
All of this means Wenger can rotate the squad, something he hasn't had the luxury of doing during the penny-pinching days of stadium debt yore. But those days are over now.
Aaron, you're right about a lot of this. Arsenal's young players have grown up a great deal, and in Cech the team has one of the world's best goalkeepers. I think the team will be more competitive than it has been in a decade, but I don't think it will win the league. For all the quality in the Arsenal lineup, it's a lineup that still has holes in the form of a not-quite-world-class striker and a pair of defenders: I don't trust Nacho at all, despite a decent game or two, and I'm not convinced Per Mertesacker, who is a good player, is quite good enough.
Look at Chelsea and find me a weak point in their starting 11. Hell, Arsenal improved when it got one of Chelsea's bench players. To me, that's the difference.
Look, I don't trust Nacho either. Nobody does. But he's not appreciably worse than what other teams have to offer off the bench. Is New Nacho Monreal really that much worse than Bacary Sagna for City or for, looking at Chelsea's bench…..fuck, I don't even know who comes in for Ivanovic if he gets injured (do you?).
Remember when everyone made fun of The Guardian last year for proclaiming German fitness ace Shad Forsythe their best summer signing? Seemed stupid, especially during the Summer Of Sanchez, right? Well, their injury record drastically improved the second half of the season, giving them a healthy squad for the first time in ages. Perhaps it was just a blip, but even if a fraction of this injury record continues, Arsenal can easily extract a win or two from that difference alone.
I'll grant you that Chelsea's XI has almost no weaknesses. This is why they won the league last year. But what happens if Ivanovic goes down? Or Cahill? Matic? Fabregas? What happens if Costa remains injured? Falcao may be expensive, but he hasn't shown any capability since his major knee injury. Chelsea's weakness is their lack of depth. This season marks the first time I have more faith in Arsenal's depth than any other in the Premier League.
Depth is a great thing to have, but it's also a contingency. What's more important is having the best first team, because you can't really plan for injuries, you can only react to them. I'd rather an excellent plan A and no plan B than a decent one of both. If something happens, at this level, you should have the confidence you can figure something out on the fly anyway.
In Jose Mourinho, Chelsea happens to have a manager who is incredibly gifted—I would say the best—at figuring things out on the fly. We're worried about right back? Remember when Michael Essien filled in at right back during Mourinho's first spell at the club? The guy will figure it out. And if he can't, he'll buy somebody in January.
What worries me the most about Arsenal is that the team is so close to being an outright title favorite but seems more resigned to give it a go with the guys they have than bring in the players that will make it truly competitive. Every other "big club" in the Premier League is spending money trying to fill holes, Arsenal isn't. Arsenal presumably has a large stack of money to spend just like everybody else. Why doesn't Wenger bring in the players he needs to push his team over the edge?
I'm generally not a believer in the importance of managers, but Mourinho is one of the exceptions. You're right, he does seem to pull solutions out of thin air, so perhaps I'm too eager to point to a lack of depth. However, for the first time in years, I think there's a very plausible scenario in which Arsenal takes the league. Their best team can compete with Chelsea and City while their depth is second to none.
As an Arsenal fan, yes, I wish to fucking Christ Lord Jesus that Wenger had splurged on Vidal and/or Schneiderlin to bolster the central midfield rather than rely on the permanently crouched Francis Coquelin and the human hairpiece formerly known as Mikel Arteta. But I also get why he didn't: Vidal is 28 and Wenger doesn't like 'em over 25, and United overpaid for Schneiderlin at 27 million pounds. Wenger has always been obsessed with value and once again he plows into the season with cash in hand. Maybe, just maybe, it will work this time.