Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Realistic expectations for Arsenal's 2014/15 campaign


I have long stated that Arsenal are on the verge of big things. The foundation has been made, and this is the year we need to pursue success. And not the FA Cup or top four kind of success - but going for top prizes like the Champions League and competing for the league till the end. The expectations below, hence, may seem a bit extreme, but it's something a club of our standard have to go for; especially considering the buzz and morale in the camp.

Premier League: Top two

Winning the Premier League obviously is the club's primary target, but it would be remarkable if we actually achieve it. As good as our squad is, Chelsea's and Manchester City's are decisively better, and a lot of our title chances hinge on our summer deal(s). Fans are rightly clamouring for a defender and a DM, but I suspect Wenger will buy one player who will be neither.

I understand that we have a huge chance in recent years to win the league, but other teams have better. Pellegrini has quietly strengthened his depth and kept the core intact, while Mourinho is a class above Wenger tactically. I find it hard to believe Wenger has changed his tactical approach and man management, as much as he deserves credit for his adaptation to modern football.

Man City and Chelsea are tied as prime contenders for the league, so I believe our challenge must be to at least topple one of them bigshots and usurp second, if not first. As of now, even though I hope we win the league, my mind says we'll finish third.

Champions League: Semi finals

Aim for the stars, right?

Course, all of this will topple if we lose to Besiktas, but I feel it's about time we start to assert ourselves in Europe. We're in danger of falling into the 'Marseille-Napoli-Schalke' category; a team that is ever-present in the CL but are considered as fillers rather than contenders. We have the raw materials - a great attack, the philosophy of continental football, and the Emirates is turning into a bit of a fortress.

If this season isn't the time to have a genuine shot at the CL, then I don't know when is. After qualifying for the group stages, we need to make absolutely sure that we top the group, so that we likely face an easy team in the Round of 16. Hopefully, that'd send the ball rolling.

FA Cup: A ticket to Wembley


Last season's FA Cup run was fun. In fact, it was one of those things that made the whole season fun.

I have always looked at the FA Cup as a sort of consolation prize. But, even for a club like Arsenal - one starting to gain the 'big club' mentality - sometimes we have to make do. The FA Cup still remains a prestigious knockout competition and one that could hold decisive while judging a season. At least reaching the semi final should, for me, be the minimum requirement.

Capital One Cup: Who gives a shit?

As far as I'm concerned, whatever happens in the Capital One Cup is a complete irrelevance. If we win, it's a bonus. If we lose 5-2 to Tottenham in the first round with Adebayor scoring a hattrick, well, meh.

However, I wouldn't want the Capital One Cup to influence competitions like the Premier League, Champions League or the FA Cup. I don't want Alexis to rupture his ACL during an away trip to Leeds, and I don't want Mertesacker to miss a clash against United because he bollixed a player in the Capital One Cup.

Gosh, did I jinx it?

Win a trophy

The FA Community Shield has changed little. We still need to lift some silverware come May. If we falter in the Premier League, we must win the FA Cup to compensate that. If we get knocked out in the CL and the Cup, we must go all out for the league and win it. It's better to win one trophy and fail in the other two, than to reach mighty close on all three fronts but win peanuts in the end. Which season do you prefer - the 2010/11 season or the 2013/14 one? There's your answer.

And it's not like we don't have the potential to do it. Aside from a DM, the team is lacking quantity rather than quality. We're in a position where all of our players aren't dispensable and everyone offers something unique. I wouldn't even mind Squillaci back for depth.

All we need are a centre back (who'd play around fifteenish games anyway), and a decent defensive midfielder, if not world-class. Then, for me, we're good to go. All that's standing in our way are tactical blunders and injury crises.

The season starts on Saturday. I wouldn't miss it for the world. Come on Arsenal!

P.S. My apologies for those weirdly designed tabs at the top, but I'm facing coding errors with making drop-down tabs for well over a year now. I tried HTML, CSS and Java but none worked. If you have any advice, shoot a mail to santirambo1916@gmail.com or find me on Twitter.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]