Arsenal square up with Liverpool in their opening game of the new Premier League season and we have put together a starting XI that is capable of not only getting over the line on Sunday the 14th of August but also of launching a genuine title challenge.
While this Arsenal side has many of the fashionable characteristics that we have come to associate with the North London club over the years, it also has a bit obstinacy about it. And that could be the difference between a Champions League finish and league glory in 2017.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
Cech picks himself between the posts. He was rock-solid last season and certainly played his part in Arsenal securing second-place. In addition to being a great shot-stopper, his 137 Premier League clean sheets are evidence of this, Cech’s skills as a footballer are perfectly suited to the style in which Arsenal play as he allows them to pass out from the back rather than have to compete for high balls in the middle of the park that have been hoofed forward.
Left back: Ricardo Rodríguez
Rodríguez has expressed excitement at the possibility of joining his Swiss team-mate Granit Xhaka in North London. While nothing has been confirmed at this stage, he certainly would be a superb fit. For too long now Arsenal have lacked grunt and physicality and Rodríguez has certainly brought those attributes to VfL Wolfsburg in his time with the club. His prowess at set-piece time is not be sneezed at either.
Centre back: Laurent Koscielny
Having done the job for a while now, Koscielny holds his place in the middle of Arsenal’s defence for the upcoming season. He was at the heart of France’s Euro 2016 challenge and the heartbreak he suffered in the final might provide him with the grit and determination Arsenal need to go all the way in the Premier League this year.
Centre back: Neven Subotic
Per Mertesacker loses his place in the team to Subotic. Gone are the days of picking leaders just for the sake of it. For too long the clumsy German has been too mediocre. Subotic has been strongly linked with a move away from Borussia Dortmund and the Serb’s simplistic, uncompromising approach to defending will be welcomed by Cech who found himself bailing out Mertesacker with superhuman saves all too often last season.
Right back: Héctor Bellerín
Bellerín continues to development as an Arsenal player and at the age of just 21, he seems worth investing time and opportunities in. Maybe not yet the finished article, Bellerín has the potential to drive this club forward in the years to come in the same way that the likes of Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown and Kolo Touré did in the early 2000s.
Left attacking midfield: Julian Draxler
Another player linked with a move to Arsenal is Draxler. The outrageously talented 22-year-old German prodigy’s speed, ambition, skill, shooting power and ability to use both feet almost as comfortably as each other would make him a dangerous option on the left-hand side of a fluid Gunner’s midfield.
Central midfielder: Granit Xhaka
While we have already picked three players in this team that are not Arsenal players just yet, one confirmed signing is Switzerland’s Xhaka and boy are we feverish to see what he brings to the table. Known for his versatility, high work rate, wide passing range, impressive tackling and intimate feel for the game, the 22-year-old bears striking similarities to Andrea Pirlo when the Italian was at the peak of his powers.
Central midfielder: Santi Cazorla
Alongside Xhaka in the most artistic of engine rooms will be Cazorla. Coming off a long injury lay-off, Cazorla will be hungry to win his first Premier League title with his beloved Arsenal and when the team has clicked in the past, most of the play has generally gone through him.
Right attacking midfield: Aaron Ramsey
After an inspirational Euro 2016 with Wales where he arguably outplayed Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, who also had a fine tournament, Ramsey assumes a role on the right-hand side of the midfield. Ramsey has come good in recent years and he is currently in the form of his life. While he makes the team as a player alone, his influence as a person and capacity as a leader will be crucial to this Arsenal side that has often come under criticism for lacking strong personalities. The Welshman gets the skipper’s armband.
Roaming striker: Mesut Özil
Özil is at his best when he is given the freedom to traipse the field as he pleases in that lethargic style that only he can make look elegant. We do not expect him to operate exclusively between the midfield combination of Xhaka and Cazorla and Alexis Sánchez up front but that is where he should pick up the ball the most. Last season his imaginative passing occurred in front of the opposition’s back four rather than beyond them. That must change and placing him just behind the striker should have the desired effect.
Striker: Alexis Sánchez
Brimming with confidence after driving Chile to the country’s second Copa America in as many attempts, Sánchez is given the responsibility of leading Arsenal’s attack. There is not much to dislike about him. It is rare that a player has an honest attitude, a sound technique, a burning desire to run, a knack of scoring goals and a considerable appetite for collective success. Sanchez is one of those. His consistency sees him picked over Oliver Giroud, despite the latter spear-heading the French side so well at the Euros. Good luck to whoever has to break the news to Giroud though, they can expect the toys to be a good distance from the cot.