Can Arsenal win the Premier League 2013-2014?

Published: November 4, 2013
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Their hunger is evident on the field, and they will not go down easily since they believe in their ability now more than ever. PHOTO: AFP

The 2013-14 Premier League season is said to be the most anticipated one in recent years. The competition is fiercer than any other league in the world, with six clubs battling it out for glory.

Every club, who is entering this year’s campaign, has its own distinct story. Jose Mourinho’s return has instilled new spirit within Chelsea, while David Moyes is struggling to fill in Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes at Old Trafford. Tottenham’s new summer signings are starting to bear fruit and Andre Villas-Boas is intent to prove that the Spurs are still a quality side without Gareth Bale. Manuel Pellegrini is looking to bring consistency in a star-studded Manchester City squad, while Brendan Rodgers finally seems to be bringing in the change at Anfield, as Liverpool tries to restore its club’s pride.

However, in spite of all their efforts, none of these teams have been as prolific and consistent as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, who in my opinion is the strongest contender this season.

Arsenal was arguably one of Europe’s best clubs in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They were consistent, technical and quite literally, a talent powerhouse. Indeed, it was the golden era for the North Londoners as they notched up every major title except the Champions Leagues. Their squad was one to envy. They had one of the best strikers the world has ever seen – Thierry Henry – who went on to become Arsenal’s highest goal-scorer of all time, and won the hearts of fans across the globe. Even rival club supporters had the utmost respect for Henry who, along with Patrick Viera and Robert Pires in mid-field, became an unstoppable force.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Wenger’s tenure was at its best in the 2003-04 season, when he managed a set of individuals who went on to make Premier League history, and Arsenal won the title without suffering a single defeat. However, in the years to follow, the Gunners suffered a severe drought of silverware.

Take, for instance, Jose Mourinho’s first stint at Stamford Bridge in the 2004-05 season, in which Chelsea earned instant success when it defeated Arsenal by a substantial 12 points. Arsenal attempted a come-back and overcame Manchester United in the Football Association (FA) cup final, on penalties. However, this marked the end of Arsenal’s golden era and Arsenal has not won a single trophy since that FA cup triumph.

Although Arsenal has been a quality side and produced world-class players, success has somewhat evaded them completely over the years. It was obvious that expectations at the Emirates Stadium had dropped, after witnessing Arsenal’s over joyous celebrations on securing a hard-earned fourth position last season. Yet, it must be noted that Arsenal has managed to secure a spot in the top four regularly, enabling it to make it to the Champions League every single time, unlike Liverpool.

Still, being a football fanatic, it has been frustrating not seeing them do better, especially considering the fact that they play some of the most beautiful and tactical football in Europe.

Arsene Wenger has been criticised often, particularly for his tactic of playing a young squad, lacking experience. Although Wenger has the gift to recruit some of the best young talent across the globe, this talent tends to leave the club as soon as they start showing signs of becoming world-class players. Prime examples of this misfortune are Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie.

What worsens the situation is that Wenger has a habit of investing further in budding footballers rather than current stars of the football world. It almost seems as if Wenger develops an allergy to players who are past the age of thirty.

However, Arsene’s critics were silenced in early September 2013, when he unexpectedly signed German, Real Madrid play-making wizard, Mesut Ozil, for an enormous 42.5 million pounds!

Photo: AFP

True to his reputation, Ozil has not disappointed the Frenchman one bit and has played a crucial part in Arsenal’s victories this season, providing assist after assist. Moreover, he has linked up amazingly well with striker Olivier Giroud – who has been on the score sheet more often than not – and with the promising Aaron Ramsey.

Arsenal’s Mesut Özil celebrates with Olivier Giroud, right, and Aaron Ramsey against Napoli. Photo: Reuters

Ozil’s contribution to Arsenal’s success has been tremendous including a thumping 2-0 win against Napoli at home, in the Champions League.

Arsenal took the Italians by storm in this game with Ozil producing a perfectly-timed sublime finish that left Pepe Reina in tatters, within the first ten minutes. The Turkish-German scored a memorable début goal for Arsenal and he continues to prove himself as a reckoning force in the Premier League.

Then, only a few minutes later, the ever so reliable Olivier Giroud found the net to extend the Gunner’s lead, courtesy an assist by none other than ‘Mesut the Magician’.

Arsenal’s striker Olivier Giroud has been on the score sheet more often than not. Photo: AFP

Looking at Ozil’s performance, I would not be surprised if in a few years from now, his name is right up there among Arsenal legends such as Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Patrick Viera, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires.

Other than Mesut Ozil, another major contributor towards Arsenal’s progress is the midfield stalwart Mathieu Flamini. After spending half a decade at AC Milan, Flamini returned to his former club as a free transfer. His fantastic effort to regulate play and keep a strong hold on the opposition, has shown that he still has ample juice left in him at the ripe age of 29. His presence as the midfielder is worthy of praise and his defensive strength has proved only beneficial for Arsenal’s cause.

Hence, Wenger deserves credit for finally coming back to his winning ways and posing a serious threat this season. He did not let the loyal Arsenal supporters down, who stayed steadfastly behind him, all the while chanting,

“In Wenger we trust.”

Also, it must not be forgotten that a number of Arsenal’s first string players are injured currently, and have been forced to play restricted 11s. Imagine what will happen when the injured stars regain their fitness!

Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is injured during the English Premier League match against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London. Photo: Reuters

It is definitely a new age in the Premier League where, quite frankly, any one of the six clubs mentioned can win the title. However, if I had my money on a team, it would be Arsenal – without a second thought. They are leading the Premier League and are a part of ‘the group of death’ in the Champions League. It is truly heart-warming to see a struggling team regain confidence and deliver results the way Arsenal has in the past few weeks.

I hope to see Arsenal continue its fine form and recreate memories of its glory days. Their hunger is evident when they are on the field, and they are most definitely not going down easily, for now they believe in their ability more than ever.!

“All hail the resurgence of the Gunners!”

behram.qazi

Behram Qazi

The author is a Management Engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo. Patriotic Pakistani, devoted sports fanatic and part-time sports analyst on PTV World. He tweets as @Behram22 (twitter.com/Behram22)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.