Is this factor Arsenal's hidden strength in the title race?
Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with North London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs may have been slightly disappointing to many fans, but there were certainly positives to be taken from the game. Despite many missed opportunities and slightly sluggish midfield battle, Arsenal’s strength in depth was highlighted against a Spurs side who seem to be struggling on that front. When the going gets tough, Wenger could replace Francis Coquelin, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, and Olivier Giroud – three players who could arguably be in the starting eleven themselves.
The depth throughout the side is evident, Nacho Monreal’s performance was outstanding, and Kieran Gibbs is a more than competent replacement at left back. David Ospina is an outstanding second choice keeper to have, Gabriel Paulista, Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding all offer depth at centre back, while Carl Jenkinson is also a strong second option at right back behind the ever present Hector Bellerin.
In midfield there seems to be an unlimited amount of options. Santi Cazorla returns from injury soon, Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka provide much needed steel and strength in a fluid Arsenal midfield, Muhammed Elneny is as consistent as they come, Aaron Ramsey is slowly getting back to full fitness, and there appears to be a number of promising midfielders coming through the youth system.
On the attacking front it’s a really exciting time to be an Arsenal fan with the world class Mesut Özil playing some of the best football of his career along with the outstanding Alexis Sanchez. Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi, and Olivier Giroud offer excellent attacking options. Lucas Perez and Danny Welbeck are yet to return from injuries as well, so the strength there is also at its highest peak for a long time.
Don’t forget, Arsenal have loaned out two first team players from last season in the injury prone Jack Wilshere and Callum Chambers, both of which seem to have had their progress stagnated by a lack of first team football. Both players seem to be improving week-in-week-out for Bournemouth and Middlesborough respectively, and will surely offer a part to play in future seasons.
When it comes to this title race, there are few teams with as much depth as them, perhaps only Manchester City can say they have the same kind of strength all over the pitch. Liverpool’s attacking options are obviously most noticeable, particularly in the devastating form that their front four are in, but their defensive options are limited.
With the teams around Arsenal gaining momentum, this season will undoubtedly be tough, but they have the depth to handle any team in the Premier League, and most in Europe. Still competing in all four competitions means that rotation is crucial to avoid Arsenal’s annual injury setbacks. Cazorla is certainly being missed in the heart of midfield, his ability to dictate the game is second to none currently playing in world football.
Wenger has given all of his players reasonable opportunity to shine, none taking their chance better than Alex Iwobi, whose continued rise has been managed exceptionally. Once the Nigerian begins to find that final touch for goal and starts chipping in with a few more goals himself, he will be an even more influential part of the team.
If Wenger can get his rotation right, and continue to nurture players such as Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, as well as he does, then this really could be Arsenal’s year. The difficulty will be stopping the heavy hitting forces around them, and breaking down those that choose to “park the bus” against them. The quality and depth is there, but do Arsenal have the psychological strength to walk away with their first league title in 12 years? Only time will tell.
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