This past weekend, the Barclays Premier League started for all 20 clubs across England. Yes, this is a soccer post; deal with it.
On Sunday, championship contenders/my favorite team Arsenal FC took to the pitch to open their campaign at Emirates Stadium, their home field in North London. They were going against West Ham United, a respectable team but a matchup that should result in a W for the Gunners 9 times out of 10. They’re like the Atlanta Falcons: they’re not gonna turn many heads but they’re certainly not the worst team in the league; very mediocre. But Arsenal is a top 4 team looking to win it all this year, and after a promising preseason this should’ve been an easy win, right?
But no, this is Arsenal we’re talking about. Nothing is ever a sure thing or an easy bet with this group. Think Dallas Cowboys circa 2006.
Arsenal fell to West Ham by a score of 2-0 in their opening match, thanks to a clusterfuck of horrible performances.
New goalie Petr Cech, formally of defending champions Chelsea, gave up two goals that should’ve easily been stopped if he played his position correctly. One was due to a horribly timed leap at a free kick after West Ham somehow got behind the defense, and the other was thanks to seemingly a lack of attention. Cech must’ve been sitting on his thumb because he looked undressed after that second goal. It was a shittier reaction than Meek Mill’s diss track after “Charged Up.” Yay relevant #popculture references!
But Cech wasn’t the only guy who put in a bad day’s work. Striker Olivier Giroud was physically dominated by West Ham’s defense, led by Angelo Ogbonna (who was a regular starter on my manager mode in FIFA 13), and put shots on that were weak, off target, or a combination of the two. Mesut Özil had a chance that he really should’ve buried into the back of the net. Aaron Ramsey made a lot of stupid and far too ambitious decisions in the offensive area. The defense didn’t look fully committed 100% of the time, with the exception of Laurent Koscielny. He, per usual, was solid.
In general, this didn’t look like an Arsenal team that seemed poised to contend for a Premier League title and make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League. No, this looked an Arsenal team reminiscent of recent Arsenal teams: lackluster, hyped, and content with being the third or fourth best team in England.
Now granted, Arsenal has changed their ways a bit. Ever since manager Arsene Wegner finally took his wallet out of his trenchcoat to acquire Özil two summers ago, the team has been generally heading in a winning direction, snatching two consecutive FA Cups and viciously challenging for the BPL crown. The deep Champions League run is still evading them, but hey, it’s a start.
Maybe that’s why it took him so long to spend money!
But this year if they wanna really be considered a part of Europe’s elite, along with the Chelsea’s and PSG’s and Madrid’s and Barcelona’s and Bayern’s of the continent, they’ve gotta push a bit further in terms of acquiring championship talent.
This is where the bad stuff ends and the good stuff starts.
According to ESPN, Arsenal is inching closer and closer to acquiring French striker and Real Madrid star Karim Benzema. You might know him as the guy who ALWAYS scores on you when your tool of a friend is using Madrid in FIFA. It’s the oldest story in the world. One day, you’re playing your bud who only knows Barça and Real, and then quietly, without ever really noticing, he holds the sprint button with Ronaldo and runs along the sideline, crossing it in to Benzema. And then Benzema scores. And this is your life.
The Gunners desperately need a more versatile and complex goalscorer to upgrade from fellow Frenchman Giroud. Don’t get me wrong; Giroud, while maddening at times, has shown his worth at Arsenal. He’s had some big time goals and deserve a spot on the team, be it as a starter or a sub with high usage. But the club needs an x-factor offensively who can stretch the field and be better physically than most defenders. Benzema is that guy and Wegner shouldn’t hold back in acquiring him.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Tuttosport in Italy (link is in Italian so have at it!) and Metro in the UK (article has the same information but in English, for those not up for the challenge) are reporting that Arsenal are prime candidates to get two young German studs, Mario Götze and Julian Draxler.
Draxler, at just 21 years old, is raw. He has a lot of potential, but isn’t quite ready to make it to Arsenal’s starting 11. He’s a solid sub in the short term, and a potential difference maker for years to come.
But as for Super Mario? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP! We need a midfielder with world class caliber like Götze in order to make progress and to create a more complete squad, and considering his “struggles” at Bayern Munich we may be able to get the German star for a (relatively) cheap cost!
I quote “struggles” because many have unfairly critiqued Götze ever since he moved to Bayern in 2013. He’s an extraordinary talent that just isn’t a completely proper fit in Bayern’s strategy. Manager Pep Guardiola, formally the skipper of Barcelona during their reign of terror from 2008-2012, has a very specific system, one that is far different than any other elite club in Europe. His ability to utilize that tiki-taka style of soccer is what has set him apart from other coaches worldwide. Poor Götze is the odd man out which sets up a conundrum. He’s young and he’s talented, but he’s simply not ideal to have in those tactics over in Munich.
But in an Arsenal jersey, who’s strategy is almost always attack, attack, attack, he would thrive. He can take over right away alongside his German teammate Özil and be an impact player on both sides of the ball, acting as a much needed helper on defense and a magician with the ball in the offensive zone. He’s as cold as ice too, which was proven to be true in the, I dunno, biggest soccer game in the world; in the World Cup Final last summer, he scored the winning goal in extra time against Argentina on a beautiful strike.
I need me some of that!
Now I don’t wanna get my hopes up. Reports like this come a dime-a-dozen nowadays. But even the reports of Wegner searching the market to make this team better makes me feel relieved knowing that he’s committed to success. Again, in years past he was very passive during transfer windows, selling off star players and bringing in young and unproven talent. Those days seem to be over, and even if it doesn’t include bring in a guy like Super Mario, things are looking up over at the Emirates.
So no, the sky isn’t falling just yet, my fellow Gooners. Arsenal, if what we’re hearing is true, is gonna get some more talent to bolster their roster and they’re gonna be just fine. In no time, we’ll be back on track for a BPL championship…*viciously knocks on wood.*
Or, if Wegner goes back to his old self, then we’re screwed.
Well, here’s hoping for the best!