In advance of Leicester’s massive match with Arsenal on Saturday, we sat down with our pals at The Short Fuse (get it?), SB Nation’s blog for those lovable Gunners. I got a chance to chat with one Paul DeBruler about Arsene’s summer, the new boys in red and a wild one at the Emirates this past weekend.
Let’s do this.
Fosse Posse: Is this Arsene Wenger’s last year or are Gunners fans going to be stuck sitting through more frustrating seasons ahead? Do they even want him to leave? What’s the mindset going into this year?
The Short Fuse: How much time do you have? As we all know, this is the last year of Wenger's current contract. He typically leaves it late as far as re-signing goes, and he's always very tight lipped about it, so there's no way of knowing what he will do. There are a lot of fans that have wanted him to leave for years, and another transfer-light summer hasn't helped that.
The mindset going into this year is...salty? Frayed? Annoyed? A lot of people who were being very patient with Wenger are running out of said patience; this is a rich club with needs whose manager doesn't fill those needs, because he has a very narrow view of how transfers should work that he will not alter.
After a summer of 2015 in which Arsene only signed Petr Cech, it was hoped he'd bring in a few great players this season, notably in defense and as a complement to Olivier Giroud. He signed Granit Xhaka in May, which was a huge addition as Arsenal needed a better CDM, but since then it's been Rob Holding, Takuma Asano, and you're not paying attention any more are you because those aren't the names Arsenal should be signing.
If you want to anger any Arsenal fan, mention the words "Arsene Wenger" and "transfer policy" in the same sentence, and sit back and watch the sparks fly.
FP: Who left the club this summer? Anyone we should care about?
TSF: This was a summer where a lot of really good Arsenal players finally aged out. Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, and Mathieu Flamini - okay, two really good players and Mathieu Flamini - have gone on to other things, in Arteta's case a coaching role at Manchester City. Arteta will be missed more than the others, but none of the three are squad-destroying at this point.
FP: Any new signings that you're really looking forward to seeing?
TSF: As mentioned, Granit Xhaka. Arsenal have needed a CDM for years - Mikel Arteta was a great orchestrator, but he didn't have the physical piece that a CDM should have - and Arsene went and got one of the better ones available, which is great. The addition of Xhaka should allow the attacking part of Arsenal's midfield - Özil, Ramsey, and Alexis when he's not playing up front - to do what they do best, move and create, without having to worry about defending as much.
FP: What's the attitude of the Arsenal fanbase towards this season - is last season's second place finish a springboard to a title challenge, or is that not a thing for Arsenal this year?
TSF: A lot depends on what happens between now and the deadline. Arsenal, having lost both Per Mertesacker and Gabriel to long term injuries in preseason, are desperately short of center backs, and rumors of a purchase of Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia keep swirling, but so far nothing on that front. So, there's kind of two answers:
- If no one gets bought, the attitude of most fans will get ugly fast, because this will be the third season in a row that Arsene didn't address a pressing need in the market, instead relying on youth
- If Mustafi and a strike partner for Giroud get bought, or even if just Mustafi, Arsene will have earned himself a respite from the vitriol he's faced all summer and most of last season, but it won't be a big respite unless Arsenal make a championship challenge that lasts past January.
Fosse Posse: Just one game, but was there anything you saw in last week's loss to Liverpool that concerned you? It wasn’t the prettiest defeat after all...
Last week's lineup was a severe patchwork, given that most of Arsenal's players who were involved in the European Championships were given an extended break to start the season. Between that and the injuries, there were a lot of players playing together who don't play together much, and it showed. So most of what I saw Sunday didn't worry me, but....
Arsene bought Granit Xhaka as a CDM, who is great, and then started Francis Coquelin, who, to be charitable, is not. I will never understand that decision. If that continues, it'll worry me; if that was a one-off, whatever.
Fosse Posse: Fill in the blank: "If Leicester want to beat Arsenal on Saturday, they must (blank)"
...hope that Francis Coquelin starts in the midfield again, and take the game straight to him. If Xhaka starts, isolate the wings, because that's where most of Arsenal's buildup play comes from. Arsene has said that our Euro participants (Giroud, Ozil, Koscielny) will be available, and Kos will probably play because there's no one else ready at CB.
Predicted Lineup: Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Wilshere, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis
Predicted Score: 2-1 Arsenal, but a hard-earned, late winner type game.