Arsenal’s impressive English quintet must start the season fully fit, if the Gunners are to belie odds of 10/1 and mount a realistic title challenge this season and Arsene Wenger needs to bring in reinforcements at both ends of the pitch, before the transfer window closes.
Injury has thus far disrupted the careers of midfielder Jack Wilshere and full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs, with Wilshere restricted to just 40 league starts for Wenger’s side since bursting onto the scene on-loan at Bolton Wanderers over three seasons ago.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has also failed to live up to his billing since his £12m move from Southampton in the summer of 2011, although his good form for England suggests a prolonged spell in the Arsenal side would benefit the powerful winger, after featuring in less than half of his club’s league games in the last two years.
With 14-goal wideman Theo Walcott also regularly rotated last season, Wenger – who goes into the new campaign with only defenders Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen and perma-crocked midfielder Abou Diaby in the treatment room – needs to work out what his best team is, starting at the Emirates this Saturday, where Arsenal are 4/11 to kick-off with a win against Aston Villa.
Should Wenger’s pursuit of six-foot-two-inch Bayern Munich bruiser Luiz Gustavo end in disappointment, Arsenal will again find themselves – literally – short in midfield, with Diaby approaching write-off status and Aaron Ramsey yet to convince at the top level.
At the back, 90-cap German international Per Mertesacker will again line-up alongside the increasingly excellent Laurent Koscielny and the Emirates faithful can be confident Wenger has found the right formula at centre-back, with Arsenal conceding just 10 goals in the 15 Premier League games featuring this partnership last season.
With Monreal and Vermaelen likely to return before the end of September, Bacary Sagna completes an impressive set of defensive options, although the failed attempt to sign Julio Cesar could leave the Gunners alternating between Polish netminders Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski again this year.
Wenger has not given up in his pursuit of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and although Olivier Giroud deserves another chance to prove he can be a 20-goal a season man after a promising second-half of last term, the north Londoners need to provide cover up-front beyond the erratic Lukas Podolski.