If there is anything more exciting in 2016 then the release of the DC, superhero-film 'The Suicide Squad', it's the increasing chance of seeing an Arsenal title winning squad. For this is a time of optimism and promise for all Gooners, of course, there is a hint of self-destruction that always lingers in the North London air, but that has become ingrown and accepted as the spirit level that keeps the title picture hanging straight.
An Arsenal title run can only be compared to blasting a rocket into space. On paper everything should go right, but it always has that potential to explode at take off or implode off course and end up with just a pretty firework display the end. Sometimes, what is supposed to happen on paper, happens. The rocket takes off, rises through the earth's stratosphere and explores space, I'm reaching high with this metaphor, but the point I'm fumbling to get to is - Arsenal can win the Premier League THIS SEASON.
You've heard this before I know, the difference is, this time round can only be explained via a full squad assessment. Sure enough, if world class players become available Arsenal could be strengthened, but the Gunners have a strong first eleven and a good replacement for each position. They finally have a squad that can cope with injuries and still challenge for the title.
This area speaks for itself, for the first time since David Seaman, Arsenal have a keeper who is as good as anyone. What Petr Cech brings to the team is stability, consistency and world class ability. These are qualities that spread assurance through the whole team. An underrated factor will be his influence in the dressing room, having won everything in the game, he has the mentality that can breed success. With David Ospina as a back-up, Arsenal appear as robust as ever in this position.
There are weaknesses in the Arsenal defence for sure, Mertesacker's mobility issues, Monreal's getting caught at the back post, Bellerin's inexperience, Koscielny's ankles, but the solidarity and cohesion are ever present and this will be the key to their success. Monreal and Bellerin have proved real assets for Arsenal and will continue to grow tactically and mentally. I expect Keiran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy to be rotated with their counterparts to suit the opposition. Gabriel can be a key player for Arsenal. When they choose to use Koscielny sparingly look for the Brazilian to prove his worth, you could see in pre-season, he looks further adapted to English football then last season. Calum Chambers could also prove adequate cover if unfortunate injuries prevail. On the whole Arsenal have proved last season, this defence can stand resolute when put to the test and with Cech behind them they shall only become more assured.
Francis Coquelin has made a tremendous difference in the Arsenal midfield this year, giving the team balance between defence and attack and being the enabler of Cazorla and Ozil's wizardry. Many have called for Wenger to sign a back up for the Frenchman, this would be luxurious, but not essential. Certain games against less dangerous opposition will see Arsenal dominate possession and give opportunities to use Ramsey, Arteta or even Wilshere in a more disciplined role, giving Coquelin the rest he will deserve. No team can boast the embarrassment in riches Arsenal possess in creativity. Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla, two of the most talented playmakers in the world, joined by the energy and industry of Aaron Ramsey, the pace and directness of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and then the drive and vision of Jack Wilshere. Irrespective of what combinations are chosen, chances will clearly be created.
Working off the assumption Karim Benzema will not sign for Arsenal(purely because it makes this easier to write) Arsenal will begin the season with the trio of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. The latter, fresh from penning a new deal, will be looking to make his presence felt as a central striker, this was a weapon Arsenal couldn't utilise last season, but you could see this option being used against the lesser teams that may allow Arsenal space to play through the middle. Alexis Sanchez, as always, will be an unstoppable force, harrassing the opposition at every opportunity. The forgotten man is Danny Welbeck, if anything can be said for the English striker, it's he is a useful member of this team, but his Arsenal career has been very stop/start. He's failed to sustain any consistency, which has to be said, is the story of his career. If called upon, Welbeck has the ability to make an impact, with all the focus on Benzema, Danny may be Arsenal's sleeping dragon, ready to awake. Considering the Gunners scoring prowess being spread so well across the team, the pressure to buy another striker is, similar to a midfield signing, a luxury, but not essential.
All the same questions/criticisms will be levied at Wenger, weak spine, no leaders, no plan B, but this season we have the answers. A spine of Cech-Koscielny-Coquelin. All of whom are leaders in the team along with Mertesacker and Arteta. The passion and workrate of Coquelin and Alexis are infectious throughout the team. As we have seen in the Charity shield, we are a team that now has a number of different ways to beat the opposition. The record against big teams vastly improved last season. As the new race begins, consistency will be key to any success, but getting fast out the blocks will be imperetive.
In conclusion, a number of things feel different about the club approaching this season. The wave of optimism hanging under the red North London sky has been born out of our form in the second half of last season and the manor in which we triumphed at Wembley in May. The signing of Cech and win against Mourinho's Chelsea are the signs of Wenger breaking down barriers, crossing rivers to get to the excellence he has strived for all these years. Arsenal are not perfect and we have to accept their going to frustrate us at times, but the time has come for us to put the term 'potential' to bed.
It's been a long, painful Journey from the era of the Invincibles to now, but now is the time for this tree to bear fruit. (Wenger philosophy 101)