Thursday, 25 December 2014

My predictions for Arsenal's 2014/15 campaign

With the Champions League die cast, the data is laid for me to make a prediction on how Arsenal will fare come May. Last season around, I had predicted Arsenal to finish third in the league and get knocked out by Bayern Munich, adding that the January transfer window would be part of the reason why. In that regard, I don't believe I was entirely off the mark.

Regarding the FA Cup, I did say that last year's team were strengthened, confident and united enough to potentially win it. However, I also said that Arsene Wenger's "insistence to play reserve players against a mediocre side is what's going to cost us another trophy, with a side like Swansea or Norwich possibly knocking us out in a shock one-niller." Obviously I was proved wrong, but Yaya Sanogo's looming figure against the likes of Everton, Wigan and Hull (games we almost lost) suggest that fine margins dictated my inaccuracy.

Anyway, this post isn't to check the validity of my previous prediction. Even if I had predicted Arsenal to win the Premier League and the Champions League last season I'd still be here, trotting away of what I reckon is to come. So, without further ado, here I go.

Season spoiler alert!

Premier League : 4th (sigh)

Let's not even consider Arsenal finishing above Chelsea. Manchester City may, on the off-chance, get close to unnerving Mourinho, but on the whole it's not at all unreasonable to suggest that Chelsea may well walk this league campaign.

On paper, I believe Arsenal have the squad to rival Manchester City's. However, we certainly don't have the manager to flourish the team's potency. That, according to me, leaves us with third or fourth to fight for.

I must confess that I didn't think Louis van Gaal would have the players and the know-how to get United above Arsenal after assembling an unbalanced squad. Don't get me wrong - their run of good form may have been a happy-go-lucky incident. However, their efficient dismantling of Liverpool would have done wonders to their confidence. And confidence, as we found out last season, can lead to tremendous dividends.

Even if I don't know the Dutchman, if I had to give the benefit of the doubt to either Louis van Gaal or Arsene Wenger, I'd reluctantly choose the former.

Champions League : Quarter-finals

Yes, we got Monaco out of all the possible monsters and parasites of Real, Bayern and Barca, and it's fantastic that fortune favoured us at last. But does it infinitely increase our chances of winning the competition? Of course not.

Monaco have delayed, not prevented the inevitable. Expecting to win the Champions League without facing any of the top teams is not going to happen, and even if it does, it won't feel deserved. Do you remember we had faced Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona on the way to Paris 2006? Picking random balls from the pot may help us infiltrate the outskirts to a certain extent, but it won't give us a safe and sure passage into the castle.

If we want to be the best, we have to take out the best. Most of the pretenders get filtered out in the Round of 16, as we have done all these years. When it comes down to the quarters, only the elite remain. And seeing that Arsenal find it difficult to hold on to a lead against a 10 men team without a striker, it's very hard to see the same team putting a sword to Europe's finest four months down the line.

FA Cup

It's always hard to predict what the Cup may present season after season, because the draw is completely random and there are no time to make amends if the team slips up. Looking at Arsenal, a team that have made hot water of Swansea, Hull, Leicester, Stoke and whatnot, there is an element of assumption in saying that draws against Coventry and Wigan. In addition, since the league is pretty much over with Chelsea comfortably leading the line, the likes of Manchester City and United may shift focus to the Cup.

I don't think Arsenal will get past Chelsea or Manchester United should we meet them in the Cup. There is a chance for us to beat Manchester City if that time comes, though, because they don't seem to be as good in holding their nerve as many would have you believe. Balance of probability still comes into play, though.

Obviously it's nigh on impossible to study the permutations and the probabilities and come up with the exact round where we may get knocked out and against which team, but if I have to guess, I think Arsenal will be eliminated somewhere beyond the quarters, because that is when the Championship and the League one and two teams exit and the Premier League teams remain.

While I would love another cup run, last season did have some element of luck to it. Granted, we faced Spurs, Liverpool and Everton, but we also never left London, rode our luck with playing Sanogo against Liverpool and Everton, and it was touch and go against Liverpool, Wigan and Hull. Of course it wasn't undeserved, but it still could have easily gone the other way.

So, yeah. Looking at the form and the morale of the team (not to mention the state of its players), I don't think we'll retain the Cup.


To end this post on a somewhat brighter note, I just want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas. Now I'm no huge believer in the origin story of Jesus Christ, but nevertheless I'd like to extend my gratitude to my regular readers on this joyous occasion. I have had a lot of disagreements and fights with Arsenal supporters on email, Twitter and in person, but I've tried hard to not think ill of any Gooner, regardless of their stance on the Arsene Wenger subject. In the end, the support I get is amazing and the banter on Twitter is awesome.

Thanks a ton for introducing me into the Arsenal world with such warmth!

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]