What the Gunners Really Need to Challenge for the EPL Title

Arsenal players, staff and fans soaked up the club’s FA Cup triumph in pouring rain on Sunday, one day after easing to a 4-0 win against Aston Villa in the final at Wembley. During the parade, Sky Sports asked several Gunners to reflect on their season and tell fans what to expect in 2015-16.

To a man, they almost all said that winning silverware is great, but that next season, they want the Premier League title

Which brings us to our question of the day: can Arsenal challenge the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United for the Premier League crown next season?

Obviously, this is a tough question to ask immediately after a season ends, but the Sky Sports piece is inspiring, because the Gunners quoted here sound so very earnest in their belief that they can actually put up a strong fight next season.

However, first, let us note that, effectively, Arsenal hasn’t put up a strong title challenge since “The Invincibles” unbeaten title run in 2003-04

Which brings us to Coach Arsene Wenger.

Now, at the end of every season (at least, recently) Arsenal fans tend to do a fair amount of quibbling about whether or not Wenger should remain in charge. Due to the club’s strong run-in at the end of this season (something it has sorely lacked in previous campaigns) as well as its record 12th FA Cup win, there will be far less of that this summer than prior seasons.

That being said, if winning the Premier League title is your club’s aspiration, Wenger is not your guy. To be sure, he seems a good guy, very French, a philosopher-type who says thoughtful things about life and soccer, but he lacks the cold-blooded pragmatism of a Jose Mourinho or the stern, oracle-like, don’t-mess-with-me aura of a Sir Alex Ferguson.

Let’s be clear: at some big clubs, notably Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, Arsene Wenger would not have survived half this long without winning an EPL title. Even so, Wenger’s not going anywhere this summer, so it’s pointless to say that he shouldn’t still be in charge 

As for Arsenal’s second big stumbling block to winning an EPL title, midfielder Aaron Ramsey hit the nail on the head when he said during the victory parade: "Hopefully, we can all stay fit and have a full season. When we keep everyone fit and healthy we are capable of going on these great runs and hopefully we can maintain that throughout the season next year.” 

Indeed, while Gunners legend Thierry Henry and other pundits think Arsenal needs to sign a boatload of new players in order to compete next season, Off The Post thinks Arsenal actually has a fantastic squad already -- what it really needs, is fewer injuries. 

Earlier this season, the Daily Telegraph and ESPN published a couple of astonishing reports about Arsenal’s injury problems over the last 10 years or more. According to this study from Premier League Injuries Ltd, published in late December, the Gunners have suffered 312 major injuries (note: meaning 10 days or more on the sidelines) since the Invincibles’ record-breaking season. That, folks, is exactly 100 more than Chelsea. Meanwhile, the Gunners in the first half of this season suffered a league-leading 25 injuries between August and December 

The second study, from, tracked the number of visits to the club’s infirmary, and documented 889 total injuries for Arsenal players between Aug. 2002 and Oct. 2014 -- well ahead of second-place Manchester United (792), Chelsea (620) and Liverpool (551).

At the end of the day, someone has to be held accountable for this, whether it’s the coach, the fitness coach or the team doctor, someone has to pay, because you absolutely cannot win a competitive league like the Premier League if you can’t keep your players healthy. 

8 comments about "What the Gunners Really Need to Challenge for the EPL Title ".
  1. Andy Maier, June 1, 2015 at 7:06 p.m.

    I'm a committed Gooner and football expert. My opinion, besides the definite injury issues requiring changes in the training regimen, is that the defensive coaching and personnel are the primary issues. First Per Mertesacker - needs to go, doesn't have the speed of foot or thought to lead a team to an EPL overall trophy. Second, the coaching is remiss inside the box - players are ball watching instead of getting in an opponent's shorts. They also 'over-converge' on the ball inside the box.

    Defense 101 really

  2. Winston Stewart, June 1, 2015 at 7:16 p.m.

    Players' injuries are not the purview of the trainer and/or team doctor only; the players themselves must shoulder some of the responsibility. How is it that the other top clubs do not have near that many recorded injuries that Arsenal players have accumulated? It can't be that the others necessarily have superior trainers and team doctors?

  3. Allan Lindh, June 1, 2015 at 9:13 p.m.

    The missing stat is how many fouls, Yellows and Reds the Gunnars have endured. Every match you see teams come out a lay a few wallops, a few dirty tackles, on Arsenal's skill players. Is it partially because they are a skill team, and their skill players just get chopped more than anyone else. This is a stat the league should look at, and do a little soul searching. Give a yellow for every studs up tackle, every wallop on a skill player, all persistent fouling on skill players. No more "talking to" after the first dirty foul -- just card the animals. Just enforce the bloody rules, the game will improve, and attendance will go up.

  4. Trent Hergenrader, June 2, 2015 at 9:59 a.m.

    The above comment simply isn't true. They're 10th (!) on the ranking of teams fouled this season.

    That's either some major league match fixing or myopic fans searching for an excuse.

    I'm so very tired of their fans claiming that the Premier League needs to change in order for them to win. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City have all figured out how to build teams capable of winning, and playing in England means you need some steel in your midfield, which they truly haven't had since Viera departed. Who's fault is that? The rest of the league?

    Next year I'm sure it's going to be different though.

    Also, I chuckle the idea that the game will improve and the attendances will go up if the game is called more closely so teams can play "the right way." Talk about solving problems that don't exist--the Premier League is the best attended, most watched league in the world.

  5. Kent James, June 2, 2015 at 10:41 a.m.

    This article confirms what seemed to be the case (that Arsenal seemed to be plagued by injuries). Allan's point is a good one, though Trent's stat partially refutes that; the problem with the stat (and why it does not fully refute it) is that not all fouls are called, so they don't all show up in the stats. While that includes poor refereeing (missed calls), it would be impossible to determine if Arsenal were more subject to that than anyone else (though I'd guess a poll of Arsenal fans would think that...). But it also includes good refereeing (playing advantage, e.g.), and often skillful teams that maintain possession of the ball suffer a lot of fouls that don't get called because they continue to maintain possession and move forward. One would hope that card-worthy fouls played through would be later carded (but not always), but even non-cardable fouls take a toll. It is an interesting issue, and I do think if they can stay healthy, they can challenge for the league next year.

  6. Trent Hergenrader, June 2, 2015 at 4:28 p.m.

    They're 10th in that chart--smack in the middle. Last year they were 7th. You would need to apply the same exact argument against every other team who has won the league, and there would be have to be a massive bias in order for that argument to hold water. Personally, I would imagine teams want to rough up the defending league champion more than a team who perpetually finishes third or fourth. They don't dominate the "most fouled player" list, which is led by Hazard and Sterling; Sanchez is third, but 44 fouls behind Hazard. The argument is based solely on the idea of exceptionalism. Because they don't win the league or the Champions League that something--whether it's FFP, injuries, fixture pile-up, the weather, traffic on the M5, climate change--is unfairly against them. Can't be the manager, player acquisition, tactics, not being good enough, etc. It just can't be any of those things. But next year will be different.

  7. Robert Heinrich, June 2, 2015 at 6:48 p.m.

    The "problem" is that Wenger doesn't just want to win the league title. He believes that it should be won "in style", i.e. with creative playmaking (aka attractive football). That's an admirable philosophy to me, although decidedly un-pragmatic, but it's why I generally love watching Arsenal football. If Arsenal can win a league title playing that type of football, it would be an astonishing feat. Nevertheless, Wenger has shown an increased willingness to play a more defensively organized tactical game against the big clubs (cf. the victory over MC), and they certainly have the talent to counterattack effectively. I think Mertesacker will be replaced in the starting XI next year (Paulista), and they will need to find a top class striker and adequate cover for Coqueliin.

  8. Robert Robertson, June 3, 2015 at 10:05 p.m.

    While Arsenal is a relative wealthy club, it does not have billionares support. Chelsea and Manchester City were no big deal before the billionares. The fair play rules won't change this fact. Manchester United is a more wealthy club than Arsenal although it is closer. Really, Murinho is a tremendous coach but how would he be with Crystal Palaces resources. How about switch Wenger for Murinho between the 2 clubs - my money is on the billionares club simply because of depth of squad. Why do the EPL Europa League contestants fall in the table season after season - too small of squads So I don't really think Arsenal can win the title , compete in the Champions League, and win the FA cup if they don't have a bigger roster. Persanally, I am hgappy we won the FA Cup!

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