Welcome back to another season at A Bergkamp Wonderland. Along with the Podcast and #ABW Radio, the blogging side of things has shaken off the cobwebs of lazy Sundays and idle transfer speculation as we’re ready to return to writing about the team we all love, the Arsenal.
To kick things off, we’re bringing you a special four part Bloggers’ Season Preview this week. We’ve all gotten together to write a few words on a given topic. In Part 2, the assignment was to highlight a potential player to watch this year and to talk about a young player that could have a breakout season. It’s a tough job since we only gave ourselves 400 words to do it. We hope you enjoy it and be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 3.
You can find Part 1 on our Best XI’s here if you missed it.
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In a season where expectations have never been higher for Arsenal’s title ambitions,the same can be said for many of the club’s players. As the season is just around the corner, debates are ever present on who will make the biggest impact if we are to truly challenge once more.
Player to Watch: Mesut Özil
He may not score enough goals for many of our supporters (and the manager himself), or produce the amount of assists that you’d like, but make no mistake on just how gifted and crucial to the first-team the German international truly is. Apart from being able to pick a pass that no mortal could conceive, the space he creates for others with his movement both off and on the ball is rarely ever mentioned, but it is one of the most vital pieces to the way our attack operates.
With Theo Walcott primed to receive more time through the middle, the scintillating pre-season form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the inevitable return of Alexis Sánchez, this will be the year Özil proves that the remaining detractors are indeed incorrect.
Always a player who thrives on being surrounded by players willing to get forward and into the final third at pace, don’t be shocked if the German-born Turk is right up there with the best assist totals come the end of the season…and he’ll even add more goals as well.
Breakout Youngster: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Many, if not most, are hoping the best is yet to come from the England international, and still just 21-years old, we’ve seen nothing yet. His brilliant performances in pre-season are no fluke…the kid can ball, and if he stays fit, there’s no reason to see him anywhere else than on the right in the vast majority of the starting XI’s Wenger puts out this campaign.
Power, pace, technical ability, tactical adaptability and everything left to prove means Chambo is primed for his best season to date in an Arsenal shirt. If his worldly effort against Chelsea at the weekend was anything to go by, he’s ready to repay the faith we’ve all shown in him.
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Player to Watch: Petr Čech
When selecting which player to be the one to watch there were a number who sprung to mind, simply because so many individuals have impressed during pre-season. Mesut Özil was my first thought, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also deserves an honourable mention. However, in the end, it is Petr Čech who gets my vote.
There is something about his arrival that reminds me of when Sol Campbell joined the club. When recounting the moment Campbell walked into the dressing room on that first day, Ray Parlour admitted he blurted out several expletives in surprise. The signing was a mark of intent, an indication that Arsène Wenger meant business. The same goes for Čech.
For me, the goalkeeper’s arrival is a masterstroke by Wenger. It is a long time since Arsenal have had a genuine world-class goalkeeper but now they really do. The reason why I have Čech as the one to watch is because of the domino effect he will have. His calmness will spread through the team and his experience will be invaluable. You cannot win the league without a good goalkeeper and Arsenal now have one of the best in the world. Just wait and watch the impact he’ll have on the squad.
Breakout Youngster: Jeff Reine-Adelaide
As for the youngster to keep an eye on this was, for me at least, a no brainer. I can’t remember being that impressed by a teenager, but as I left the Emirates on 26th July after Day Two of the Emirates Cup, I was taken aback.
It is the 17-year-old’s athleticism that initially catches many people’s eye, but scratch the surface and there is so much more. He is incredibly composed on the ball, a characteristic which often resides in the make-up of the game’s best players. It reminds me of when I saw Cesc Fàbregas for the first time – and yes, I’m sorry for bringing him up – but even at 16 he never looked overawed and Reine-Adelaide seems as though he will be the same.
After the Emirates Cup, Wenger said he had no plans to loan the Frenchman out. That alone is a mark of how highly he regards the youngster. Barcelona and Manchester United both offered him a contract but the lure of working with Wenger secured the transfer. Now it is time for Reine-Adelaide to repay the faith and don’t be surprised if that happens sooner rather than later.
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Player to Watch: Alexis Sánchez
When thinking of all the amazing displays and goals we got from Alexis Sánchez last season, for me, it’s impossible to think anyone else could have a bigger impact this season again for us. He is the man I’m going for.
I’m in no way worried he will suffer from the dreaded second season syndrome that has plagued some players in the Premier League over the years. In the interview after winning the Community Shield, Mertesacker mentioned that it will be huge getting Sánchez back and I think just having him on the pitch gives all the boys a massive boost.
Make no mistake. If he can have a 20 plus goal season in the League alone, not just all competitions, we will be right there in to the twelfth round of the title fight this season. He’s the main man even if he’s barely been here 12 months. A truly world class talent and I expect the stocky Chilean to provide twice the impact for us again this time round. All hail Alexis Sánchez.
Breakout Youngster: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
For me, the young player to watch, has to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A full season fit and I think we will really see what he is made of. Hopefully he isn’t as unlucky with injuries as Wilshere or Gibbs. We have seen his flashes of brilliance, and now it’s time to deliver.
If he continues at his preseason pace, he will run the right wing this season and make it his own, much like how Sánchez has made the left his. The Ox could still very well have a massive future in the middle of the park, but with that pace and natural football ability, I just can’t see any reason not to unleash him against full backs and see his creativity in front of goal.
The goal against Chelsea in the Shield was special: left peg and all. More of that please – a big season for him awaits. But if he has another stop-start season, or doesn’t set the world alight this campaign, believe me, he still has a lot of time to prove himself at Arsenal. Versatile, barrel chested, and pace to burn, the Ox has everything and will come good provided his body lets him.
It’s only a matter of when with the Ox, and I think the time is now. With wingers like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sánchez, opposition defences, beware, the Arsenal relay team are ready to attack in full force.
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Player to Watch: Petr Čech
As many of you will know I was waving the “sign Čech” banner for some time now and naturally was elated when he finally put pen to paper this summer to become our new no.1. First and foremost you will be hard pushed to find a better keeper out there, you can argue Courtois, De Gea etc but I haven’t seen Čech’s form ever drop off and I think it is one of Wenger’s shrewdest signings to date.
It is evident already that he is here to win trophies and the experience that he brings with him is invaluable, he said “I have big personal ambitions and motivation to win trophies, and win games, and Arsenal Football Club has the same”. Čech is a natural leader, a winner and bringing that sort of mentality into our often shaky backline and the dressing room is fantastic work from Arsène. I enjoyed the embrace between Čech and Per at the final whistle, it is clear to see what the BFG thinks.
Breakout Youngster: Jeff Reine-Adelaide
The man who is now affectionately known simply as “Jeff,” burst onto many of our radars at the recent Emirates Cup. Jeff is a 17 year old who the club acquired this summer from Lens for £1.75 million which is a lot of money for a kid who didn’t make a senior appearance in France. Arsène saw something exceptional and his displays that weekend suggest he could be a special talent. Jeff showed no fear and looked very at home with the first team and appears to have the right physique for such a youngster. Arsène has never been worried about age I remember being at Highbury when we played Rotherham and a 16 year old Cesc was thrown in, he turned out to be some kid! Somebody who can tell you a lot more about Jeff is ABW’s very own Kris (@AFCfreddie8) so tweet him with any questions.
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Player to Watch: Francis Coquelin
Francis Coquelin’s meteoric rise from Charlton loanee to arguably the first name on the team sheet in just half a season is nothing short of amazing. It speaks volumes of his character considering that this time last year, he was returning from a bizarre loan stint at Freiburg where he played out of position at left wing and was part of the Bundesliga’s biggest flops of 2013-14.
Since his recall to the side at mid-year, Le Coq has seized his opportunity with both hands and has performed so impressively, he’s being spoken about in the same breath as the Premier League’s gold standard in the defensive midfielder position, Nemanja Matić.
But Coq offers so much more than a typical defensive midfielder: capable of covering marauding fullbacks or the offensive-minded wingers ahead of them, he’s formed an impressive partnership with whoever is alongside him in centre midfield.
He also seems to be developing his passing game after identifying that area of his game specifically as one to work on. If he can dial in his mid-to-long range passing, then he’ll add yet another impressive aspect to his already remarkable arsenal of talent.
So much is riding on the Frenchman this season and I’m certain that trust isn’t misplaced.
Breakout Youngster: Calum Chambers
All right, I’ll admit this one is a little ballsy. There are so many I could pick but with a number of youngsters already on loan, and the Ox imposing himself on the first team already, I wanted to pick someone a little different who might get more than 3-4 games this season (for the record, the Ox is due).
Enter young Calum Chambers. After his move from Southampton last summer for somewhere in the neighbourhood of £14m, he got off to a flyer with Arsenal, winning the August Player of the Month in the process.
He looks to have decent athleticism and passing range along with a calmness on the ball so few youngsters possess. He doesn’t seem to be blessed with blinding pace and the type of positional awareness only developed with experience, but I can’t see him playing often at right back this season where those traits were exposed (ugh – Swansea away).
In Southampton’s academy, Chambers played centre back and centre midfield and many feel that his long term future is in one of those roles, particularly the prior. I’m hoping he can get cup minutes at centre back this season and who knows, a decent showing combined with squad rotation could see young Calum emerge as the breakout youngster this year.
Hopefully you enjoyed Part 2 of our Season Preview. Come back tomorrow for Part 3 on transfer business so far.