Football's fine line between love, hate and sarcasm

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From excellent, to borderline disastrous, and then back to good again. The Gunners' 2013/14 campaign featured more highs and lows than Thorpe Park; it really was a turbulent season for Arsène Wenger and his side. Kicking off the campaign in meaningful style, they climbed their way up and perched themselves on the top of the league table by Christmas day – albeit achieving this feat having played more minnows than monsters. However, they were in a favorable position, and the possibility of lifting the Premier League trophy come May time was looking more and more like a realistic target.

However, early 2014 saw the somewhat typical Arsenal tumble. They were eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich, and for a brief moment, the Gunners were even pushed out of the top four by Everton; a season of almost certain glory was slowly evolving into a campaign of embarrassment. But where there's a Wenger, there's a way, and boy, did he save the season by the skin of his teeth – like usual. Scraping an FA Cup win in extra time and out-muscling Everton back into fourth spot saved Arsenal a lot of dignity, and for a lot of fans, the 2013/14 season will actually be looked back upon as a success.

TRANSFER ACTIVITY

It's the beginning of August and Wenger has already spent over £60m, which we all know is pretty uncharacteristic of him, signaling his intent for the coming season. Bacary Sagna has been replaced by Mathieu Debuchy, while David Ospina, who impressed in goal for Colombia at the World Cup, has been brought in to fill the consistently unreliable Arsenal goalkeeper spot. Two solid signings. Wenger's also brought in young English defender Calum Chambers along with the more marquee signing Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona. There can't be too many complaints so far from the Arsenal faithful, especially as 'four weeks to go' still ticks down on the transfer deadline day countdown. Maybe a new top-quality centre forward wouldn't go a miss, though.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

The two most obvious ones are Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez, two big-name, big-game players. It'll be intriguing to see how Sánchez copes with his first season in English football, while Özil needs a solid season to avoid having his name embedded amongst the likes of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll for football's worst big-money signings. He wasn't particularly outstanding at the World Cup despite having a winner's medal, so arguably his doubts haven't vanished yet. With regards to Sánchez, he returned 21 goals in 54 games last season in a Barça shirt – it'll be interesting to see how he deals with being the main man at the Emirates, rather than playing second, third or even fourth fiddle to Lionel Messi last campaign.

AMBITION

After the last season's brilliant start, teasing the fans with the realistic possibility that they could actually hold it together and win the league, they'll no doubt be expecting more of the same, if not better. The squad has improved, so yes, a title challenge is conceivable, but then again, every other side has also strengthened. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have all improved and will definitely pose a far greater threat. Liverpool will still be there or thereabouts, but it'll be difficult to see them challenging without Luis Suárez.

However, a semi-realistic ambition would be the League Title, with a more likely target of finishing within the top three, with the top four being a real last resort. A semi-final spot in the Champions League wouldn't go amiss either.

PREDICTION: 3rd 

 

       

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