By Tim Todd
The buzz word among the players at Arsenal’s Singapore sling has been “fitness”. And it’s little wonder that the players who seem most keen to “get fit” this season are the ones who spent most of last season on the sick table.
Wilshere said that he returned to training early this year in order to get a jump start on his fitness. Looking forward to the season ahead and whether he would get chances to start for Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain said, “First and foremost, you have to do everything you can to stay fit, so I’m working on that.” And Wenger hinted that both of those players need full fitness in order to play at their very best,
He always had appetite Jack, but he was out for a long time. Already in the last two or three games of the season he has found his burst back with acceleration. Like with Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain] that’s a big part of their game. To be very efficient they need that and that demands physically to be perfect. He’s getting close now.
But more than just Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who have been perennially plagued by injury, Welbeck and Walcott have also sat out large stretches of the season. And no matter how good someone’s “per90″ stats look (Walcott’s 5 goals were scored in 442 minutes making him a 38 goal a season striker according to per90) what really matters is overall contribution to the team. And you can’t contribute if you don’t play.
Last season in Premier League play, Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, and Ox combined for just 4336 minutes. That’s the equivalent of 48 full matches for those four players. They also managed to combine for 12 goals scored, which is a decent amount of contribution for the limited minutes that they played.
But honestly, for me it’s this core of British players who need to step up next season. Of course, they need to work on their fitness so that they can get more games but also, and more importantly, they need to contribute to the overall goals haul of the team. They are all forwards in the Arsenal system. Even Jack Wilshere, who is deployed in the holding midfield role for England, will play in the wide forward roles according to Wenger. And those forwards need to score more goals.
As Arsenal closed out the season in roaring good fashion, Arsene Wenger famously said that Arsenal only needed to add 10 goals to their total in order to challenge for the Premier League Title. 10 additional goals (depending on when they were scored, a 10-0 blowout of Spurs would be nice but only adds 3 points) would have put Arsenal in second place behind Man City on goals scored and even with them on goal difference. And I can’t help but think at least one of those 10 goals that Wenger is imagining would have been taken in one of the five games that Arsenal were held scoreless or been enough to push Arsenal over the edge to a win in one of the 8 draws.
And I think Wenger has the players on his squad to do it. It’s not unrealistic to think that Walcott could play 25 games and score 10, doubling his output from last season. Or that Welbeck could play the same number of games and score 8 goals and that Wilshere and Ox could combine for a total of 6. That doubles their output from last season, easily.
Some will say that this is a huge gamble but I would say that all transfers are gambles. You could buy Lacazette for £25m and he could spend most of the season injured. Or he could turn out to be a one-season wonder like Drmic two years ago. With every Sanchez in the transfer market, there seem to be a dozen Bentekes. So, it makes sense that Wenger is conservative in the transfer market and aggressive in developing his players: best to work with the clay you already know.
Wenger will still buy, if a big name player becomes available. If someone like Benzema is pushed out at Real Madrid, I have no doubt that Arsene will jump at the chance to improve the team. But unless a proven top quality striker, which is always a hot commodity, becomes available, my bet is that Wenger will gamble on the fitness of Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, and Ox.
Regardless of what happens in the transfer market, this is a big season for Arsenal’s British core and if they improve their fitness and if they can improve their goal scoring, it could be a big season for the Arsenal.
|Player||15/16 Games (guess)||Goals (guess)||14/15 Games||Goals|