The big question on everyone's lips is this: how does this Arsenal team to compare to those of yesteryear? The other question, is when did you last think Arsenal had what it takes to win the league before the season kicked off? Or even believed the title was winnable during the season?
Of course, it's difficult to compare teams from different eras, but one thing I'll say before we get started is team spirit alone does not win you trophies at this level. If it did, we could field a team of Arsenal fans and expect to win the league. Nevertheless, a poor team spirit can have an adverse effect on results, so we should see our current squad's seeming cohesion as a sign that they shouldn't underachieve. At least.
That wasn't the case when we had my favourite central midfield pairing of Cesc Fabregas and Matthieu Flamini, who starred together in what an excellent side, in my opinion. We were top of the league for much of that season with William Gallas as skipper, but then it all fell apart away at Birmingham. Maybe the captain lost the respect of the other players. If so, that's an example of poor morale wrecking a title charge.
We couldn't see that happening, of course. Who would have predicted Gallas sitting down in the middle of the pitch, sulking, after more dropped points and Eduardo's horrific injury caused by a reckless Martin Taylor challenge?
When I take a closer look at the team he captained though, I'd have to say our current line-up looks stronger on paper (even without our rested Germans!). Surely the team Wenger fielded at Wembley was better than the team that dropped points at St Andrews in February 2008: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Walcott (Denilson), Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb (Gilberto), Eduardo (Bendtner), Adebayor. Which of those would get in this current side? Aside from the two still with us, I'd only say Fabregas. Yet we decided against bringing Cesc back, and it's hard to argue with that while Rambo continues to deliver from a similar position.
When it comes to psychologically comparing the two sides, the truth is we'll never know the mental toughness of this new team until near the end of the season. I certainly believe there's enough talent in the squad to win something, so as long as that's combined with resilience and luck with injuries we might just be able to maintain a title challenge this time.
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