Arsenal are yet to win a Premier League title since the Invincibles season 11 year ago and a lot has happened during this drought. Chelsea and Manchester City have emerged as English superpowers, when on one hand the blue half of Manchester saw its rise, the red half of Manchester saw its decline and now is spending heavily to get itself back into the mix. Liverpool won the Champions League, lost a final to Milan and are now struggling to even qualify for the competition. Such has been the intensity of transition that has taken place in England since the last time Arsenal won the PL.
All of the aforementioned transitions were concerning only the big clubs other than Arsenal. As for Arsenal, they left Highbury, built a new stadium, saw players leaving every now and found themselves in a position where they were unable to sign any big players, couldn’t consistently make it into the top 2. Mikel Arteta is the sixth captain after Patrick Vieira, who was the last one to lift the Premier League trophy with Arsenal. Transition is too small a word to describe whatever has happened in and around Arsenal since the last time Arsenal won the PL.
But now, for the first time in at least 9 years or so, it is fair to say that Arsenal have an amazing chance of posing a significant challenge to the League title, until the very end. Why until the very end, because they did fight for the title in few of those 9 seasons but failed miserably towards the end that resulted in them finishing 3rd or 4th. This season though, is the best opportunity for them to finally end that drought. It all began from the day Robin van Persie left Arsenal, claiming that he did not like the way Arsenal were ‘moving forward’. The Gunners signed 3 players in that transfer window in the form of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. That was when Arsenal began their quest for the Premier League title. Though 2012-13 was a disappointing season like many of the previous ones, something in them, either the way they played or their manager, made the then world’s best play-maker join the club, which marked Arsenal’s first significant step.
The world was stunned by the £42.4 million transfer of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid to Arsenal. He claimed that he was convinced by mere words spoken by Arsene Wenger to join the club. 13-14 happened, and Arsenal hit some major lows in that season. They lost 6-3 to Manchester City, 5-1 to Liverpool and most infamously were on the receiving end of a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea on Wenger’s 1000th match as Arsenal manager. But, the night is the darkest just before the dawn, because the next thing they knew was that they had just overcome Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, defending champions Wigan and Hull City to win their first competitive silverware in 9 years. Arsenal were crowned champions of the 2013-14 FA Cup. Their second significant step.
The FA Cup final victory was followed by a 3-0 Community Shield win over reigning Premier League champions Manchester City that raised the bar of expectations, which were already raised after the signing of Alexis Sanchez. Then came up the 2014-15 season, with Arsenal starting slowly and in no time they found themselves 12 points behind Chelsea. The deed had been done by then. 2015 was a stellar year as they lost only two Premier League games, that rallied them into the top 3, as a result of which, they would be avoiding the tiring play-off round for qualification to the group stages of the Champions League. A 4-0 victory in the FA Cup final told England as to what they would bring in the upcoming season and that was their third significant step.
Their fourth significant step, and the latest one, was the acquisition of Petr Cech from Chelsea that certainly was a solution to the goalkeeping issues that Arsenal have had ever since the departure of Jens Lehmann. But that alone was not just what the signing was all about. It made a statement. After selling Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Robin van Persie and Bacary Sagna all to the Manchester clubs, and having seen Cesc Fabregas leave Barcelona for Chelsea, the signing of Petr Cech was definitely the evidence of how Arsenal have changed over the years. They are not a selling club anymore. They are now capable of buying a player as top-class as Petr Cech from a club as bitter a rival as Chelsea. The icing on the cake was Cech keeping a clean sheet in the 1-0 Community Shield win over his former club.
Yes, 3 crucial points have been dropped right on the very first matchday in what should have been a cakewalk home fixture against West Ham. But that by no means reduces the expectation levels, and Arsenal are still expected to pose a genuine challenge for the title. They are not clear favourites, but certainly are one of those who can potentially become favourites as the season progresses. It might be said that Arsenal are still a couple of big signings away from the Premier League title, but they still have a good enough squad to challenge for one, not to mention a manager who is into his 20th season with the club. With a brilliant squad depth and an able manager, 2015-16 is the best chance for the Gunners to end the Premier League drought.