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Why We Can Be Champions Next Year

To start with our defence. Now the media narrative is always of the fragile Arsenal, defensive collapses and needing to score a lot to secure victory. Yet we end up the team with the second best defence in the league, and that in a season where we had quite a few issues with goalkeepers. The duo of Koscielny and Mertesacker, flanked by the two strongest fullback occupations in the league, is an almost unbeatable duo, which they showed by not only conceding one goal from open play in the last ten games but by keeping a clean sheet away to Bayern, which pretty much nobody had done for a year. The synergy and understanding is really quite something, and defensive stability is always what title winning sides build their title bid on.

Obviously the assistant manager deserves a lot of credit, as do the much maligned duo of Koscielny and Mertesacker, who have caused a lot of eating of humble pie over on Fleet Street. Koscielny especially seems to be the ultimate defender, so fast, such a good reader of the game, always making last ditch tackles and far bulkier than when we signed him.

Sagna and Jenkinson have both had decent, if a little stop start, seasons. I thought that Jenkinson was brilliant at the beginning, and looked set to overtake Sagna and establish himself as the number one. But Wenger, probably wisely, thought differently and let Sagna back in the squad when he was fit again. Sagna didn't have a very consistent season (sometimes he was average, sometimes he was good, and against Sunderland, he was heroic) but he is still one of the finest right-backs in the game. His two broken legs have not helped though and there is a lingering feeling that he might leave. I would miss him, but even if he does leave I trust in Wenger to sign a good replacement and have a competitive nature between the two backs, much like over on the left side.

On the left side, we have two excellent players, one all action, fast and young, the other more mature, more experienced, but who did look towards the end like his long season, and the expended energy of adapting to the league, had cost him. Over the summer our defensive unit can continue to harmonise and congeal even more, and I feel very optimistic that come next season we can have the best defence in the league. Of all the goals we conceded this season, a shockingly high percentage came from individual errors, the highest in the league, and yet we ended with the second best record. Clearly our setup is good, but we have the personnel (mainly Vermaelen, but early in the season Kos and the keepers too) who make the occasional fatal mistake. I hope this summer Bould and co can get them even more focussed and less prone to blunder.

Behind the defenders we had a very uneven season. Brilliant performances were followed up with moments of blunder and injuries prevented any keeper from stamping their authority on the role. I have no idea whether or not Fabianski is set to leave but he showed in his short period this season to be very much capable of being a phenomenal and calming goalkeeper. Szczesny is a fan favourite and an aerial presence but very inconsistent. Whether either of the keepers is good enough to be the main keeper for a title winning side is a point where I am slightly ambivalent. Fabianski in his pomp seems to me to be as good a keeper as we can have, but it always remains a question whether he can maintain that form. Players such as Mignolet and Begovic have been mooted. I would not mind either, but I do wonder at whose expense. Either way, with our defence so stable, it seems to worry me less than it did before.

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