In the second in a series of eight scouting reports covering all the teams in the Champions Leauge quarterfinals, I'll point out the strengths, weaknesses and my predictions of one of the best teams in England: Arsenal
Arsenal, or "the Gunners", are currently in second place in the English Premier behind Manchester United bythree points. Of course, playing well in the Premier League is no easy task, (ask Derby County) and the main reason in my mind that Arsenal is successful is they're great combination of older, experienced players like GK Jens Lehmann, William Gallas and Gilberto Silva with the younger, very promising players such as Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby, Denilson, Alexandre Song, Nicklas Bendtner, Armand Traore, Theo Walcott and 10 other players on the team (another eight are out on loan, including Carlos Vela) who are all 21 or younger.
Many of these young players already have starting roles with the Gunners and are making a huge difference in their lineup, as they improve more and more each season and usually have more energy and are more aggressive than older players would be.
At striker there's Emmanuel Adebayor, the big man from Togo, and Robin Van Persie, one of the most dangerous striking tandems in the English Premier (behind Wooney/Tevez at Man U and Keane/Berbatov at Tottenham in my opinion). Combine their dangerous front line with midfielders like Fabregas, Diaby, Tomas Rosiky, Mathieu Flamini, Alexander Hleb and Denilson, and you have one of the most dangerous offenses in the game.
The Defense includes Kolo Toure, Phillipe Senderos, Bacary Sagna, Emmanuel Eboue, Gallas, and Armand Traore, which also provides for a tough back line for any team to cross.
Perhaps their biggest strength is their coaching. Arsene Wenger has been the head coach of Arsenal since 1996. Before Wenger came along the team was bringing in and shipping out coaches like it was nobody's business, having five different coaches in the two years before his arrival. Wenger is perhaps one of the best coaches in the game and has a great eye for talent. He is probably the biggest reason Arsenal is where they're at today, because he's the one that brings in the young talent that has benefited the Gunners so much.
While their immense talent at a young age is a big positive, the lack of experience that comes along with that young age can also be a negative.
The majority of Arsenal's lineup is in their early 20's, so most of them have not been around long enough to have the experience needed to progress far in the tournament. They defidently have the skill, but their football knowledge probably isn't where it needs to be.
Arsenal started out the season strong, but around January they began to slip up, and it seems now that their wins aren't as convincing as they were in October. One can speculate that the Gunners are beginning to get tired, which has the potential to be a huge problem for Wenger and his men.
Another weak spot that is considerably more weak than the rest of the lineup is the goalkeeper position. Jens Lehmann, the 38 year old German international, has only started 10 games for Arsenal this year, and his production has been slowly decreasing over the past several seasons. Manuel Almunia has been the main goalkeeper this season, starting 33 games, and giving up only six goals in December and January, but throughout February he was out with an injury and on the sidelines. Lukas Fabrinski, Arsenal's 3rd keeper, has only played three games this year.
Hleb, Walcott and Fabregas celebrating another Arsenal goal
Arsenal face Liverpool in the quarterfinal of the Champions League, easily the most intriguing matchup of the Champions League quarterfinals. Both these teams are playing fantastic right now, but I think that Liverpool will come out on top, judging by the convincing wins they had over Inter Milan, who was considered to be one of the tournament favorites and the fact that Liverpool is a much more experienced squad, led by Steven Gerrard, arguably one of the best Englishmen in the game. Sorry to disapoint, Arsenal fans, but I don't see it happening this year. This is one of the hardest games to call, but I think that Liverpool will slightly edge off Arsenal, ending their Champions League run.
But in a year or two, expect Arsenal to even better then they are now. Their young players are the key to this team's success, and when those players get better and their match experience gets better, the team will improve greatly.
Arsene Wenger, head coach of Arsenal and one of the best in the game