|ARSENAL'S TOP FOUR SPOT SAFER THAN EVER
Betfair: 29 June 2012
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. (c) The Sporting Exchange Limited.
With two new forwards, Robin van Persie still present and Jack Wilshere due back, this could be an unusually merry pre-season for Arsenal...
Summer has been a depressing time to be an Arsenal fan in recent years. The papers are always littered with rumours of star players deserting and pundits asserting that the approaching season could be the one in which they miss out on Champions League qualification.
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A disastrous start to 2011/12, not helped by the decision to cling on to Samir Nasri and wait until the final two days of August to replace the Frenchman and captain Cesc Fabregas, saw them flung out to 3.6 to finish in the top four by late September.
Eventually, they came not just fourth but third, so comfortably that they could afford a four-match winless slump in the run-in, indicating that even in their least impressive of campaigns, continued Champions League participation is a formality.
It is now 17 straight seasons in the top four under Arsene Wenger and their summer business has been so encouraging that for once the will they, won't they debate might be cancelled. Odds of 1.6 suggest that the challenge of Tottenham and Liverpool isn't feared as much as it was 12 months ago.
Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, the Bundesliga's fourth-top scorer while representing a relegated side and Ligue 1's joint-most prolific performer have arrived for a combined £23 million and the French forward claims that he hasn't been signed to replace Robin van Persie.
The Dutch striker's failure to have the anticipated impact at Euro 2012, depriving him of a chance to impress fresh suitors, is a further reason for optimism. Additionally Jack Wilshere will surely return from injury at some point this year.
There is still room for improvement, attacking midfield being an obvious area to strengthen in (unless Wenger plans to use van Persie behind Giroud in his favoured 4-2-3-1) as Tomas Rosicky can't be relied upon to be available for every game.
They are better prepared than many of their rivals though, and in a far healthier position than they were at this point last year. Enough to inspire confidence that the 19-point gap that separated them from the Manchester clubs will be closed, albeit perhaps not completely overhauled at 12.0.
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