Nickname: The Gunners
Ground: Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, London, N5 1BU
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Fan site - Arsenal-Mania
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|Last Season - Over confident||Position: Runners-up|
Arsenal began the 2002/03 campaign in sparkling form, and with Manchester United struggling few could see any other team winning the Premiership title. Manager Arsene Wenger had suggested his team could go the entire campaign unbeaten, and win the treble, until Wayne Rooney stepped up to hammer the ball past David Seaman in October. For all their champagne football, the Gunners ran out of steam after Christmas as United powered home. Injuries to top stars such as skipper Patrick Vieira didn't help matters, but those foolish words towards the start of the season came back to haunt them. Again they failed to make the knock-out stages of the Champions League, leaving them with just the FA Cup to show for their efforts as David Seaman bowed out.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Gael Clichy (AS Cannes) - £250,000
D Karbassiyoon (Roanoke S) - Undisc.
Jens Lehmann (B Dortmund) - Undisc.
Philippe Senderos (Servette) - Undisc.
M Papadopulos (Banik Ostrava) - Loan
Graham Barrett (Coventry) - Free
Oleg Luzhny (Wolves) - Free
David Seaman (Man City) - Free
G Warmuz (B. Dortmund) - Free
Liam Chilvers (Colchester) - Loan
Juan Duarte (Millwall) - Loan
Francis Jeffers (Everton) - Loan
Jermaine Pennant (Leeds) - Loan
Igors Stepanovs (Beveren) - Loan
Seb Svard (FC Copenhagen) - Loan
G van Bronckhorst (Barcelona) - Loan
Moritz Volz (Fulham) - Loan
Jermaine Brown - Released
|First Choice XI|
1-Jens Lehmann; 12-Bisan Lauren, 5-Martin Keown, 23-Sol Campbell, 3-Ashley Cole; 8-Freddie Ljungberg, 19-Gilberto Silva, 4-Patrick Vieira, 7-Robert Pires; 10-Dennis Bergkamp, 14-Thierry Henry.
|The Gaffer - Arsene Wenger|
Arsene Wenger, 'the Professor', began his French revolution at Arsenal before he was even officially appointed manager in 1996. The former AS Monaco coach instructed the London club to purchase two of his compatriots, Remi Garde and Patrick Vieira, and the latter is still a lynchpin in the Gunners' midfield. Two Premiership titles in Double-winning seasons are a tribute to the transformation Wenger, one of the most innovative thinkers in the modern game, has overseen at Highbury. Although he began his management career by being relegated with little known Nancy Lorraine, he came up trumps with Monaco with whom he won the French Championship in 1988 and the domestic Cup three years later. Wenger then headed for the J-League, and Nagoya Grampus Eight, winning the Emperor's Cup during the 1995/96 season and the Japanese Super Cup the following term. But despite those two league and Cup doubles (1997/8 and 2001/2), the Gunners remain a second best to Manchester United - and the Champions League success which Wenger craves remains elusive, the 2000 UEFA Cup Final defeat to Galatasaray of little consolation.
|Player to Watch - Jens Lehmann|
Perhaps one of Arsene Wenger's biggest failings over the past couple of years has been his inability to find a successor to David Seaman. Now that the veteran stopper has jumped ship to Manchester City, he has been left with no opportunity but to solve the problem. It was a long and arduous search, but Germany number two Jens Lehmann was eventually the man handed the responsibilty. The 33-year-old possesses the experience desired by Wenger, who described him as assured, level-headed, the perfect professional. The former Borussia Dortmund player will start the season as number one, but has been told he must then produce the performances to hold on to his place in the side. Lehmann, who won the German title with Dortmund and the UEFA Cup with Schalke, is aware of the task he faces in replacing Seaman. The Gunners' Premiership challenge may well rely an improved defensive record - something that may only be possible if Lehmann settles into the Arsenal side.
|Young Gun - Philippe Senderos|
Jermaine Pennant has sat comfortably into this category for the past couple of seasons without breaking into the side, and 19-year-old defender Ryan Garry is also tipped to impress. But new signing Philippe Senderos has been receiving rave reviews in pre-season and should get more than his fair share of action due to the ageing legs of Martin Keown. The exciting Swiss prospect was snapped up on the cheap from Servette. The central defender had originally agreed to make the move to Highbury in December, but stayed with his old club until the end of the season. A current Under-21 international, Senderos captained Switzerland to victory in the European Under-17 Championships in 2002. He was also tracked by Manchester United, who invited him to Old Trafford to watch a game, and Liverpool, who offered him the chance to train with the club. Juventus and both Milan clubs were also interested.
Arsene Wenger is putting on a brave face, but all is not well at Highbury. Last season's title collapse proved that the squad needed strengthening but Wenger's only significant summer signing has been Jens Lehmann.
With no cash available, Arsenal will need to steer clear of injuries and suspensions if they are to reclaim the Premiership. Another strong challenge is guaranteed, but defensive frailties could once again derail the Gunners' championship hopes and we will probably finish second.
Philippe Senderos is being touted as the answer to Arsenal's defensive problems. At 18 it's too early to compare him to Tony Adams, but the young Swiss centre-back has been hugely impressive. Forward Jeremie Aliadiere may well move above Franny Jeffers and Kanu in the Highbury pecking order.
By Dominic Sutton, Soccernet FC Correspondent.
The end of last season was heartbreaking, but we'd previously played some of the most sublime football ever seen in this country. We thrive on form and confidence, which is a double edged sword - it more often than not works spectacularly in our favour, but it's a risky game to play.
We must learn to be more resiliant, keep our concentration and stop making the odd stupid error now and again. If we can do that, we'll be champions again. This really could be the year that Jermaine Pennant breaks through. He only has a strike rate of three goals for every start, after all.
Challenging Sylvain Wiltord and Freddie Ljungberg for a spot on the right wing, he's an explosive force who can take people on and deliver a whole range of crosses - if we can adapt to the crossing game remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure - this lad is ready and, given a run of games, will be one hell of a player.
By Ally Winford, from Arsenal-Mania.
Isn't it funny how times change? This time last year we were all positively looking forward to the new season in the knowledge that Arsene Wenger had assembled the finest pool of players in the Premiership - yet here we are, 12 months on, and suddenly we are not so sure anymore.
Sure, we will be there or thereabouts when the title ribbons are pinned to the trophy in May, yet anything other than top place will be seen as a disappointment. Philippe Senderos could prove a shrewd piece of business.
Hopefully, he will strike up a strong partnership with Sol Campbell at the back; otherwise we may have to endure more half-hearted displays from the woeful Pascal Cygan. Prediction - Champions. Well, we have to believe, don't we…?
By Remo Casali, from Fans FC
|Best - Champions||Worst - Third spot|
If, as expected, Patrick Vieira pens a new deal with the Gunners it will provide a huge boost ahead of the new campaign. The Gunners' skipper is crucial to their hopes of wrestling the title back from Manchester United and thoughts of a Bosman exit next summer must be banished. But Arsenal are currently dogged by off-field problems, with work on the Ashburton Grove halted indefinitely, which have hampered Wenger's hopes of adding to the squad adequately. If Arsenal suffer with injuries as they did at the end of last season it could prove to be a disappointing term with quality in the squad not running particularly deep. They will be in the shake-up, but don't expect to hear anyone talking up their chances this time around.