The Premier League season is over. Arsenal's season is not yet over though. One more match to go. I am hoping the Arsenal players turn up next Saturday and also hoping the small margins favour Arsenal.
From a fan perspective, I have tried to compare the Arsenal and Chelsea squads and see if there is a massive gap in class as the pundits suggest or if there is a small difference between both squads as I suspect.
The Arsenal squad is made up of:
David Ospina / Wojciech Szczesny & Emiliano Martinez. All of these goalkeepers have played for the club at one stage or the other this season.
Defenders are Matthieu Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel & Isaac Hayden.
Santi Carzola, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby, Matthieu Flamini, Mesut Ozil, Francis Coquelin, Gedion Zelalem, Krystian Bielik and Alex Oxlade - Chamberlain are all listed as midfielders on the club website.
Forwards are Olivier Giroud, Danny Wellbeck, Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry, Alexis and Chuba Akpom.
Carl Jenkison (defender), Joel Campbell, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo & Ryo Miyaichi (all forwards) are listed as loanees on the first team page of arsenal.com.
For ease of comparison, I will ignore the players on loan even though some of them only left in January. They did not add much to the playing squad before their departure. I will also discount Isaac Hayden, Abou Diaby, Gedion Zelalem, Krystian Bielik, Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom. They haven't really been first team players this season. Although Chuba has had 3 appearances in the Premier League, he is really on the fringes of the first team.
Chelsea squad are as follows: Petr Cech, Thibaut Courtois & Jamal Blackman are goal keepers.
Defenders are John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Felipe Luis, Kurt Zouma, Nathan Ake and Andreas Christensen
Midfielders are Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic, Oscar, John Mikel Obi, Ramires, Juan Cuadrado & Ruben Loftus - Cheek
While the forwards are Diego Costa, Didier Drogba, Loic Remy and Isaiah Brown.
As with the Arsenal squad, It is easy to discount Jamal Blackman, Nathan Ake, Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus - Cheek and Isaiah Brown. They have contributed little or nothing to winning the championship in the just concluded season.
Comparing Goal keepers
It is fair to say that the 'PUNDITaraty' believe that Chelsea's Cech & Courtois are amongst the top 3 in the Premier League this season. The 3rd one is David De Gea.
As recently as the 2013/14 season, Arsenal's now number 2, Szczesny was joint winner of the EPL top GK award with Petr Cech. Some believe the Polish stopper has taken a step back this season and this is why he has lost his place to David Ospina.
If you go by the comments from pundits, the Colombian number one is not a top goalkeeper but I dare say the stats show differently. As at 8 days ago Sky Sports published a stat showing that Ospina had the best save percentage. You can see the stat here . The fact that Courtois and De Gea are at the bottom of this stat might make you query the reliability of this measure. However it is a measure and supposedly used by independent assessors. Whether you agree with the stats or whether the stats tally with what your eyes tell you is a different matter.
As at the 3rd of May, there were a few articles in the newspapers claiming that David Ospina was statistically the best goal keeper in the Premier League. One of these articles can also be seen here. Again it is up to you to judge. For me, however you have to look at goals conceded, and you have to review matches to see if the goal keeper made saves to deny goals or if this was an average goalkeeper behind a rock solid defender.
Based on watching full Arsenal matches and highlight of the ones I didn't watch live, I have seen one clanger leading to a goal by Ospina (v West Brom for the solitary goal conceded by Arsenal) but I can easily remember two clangers by Courtois without going back to check the records (v. Stoke / Charlie Adam long range strike and v. Hull where he passed to the opponent and Chelsea conceded - wonderful assist if you ask me).
I do not see any issues for Arsenal in the goalie department. If I were to concede to the pundits, I will say Courtois or Cech are marginally better than Ospina. Considering the fact that Courtois is rated at close to £30m, as an Arsenal fan I will have to say 'No thanks'. If goalkeepers like Tera Stegen (the Barcelona cup keeper are available for reasonable sums and they are tired of 'captaining' the bench), I will gladly change the Arsenal goalkeeper but in the absence of this type of obvious quality, I will stick with Oooooospina
I will not trade Laurent Koscielny for any of the Chelsea defenders. Although I will suggest that Laurent might need to be a bit more of a bruiser. He is perhaps symptomatic of the nice boy image of all Arsenal players (except Alexi Sanchez) . I don't think Laurent has a reputation as a brute on the field of play amongst opponents.
As far as I am concerned Gary Cahill is Phil Jones with slightly better limbs coordination. He is a walking red card if the Referees applied the rules a bit more firmly.
Will John Terry work into any defensive system in the world? I don't think so. He doesn't have pace and is vulnerable to any team / forward with abundance of pace. He has benefited immensely from the way Chelsea are set up. As a defensive unit and a central defensive partnership, you will say that the combination of Terry, Cahill and Zouma (any two) are better than any central defensive pairing Arsenal can put up. Next season with Gabriel fully acclimatised, I will imagine that Koscielny and Gabriel will (injury permitting) be the best centre back pairing in the EPL.
The Chelsea full backs in Cesar and Branislav are made of concrete. In the case of the latter we are talking actual concrete. His parents used to feed him cement mixture as a kid. Arsenal full backs have nothing on these two. The Chelsea pair defend, play dirty and support the attack.
Yes Hector Bellerin is easily Arsenal's revelation of the year. He is so good that the rumour mill is agog with Barcelona's interest. Hector is an absolute gem. In fact Barcelona can come and take him for £50m. He has to be worth at least that if Liverpool are hawking Raheem Sterling for £60m.
However, Hector is a nice boy, lacking steel, his best asset is his offensive play. Yes he is proving his mettle as a defender but he has nothing on the Chelsea full backs. Same with Monreal or Gibbs. The former has improved significantly this season. His stint at centre back appears to have toughened and sharpened him. He is a competent defender but still short of the heights attained by the Chelsea full backs. Kieran is also an okay full back but I doubt if anybody thinks the Arsenal full backs are better than the Chelsea full backs.
A fit Matthieu Debuchy is another matter entirely. I believe if Matthieu was fully fit, he can offer the same steel as the Chelsea full backs. But his first season at Arsenal has been blighted by 2 freakish injuries.
You perhaps have seen the comparison of Coquelin versus Matic showing the former to be a better defensive midfielder I buy into that comparison wholeheartedly and like Arsene Wenger I find it unfortunate that we didn't sell Coquelin to Charlton on a free and buy him back for £21m like Chelsea did for Matic. It is also sad that his usefulness to the team as a DMF was not identified much earlier in the season.
I subscribe to the philosophy that there is a time and place for everything in life and realise that the needs of the Arsenal team, Coquelin's realisation of the role he wants to perform as a footballer and Arsene Wenger's willingness to give it another go had to coincide for us to discover that he was a solution to our DMF troubles. For me, Matic or Coquelin. No difference except the extra £21m Professor Wenger can use in fixing other areas where we are clearly deficient.
Ozil ahead of anybody in the attacking midfield position of Chelsea except Hazard. You can make a case for Fabregas too based on the defensive shift Fabregas puts in. Offensively the Arsenal midfield is streets ahead of Chelsea minus Hazard. Defensively the Chelsea midfield is way ahead of Arsenal. The Chelsea players are well versed in their defensive duties and in football gamesmanship. Every single one of them is quick to try sneaky fouls or leg breaking ones if it suits their purpose.
From what I can see, Arsenal need to add a dribbler in the mold of Hazard to its attacking midfield for it to surpass Chelsea's midfield. Oscar, John Mikel Obi, Ramires and Juan Cuadrado are clearly behind in the pecking order if you compare them to Santi Carzola, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade - Chamberlain.
Forwards / Strikers
In March when Olivier Giroud was in fine form, the goals per match stats suggested he was the better striker when compared with Diego Costa. I will suggest that using the Thierry Henry Theorem of Strikers which was recently concocted in the Sky Sports Studio and now awaiting FIFA's sanction and acceptance into the Football bible, Diego Costa is the better striker as you can win a Premier League title with Diego Costa.
Personally and from a moralistic angle, I will not have Diego Costa near any team I support. He will end up in prison one day for his on field antics. Like Luis Suarez, I do not think he is worth the trouble and is likely to be a liability if his team are struggling.
As a forward and in terms of first year impact, I will rate Alexis Sanchez alongside Diego Costa although the Arsenal man hasn't played as an out and out target man this season. Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck have comparable numbers of goal scored with Loic Remy although the latter has had fewer appearances than Danny Welbeck. I am sorry I have not included Didier Drogba because I consider him a spent force.
Like Luis Suarez and Diego Costa, I also do not want Jose Mourinho near any team I support. The day Jose rocks up at Arsenal as the Manager is the day I stop supporting Arsenal.
Notwithstanding, Jose is very pragmatic. Take the Andre Schurle transfer as an example . Wenger knew the German players were very tired because of the World Cup but we persevered with Per, Ozil and Podolski. Mourinho knew the same about Schurle and got rid of him. Wenger is a 'keeper' and there is no father figure like him in the modern game. Mr Mourinho on the other hand is a 'use em and dump em' type.
I suspect Mourinho rules by fear whereas Wenger's style is love. To each his own. Mourinho has proved that he is willing to use skulduggery Wenger likes to play fair. It is no coincidence that each and every one of the Chelsea player is one tackle away from a red card whereas Arsenal players are usually 'nicey nicey'.
This season, Wenger and Arsenal appear to have adapted and tempered their 'attack attack' philosophy for pragmatism when it matters. On plenty of occasions this season, Wenger has adapted style of play and personnel. So maybe this is a different Wenger and the result might be more evident next season.
The full backs (both) and Eden Hazard are the main difference between Arsenal and Chelsea in my opinion.
Someone whose analysis I enjoy reading has suggested that a 'lock picker' / dribbler like Eden Hazard is the missing puzzle piece that Arsenal need. I buy into this narrative but will add that Arsenal need absolutely monsters at full back. I like Matthieu Debuchy as one of the full backs and will appreciate another tough no nonsense full back on the opposite flank.
I am happy with our ball playing midfielders + hopefully we sign the lock picker. Let them loose and watch them deliver it on a platter for Olivier Giroud to tap in and win Arsenal the 2015/16 league title.