RAY PARLOUR: how Arsenal can win the Premiership
Ray Parlour is tipping Arsenal to end their trophy drought – and win the Premier League. The Gunners kick off their campaign at Everton on Saturday with many believing this is the season they will drop out of the top four after an underwhelming summer of
Ray Parlour is tipping Arsenal to end their trophy drought - and win the Premier League.
The Gunners kick off their campaign at Everton on Saturday with many believing this is the season they will drop out of the top four after an underwhelming summer of transfer activity. Big-spending Manchester City are waiting in the wings, along with Aston Villa and, this weekend's opponents from Merseyside.
Even Arsenal skipper, Cesc Fabregas, admitted last week the club are at a "difficult moment", but Parlour, a key member of Arsene Wenger's last title-winning squad - the 2004 'Invincibles' - claims with one or two additions, his former club can go all the way for the first time in five years.
"I'm confident and with good reason; Arsenal can definitely win this title," Parlour tells Ham&High Sport.
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"I do think Arsene Wenger needs to buy one, possibly two, more players before the end of August, but even as it stands, we have good reason for optimism. We are top two material - and I say we can win it."
The Gunners netted 68 times in the Premier League last season, the same as champions Manchester United and third-placed Liverpool, and Parlour expects another glut of goals in the coming season.
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"I believe the return of Eduardo is a major plus for us. He's looked sharp in pre-season and gives us something special," he adds.
"I was delighted to see Tomas Rosicky back as well, but his new injury means his comeback has been put back again. He looked good before his new injury and hopefully he'll be back sooner rather than later.
"The main thing is attacking-wise we are looking exceptional, it's not an area of concern. We have great options and will score lots of goals - and that is our major strength.
"I was at the game against Rangers in the Emirates Cup and thought the side looked outstanding - we took them apart.
"Yes, it was only pre-season, but it was hugely impressive and, I think, an indicator of what we can do when the serious stuff begins."
Parlour, who played in all three of Wenger's title-winning seasons at the club, also believes the pressure is off with expectations falling - and that could play to Arsenal's advantage.
"When I was playing under George Graham and Wenger, we were always expected to win the title or, at least, be the main challenger.
"That pressure maybe isn't there this year, but I just feel this is going to be a massive season for us.
"I actually sense an awful lot of optimism among the fans and people associated with the club.
"If we can maybe strengthen with another centre-half and, certainly, a holding midfield player, we have nobody to fear.
"And as for Manchester City ... they still won't break into the top four. Of that, I'm sure."
Arsenal's 21-match unbeaten run last season has given Wenger the belief that his side are on the verge of propelling themselves to another level.
Goalscoring is not a problem and won't be again this season, despite the loss of Emmanuel Adebayor, a player whose startling decline after netting 30 times in 48 games in 2007/08 made his move to Manchester City easily palatable for fans.
At the back, however, questions remain, especially after the recent departure of Kolo Toure.
William Gallas now has a pivotal role as the most senior defender. In full-backs Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, Wenger could claim convincingly he has the finest pairing in England. But in the middle he badly lacks height, a factor he admitted to on several occasions.
Thomas Vermaelen, who should make his debut this weekend, will hopefully address that particular issue, but there is no denying the Gunners clearly lack physical strength in the air. Fulham's Brede Hangeland would be a welcome addition.
Wenger encountered hostility from frustrated sections of the Arsenal support for the first time last year, particularly at a highly-charged AGM, and while there were moves from fans, notably the excellent REDAction, to mend bridges, that frustration remains.
Goodwill for the Frenchman is still intact, but a fifth year without silverware will see that sorely tested.