Arsenal 2010-11 Team Overview, Part 1: Forwards

As a bear awaking after its winter slumber, so I return to my appointed rounds here on TMG. Last season saw a series of ups and downs, from thrashing Porto 5-0 in Champions League, Nick Bendtner rescuing points v. Wolves and Hull, and briefly topping the league, to disgraceful defeats to the likes of Wigan and Spurs, and losing another fine player to yet another mindless thug. Yet each summer helps to wash away the stains of the previous term and instill new hope in me, as I imagine it does for all Gooners.

There have been a few changes to this squad. Some players have exited, a few have entered, and some more look set to make the jump up from the youth team to the senior side. Also new to the league this season is the "Rule of 25" instituted by the FA, where out of the 25 players registered as eligible to play for the first team over 21 years of age, a minimum of 8 must be considered "home-grown," having played in England for 3 years before turning 21, and that 25 can be increased without limit by players under 21 years of age, unless they are Albanian or were born on a leap year, or French-Canadian, which would carry a penalty of death. Confused yet? You will be.

Before I begin properly, there's one thing I wanted to mention. I don't think enough has been said about Eduardo's departure from the club. While not unexpected, I don't think many of us really thought he would move on this summer. Eduardo will always be a bit if a tragic figure to me. When we brought him in, I was excited to see what he could do, and when Robin van Persie suffered an injury that fall (amazing, I know), Eduardo stepped into the first team and began to show what he could do-- namely, score some brilliant goals. He was, at his best, one of the coolest, most clinical finishers to pull on an Arsenal shirt. I offer this as evidence:

His cup work against Sevilla and Blackburn is particularly remarkable and points out the type of player he was before the thug Martin Taylor cut him down in St. Andrews in January 2008. Even after returning over a year later, Eddie showed flashes of his former brilliance (his goal against Burnley in the FA Cup was the top goal of 2008-09), but niggling injuries, coupled with the disappearance of his former fearlessness, laid out that the best decision for Eduardo was to leave England. We'll always miss you, Dudu.

This series won't constitute a proper season preview; I will only be sharing my thoughts on the squad as currently constituted as we head into our last preseason match before Matchday One: The Quickening. This will be a four-part series, and may or may not be turned into a major motion picture by Frank Darabont. We'll be starting with the forwards and going backwards, which is how I think Arsene tends to prioritize his teams. As for our current forward players, I'm counting 6: Arshavin, van Persie, Walcott, Bendtner, Vela, and the new boy Chamakh. While we're likely to see Nasri, Rosicky and Wilshere appear on the wings in the 4-3-3, I view these players as midfielders, so I'll cover them in the next section of the overview. So without further ado: The Forwards.

OUT: Eduardo da Silva, to Shakhtar Donetsk (undisclosed fee).

IN: Marouane Chamakh, from FC Girondins Bordeaux (Bosman free transfer).

Robin van Persie

LAST SEASON: Was an absolutely dominant force in attack, having truly grown into the central striker role, and scored as many goals as he created. He was having the best all-around season of any forward in England (in my opinion) before his yearly injury with Holland put him out and dashed our title hopes, for all intents and purposes. Returned late in the season after Cesc was out injured and while other players dropped like flies. Was a galvanizing force and one of a handful of players down the stretch who appeared to give 100% every match (Sol and Vermaelen were the others).

THIS TIME: The # 10 shirt is finally on the back of a top striker, and a Dutch one at that. It can't hurt, really. But, as is the case every season with Robin, the question is 'Can he stay fit?' And I just don't know how to answer. It's not as though he's constantly hurting the same appendage/joint, and most of his injuries seem to be of the fluke variety. Is he massively unlucky? Perhaps. I do feel that if he ever puts together a full season for us, it will be something to behold. Dropping out of selection for Netherlands could only help him in this, but I'm not holding my breath for that. He can be one of the best next season. All we've got to do is make him wear a suit of armor out there.

Andrey Arshavin

LAST SEASON: After arriving last February, is dazzling performances lit up eyes and raised expectations for our Soviet import. What we got last season was a mixed bag, really. Moments of individual brilliance (United and Liverpool away spring to mind) interspersed with stretches of nothing. While the 4-3-3 suits AA down to the ground as an attacker, defending is not really part of his game; but we can't get on him too much about it. After all, the same could be said for Bob Pires, and I was all too willing to overlook his defensive shortcomings for the way he attacked. Still, some commitment to the act and actual running would be nice. He was unfairly maligned at times for not scoring, despite being played wildly out of position (5'5" as a single striker!).

THIS TIME: Well, his seeming laziness hasn't disappeared, but it hasn't exactly increased; the same cannot be said for his little Russian belly, which seems to have gotten a bit girthier since May. Unfortunately, we'll need to count on him a great deal this season, especially in the early going with Cesc and RvP slowly working their way back. If he can stay healthy and motivated, he should be able to work enough magic to wow us all again. He remains one of the few players in our side who can create a goal out of absolutely nothing.

Theo Walcott

LAST SEASON: Theo rather unwisely chose to play a summer tournament for the England U-21 team a year ago, and came into last season already worn out and banged up. In true Arsenal tradition, upon returning he immediately picked up a rather severe injury that put him out for several months. For Theo, who started playing the game a bit late in life and who needs as much playing time as possible so his skills can catch up with his prodigious physical gifts, this proved a serious blow, and another reason to hate international football. Upon returning, Theo was his own infuriating self: frighteningly blessed with speed and agility, but completely lacking a "football brain." Brilliant appearances like his match at home against Burnley and his sub-on against Barca came too far between. Theo too often takes the ball, sprints down the wing beyond his marker to the end line and chucks in a cross to no one, or tries to split two defenders unsuccessfully. Both instances result in loss of possession.

THIS TIME: Like most Arsenal players, we can take it for granted that they have to stay healthy to have any impact, positive or negative. For Theo, it's critical that he stay fit. Without the time needed to develop the skills to accompany his great speed, he will continue to flounder going forward. What's particularly frustrating to me is seeing how effective he is on the break. Until this Arsenal side can develop a knack for the counterattack, I fear Theo will remain a wasted commodity.

Nicklas Bendtner

LAST SEASON: Big Nick started the season brilliantly in my opinion. Though often deployed out wide with van Persie in the middle, the Dane showed a much-improved first touch over the season before and aggressively attacked the box. However, a groin injury suffered against the scum saw him out of action until the new year, which proved devastating to our chances once RvP was ruled out from November until April. When he came back, B-52 continued to madden and and elate fans in equal measure. He would miss 6 sitters against Burnley, but score a hat-trick against Porto. He'd miss wide open chances against Wolves, but make up for it with an astounding last-second goal to claim the points. In all, I view Nick favorably, because although his finishing can be poor, that can be improved. What cannot be taught is the ability to constantly put oneself in position to score. That, the Great Dane has in spades.

THIS TIME: Bendtner decided to declare himself fit for Denmark's World Cup team this summer, although that was not the case. The same niggling groin injury that would normally have healed with summer holidays was aggravated and reinjured in South Africa, and Arsene has ruled Nick out for the start of the season and more. I don't think we can even optimistically expect him back before some time in September, and that might be a stretch. When he does return, he will undoubtedly find greater competition for his favored central role with a fit van Persie and Chamakh in the side, although le Boss appears to have used a more conventional 2-striker formation at times during the preseason, which may point to our depth of traditional srikers. we won't know what the Dane will bring to the table until he's fit. Let's just hope until then that his hot-ass royal girlfriend takes good care of that groin.

Carlos Vela

LAST SEASON: Well there wasn't much of a last season for our Mexican superstar, was there? Injuries and jet lag sustained on international duty with Mexico ruled him out for large portions, and when he was fit, sometimes didn't look up to the task, or worse, looked disinterested. That the boy has talent is undeniable. His desire and willingness to commit resides in a much more grey area. In the words of Crash Davis in 'Bull Durham': "Show me that million-dollar arm, meat, 'cause I've got a pretty good idea about that five-cent head of yours."

THIS TIME: With the departure of Eduardo, this would appear to be Vela's best chance to show what he can do. He's again shown instances of individual skill greater than most players, but until he can do these things on a consistent basis, he isn't much use to us. I do hope that he grabs onto his chances with both hands, because he does have the ability to be a fantastic player. But as one of the squad who I singled out as being content to go through the motions in last season's run-in, he's got a hell of a lot of convincing to do before I buy into him as the genuine article.

Marouane Chamakh

LAST SEASON: Was with French club FC Girondins Bordeaux, and from what I saw of him (which consisted of Champions League matches and the odd Ligue 1 fixture), looked quite the player. Very good in the air, holds up the ball well, surprisingly strong for a player with a somewhat slight build. What sets him apart though is his ability and willingness to involve his teammates in the attack, which will serve him well at Arsenal.

THIS TIME: Took no time to endear himself to the Arsenal fans with a Man of the Match performance against AC Milan, including a well-worked goal which put us ahead. Again, worked with his teammates to break down the defense and create scoring chances for others as well as himself throughout the preseason. Obviously, he's changing leagues and will need some time to adapt to the English game, but he doesn't shy away from the physical side of things, which already makes me like him. Call me crazy, but his style of play reminds me a bit of Dennis Bergkamp, but before we go drawing unfair comparisons between the two, let me say that I don't see Big Makh on DB10's level now (or probably ever). But what our lord Dennis was able to do was create opportunities not just for himself but for the rest of his team. I think we'll see a bit of that this season from our newest French import.

That's all for now. Part 2 (Midfield) will be up on Monday. Enjoy the weekend Gooners. Hopefully I'll see most of you NYC crew at TBP for the Legia Warsaw match. Maybe we can see if they'll take back Fabianski if we pay them. I'll pass the hat on Saturday.

Until next time... You stay classy, Goonerverse.