Arsenal are undoubtedly one of the heavyweights in English league football and can never be lightly considered by any team. This season, however, following a poor start and a nightmare game against fierce rivals Manchester United, which ended in a humiliating 2-8 defeat, the Gunners made significant changes to their squad. The London club responded with a strong performance against a second strong domestic rival, Chelsea, winning that game 5-3 in Stamford Bridge, courtesy a Robin van Persie hat-trick.
Following that performance... and a series of generally impressive wins... here is a list of ten players who could lead the club to a successful season:
Per Mertesacker (Center-Back): The German international arrived in London from Bundesliga club Werder Bremen. The 26-year-old, dubbed the Defense pole (die Abwehrlatte) by his hometown media, has a good disciplinary reputation - a great characteristic for any defender - evident by his run of 31 Bundesliga games without being booked. He is also a regular for his national team, having helped them reach the semi-finals of the 2006 and 2010 FIFA Football World Cup and the Final of the 2008 European Championships.
He has taken some time to adjust to the pace of English football, having drawn criticism for both his lack of pace and physicality; something he himself has admitted to. Nevertheless, he is a proven professional and a top-class performer, as recent improved performances suggest. Essentially, he can only improve as an Arsenal player and a 100 percent match ready Mertesacker could be a real handful for any striker in the world.
Robin van Persie (Striker): The Dutchman was recently named his club's captain, following the departure of Spaniard Cesc Fabregas to his boyhood club Barcelona, and has lived up to expectations, particularly since his club lost another senior attacking player, in Frenchman Samir Nasri.
Robin van Persie, 28, earned his first ever Player of the Month award in November of 2005, after scoring eight goals in eight starts. This season has been equally prolific; he leads the league's goal scoring chart with 14 strikes and, according to the club's Web site, has 18 goals in 20 appearances, across all competitions, this season. He scored twice on Sept. 24, against Bolton Wanderers to raise his tally for Arsenal to 100 goals and was named the Premier League Player of the Month for October.
Theo Walcott (Striker/Forward): Walcott made his first Premier League appearance for Arsenal in 2006, following his surprise selection in the England squad for the 2006 World Cup, against Aston Villa. The youngster came on as a substitute and set up midfielder Gilberto Silva's goal. He scored his first goal of this season during the first leg of the club's UEFA Champions League qualifying game against Italian club Udinese; it proved to be the only goal over two legs of play and saw the club through to the competition's group stages. The young Englishman is one of the quickest footballers in the Premier League and will be hoping to use that pace to good effect this season.
Wojciech Szczesny (Goal Keeper): The Polish shot stopper would probably have never been given a first team berth, were it not for his compatriot Lukasz Fabianski's injury. The 21-year-old, however, pushed everything aside to prove himself in a League Cup game against Newcastle United at St James' Park, where he kept a clean sheet, stopping numerous attempts from the Newcastle players.
I believe one day he will be the No. 1 at Arsenal, certainly, his manager had said about him, sometime ago. He certainly is that now.
He has made 21 appearances this season and counts a vital 59th minute penalty save, during the second leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifying round against Udinese, as one of his highlights.
Gervinho (Striker/Winger): The Ivory Coast international arrived at Arsenal from Ligue 1 club Lille, after helping them to the domestic double (the league and the Coupe de France) during the 2010-11 season. He completed his £10.5 million (rumored) transfer in July, only to be sent off on his Premier League debut, against Newcastle United, for slapping Joey Barton. Since then, however, the Ivorian has made 18 appearances for the Gunners and scored thrice. While this is perhaps not an idea conversion rate for a striker, his performances have been increasingly more polished and his movement off the ball, as well as his physical presence, are becoming real headaches for opponents. If Gervinho were to continue playing with all guns blazing, it could spell doom for the other teams.
Andrey Arshavin (Winger/Attacking midfielder): The Russian playmaker, whose arrival in 2009 was a prolonged saga in itself, proved immediately he was a must-have player in the team, scoring four times during a thrilling match against rivals Liverpool, in April of that year. Since then, however, the Russian's form has dipped and swayed a little, leading to speculation that he may be on his way out of the club.
However, given the general paucity of offensive creativity and on-the-ball skills, in the absence of both Fabregas and Nasri, and the general lack of form of Tomas Rosicky, the Russian could still have a key role to play this season, especially if Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Walcott and he can get on the same wave-length.
Mikel Arteta (Midfielder): An absolute last-gasp signing (he signed from league rivals Everton minutes before the 11 p.m. deadline, for a reported fee of £10 million), Arteta was viewed with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the fact that his transfer came in the immediate aftermath of the mauling from Manchester United meant that he was viewed as a knee-jerk signing by Wenger. On the other hand, he has always been seen as one of the most under-rated players in the league, a midfielder whose control of the game and range of passing was crucial to his side's success.
The 2005-06 Everton Fans' Player of the Season and the Players' Player of the Season awards holder certainly has the class to succeed at Arsenal. He has made 16 appearances in his first season with the London club and scored thrice.
Jack Wilshere (Midfielder): Undoubtedly one of the more exciting young talents in English football, Wilsher's potential is probably best summed up by the fact there are strong rumors that Spanish giants Real Madrid are seriously interested in signing him. Add Bolton manager Owen Coyle's comment about his ability to tackle and take a knock as extraordinary and you have a midfielder with the hard-tackling characteristics of a defensive midfielder with all the flair and passing range of most attacking players... a potent combination. Unfortunately, Wilshere is currently serving a stress fracture ankle injury which he received while on national team duty. His return, Wenger must feel, cannot come soon enough.
Thomas Vermaelen (Center-Back): Currently Arsenal's vice captain, the Belgian international spent much of last season injured. Nevertheless, a hugely impressive first season (he joined the club from Dutch side Ajax, in 2009), in which he displayed a knack for scoring crucial goals and an extraordinarily calm marshalling of his side's often meager defensive resources, meant that he remained (and remains) an invaluable part of Arsenal's back line.
Aaron Ramsey (Midfielder): The Welsh international transferred to Arsenal, from Cardiff City, in 2008. He was immediately acclaimed as one of the most exciting talents around, a tag he proceeded to justify... before breaking a leg in a tackle by Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross, during the 2009-10 season. It took him some time to recover, both physically and mentally, from what was a horrendous tackle. However, his assist on Walcott's goal against Udinese suggests that the Ramsey of old is very close to making a comeback. He has made 19 appearances for the club this season.