Ahead of the New York Red Bulls' second Emirates Cup game this weekend, against hosts Arsenal FC, we shot three questions over to Gunners blog The Short Fuse. In lieu of responding to questions from them, I wrote up a scouting report on the Red Bulls, which you'll be able to find on their site.
Once A Metro: Arsenal haven't been too busy on the purchasing side of the transfer market, with Gervinho and Carl Jenkinson the only additions so far. How do you expect those two to fit into the side, and where else do you think the Gunners will strengthen before the transfer window closes?
The Short Fuse: I think that Gervinho could start immediately, particularly should Samir Nasri end up leaving the club (which I'm not sure will happen). He's capable of standing in for any one of Nasri-Robin van Persie-Theo Walcott-Cesc Fabregas foursome, and that versatility in attack is invaluable given Arsenal's injury problems up front over the past couple of years. Carl Jenkinson has looked energetic and powerful in the first three preseason matches. He's only 19 and will need to work on his positioning and his interplay with the others on the right side, but he looks set to be a capable backup for Bacary Sagna. If Emmanuel Eboué moves on, Jenkinson should see pretty significant time in Carling Cup and FA Cup matches.
As for where else Arsenal will strengthen, the most likely spot seems to be left back or central defense. The media has hammered away at the latter position, but with Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou, and Laurent Koscielny likely to rotate the two spots around pretty easily, it feels like a less pressing need. BeltransMole of The Short Fuse has done an analysis of possible candidates here, though.
Left back, however, is probably the biggest worry. Arsenal's most proven player there is Kieran Gibbs, who's suffered foot and ankle problems quite a lot in the last two years. When fully healthy, he has a lot of promise, and has played for England's senior side. His backup, Armand Traore, is a positional roulette wheel, and spent last year on loan with Juventus. He is fast, but a little raw still. He can also play a bit of left wing, as can Gibbs. If neither of them can play, Arsenal are probably looking at Thomas Vermaelen at left back.
Defensive midfield is also a possible spot to strengthen, and in some ways, is as thin as left back. Alex Song is reliable and pretty consistent, but if he cannot play, it suddenly becomes dicey, depth-wise. Abou Diaby is a different kind of midfielder, and Jack Wilshere hasn't the physical presence of Song. Whatever Arsenal decide to do, it will no doubt be somewhat unexpected and bargain-y at this point.
OAM: Arsene Wenger's future has been a subject of speculation for several seasons now. Where do you think he stands with the board, and where are the benchmarks for success this season?
TSF: I think Wenger still has the full commitment of the Board behind him. He is getting up there in age, and his current contract may be the last one he personally chooses to fill, but there's also no reason for him to leave. Most supporters see trophies as the benchmark of success this season, which is understandable given Arsenal's top four status. They are always capable of winning any of the trophies they set out to get, and have done really well overall in the Champions League since 2005-06. If they don't win trophies, though, Wenger still won't be in danger, so it's hard to think of them as "benchmarks". He does always state that they are the targets, though, without question, which is only right.
OAM: Arsenal have taken a very different approach to their pre-season preparations this season, traveling to East Asia for several games instead of the usual training camp in Austria. How will this affect the team's performances in the Emirates Cup and the early part of the season?
TSF: Although Arsenal traveled outside of Europe for their preseason this year, which has been something Wenger has avoided, they look fresh. A lot of that has to do with the summer's rest all the players have gotten, of course. If anything, I think that will affect their performance in the Emirates Cup, after which they have one more preseason match against Benfica in Lisbon, and then the Premier League kicks off a week later in Newcastle. Both last year and this year, they've played fewer preseason matches overall, too, which gives them less of a warmup, so one wonders if they will look a little rusty come August 13. So far, though, that hasn't been too much of an issue in the slower pace of the friendlies.