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A New Look Arsenal? – Arsenal Five Points Clear at the Top of the Table

3 November 2013 by

Wenger out. This was the cry at the Emirates on the opening day of the season following a humiliating 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa. Many called it a disgraceful performance hence fans called for the club to spend big on an individual player to improve the team, and most importantly avoid a crisis. Even before kick off, there was a negative feeling in the terraces due to the lack of summer signings with only, an unknown Frenchman, Yaya Sanogo added to the squad for nothing. To make matters worse, maybe, was the fact that Arsenal had approached Suarez and Higuain but to no avail. I say maybe because at least they were showing intentions of trying to improve the team instead of simply selling their best players to bigger clubs.

On the other side though, the only player that the top clubs might want based on form last season is Jack Wilshere. He isn’t at his best at the moment with various injuries and niggles that is stalling his progress, also he isn’t fully proven on the big stage hence no bids were made. This does not mean that he can’t still go on and become a legend for club and country; whatever club he is at in the future. He could easily go straight into the starting eleven at Bayern Munich in my eyes as long as he gets a run of games in one position, the centre of midfield. If he excels this season consistently at club level- a bonus would be a good World Cup- he might just attract interest from the likes of Barcelona. He is a player that Arsene believes in since he has brought him up which is why the youngster feels his boss is a father-esque figure. At one stage, Wilshere came out and expressed his displeasure to calls for Wenger’s departure by saying: that if the Frenchman left, he could be the next one out the exit door. Gunners fans, be careful what you wish for.

Mathieu Flamini, who cost nothing, returned to the club after being released by AC Milan. At first the former France international was only training at the club to regain or maintain his fitness like many other ex Gunners such as Pires and Henry, however, once he impressed Arsene he was offered a new three year deal that he (without hesitation) accepted. I know he has been vital to Arsenal so far seen as they look a different team without him. He could be bargain of the season, he is that vital.

For example against Dortmund, which was meant to be their first real test of the campaign, the man of the moment Aaron Ramsey made a huge mistake on the edge of the penalty area. He took a couple of touches, that weren’t meaningful, hence he got caught in possession because ultimately he didn’t decide as to whether pass back to Szczesny or hoof it clear. This could just be signs of youth by showing a little arrogance, though I think it is unlikely. Or it could be youthfulness in the context of that he got caught up in the magnitude of the game so he felt nervous. Right there is the pessimist and optimist viewpoint; take your pick.

The critics would immediately point out that when Flamini is absent, they simply don’t have that defensive know how or a decisive thinker. This might be true, but you need to experiment and use the youth to build for the future.

In the game against Dortmund, the hosts were ultimately caught by a typical European sucker punch of a counter attack. They didn’t deserve to lose since it was a decent performance but it was a little bit off the pace in comparison with their past games in all competitions. The hosts didn’t warrant a victory due to the lack of quality in the final third; a lapse of concentration cost them in what was a reality check in the progress of the season. This goes to show, that nobody can claim them to be title contenders until they pick up points in the big games.

However, a win at the expense of Liverpool has produced a five point gap so no need for more calls of a crisis.

I’m not going to bore you with the constant praise of Ozil, Ramsey and Flamini seen as they are always talked about in the media. Yes the emergence of Ozil has galvanized the club, altered the mindset of the players and pleased the fans. Yes Ramsey is the man in form. Yes Flamini plays the unseen dirty work role that the press are always saying. From my view, it isn’t that unseen if he is the main man who is talked about. Can we please stop praising those midfield three, because there are more players in the team that have come on leaps and bounds. Although Ramsey does look unstoppable especially when he can beat several men at the swivel of a hip like in the Norwich game, where four goal of the seasons candidates took place.

I think we all understand that the humiliating defeat at the hands of Aston Villa is a distant memory; no need to drill it into our heads.

I don’t wish to come across as a random person who is just writing to criticize the media, I innocently want to say my view of this Arsenal side. Let’s not forget that football is a team game, where individuals can help but also individuals can hinder of they make huge errors. Hence if a whole team improves, then they are more than likely to succeed especially when they have the qualities Arsenal have.

Wojciech Szczesny definitely isn’t the best keeper in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but his confidence has grew positively since Euro 2012. Szczesny is at the top of the pecking order for Poland plus Arsenal and has been for a while even if he is still 23, although Artur Boruc is overtaking him for international duty. Fabianski used to be picked ahead of his younger colleague, but ever since that shoulder injury sustained a couple of years ago he hasn’t been in the same vein of form. This made the Pole strike me, like many others, as quite arrogant due to the lack of competition.

He reminds me a bit like David De Gea because he was blasted for being a dire goalie, but he has grew into maturity both mentally and physically. I honestly think that the red card he received at Euro 2012 against Greece helped his career, because once he wasn’t available for the tournament he couldn’t force his way back into the team due to the encouraging displays from Tyton. He immediately knew that to regain his place, that he’d need to be determined instead of thinking that it would come on a plate once he was available. He is now slowly fulfilling his potential with more consistency and he isn’t taking his place for granted, though more competition is required for him to be a top class keeper.

The backline in front of him actually look stable now. The defensive partnership that consists of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has vastly improved in the space of a few weeks. The bond between the two has progressed, they know what the other is going to do and this is a huge part of becoming an excellent defence. Koscielny is involved with the majority of the tackles on the ground, hence he is the one conceding the penalties which obviously leads to suspensions. Whereas Mertesacker deals with the headers more often due to his height. I personally believed that the German would fall into the category of the high priced flops because he was part of the panic buys on deadline day that included him, Arteta and Santos. I immediately pictured him leaving in a year or two of moving to London back to the Bundesliga; he has proved me wrong, he now looks like a rock at the back. When he first come to the Premier League it appeared he spent more time on the floor than up on his feet since he fell over after losing out on tackles, he couldn’t cope with the physicality of it all. He isn’t a stranger to the English game any more.

Kieran Gibbs, the left back, has improved immensely on his overall game ever since he was rewarded with a new long term contract. His attacking ability was never in doubt hence I thought that eventually he would become a left winger, although now he could just as easily be an inverted winger so he’d play on the right. However, he wasn’t willing to track back and fulfil his defensive duties so he was heavily criticized. Arsene Wenger showed faith in him, like many of the young prospects at the club, and the boss is now reaping the rewards of his new more rounded modern left back. Even better he is English. He has transformed with defensive work a priority and overlapping the winger is now in second place.

The right backs who are Carl Jenkinson and Bacary Sagna have been fighting for the starting position now, though of late Jenkinson hasn’t played his best football. Wenger has two different options at his disposal in that position and both are capable of filling in for each other. Jenkinson is the quicker of the two plus the younger one, whereas Sagna is the more experienced but has been blasted by pundits for not doing his whole job because once he attacks, he places the onus on the winger too often this is why he is a fill in for a centre half. Sagna should play in the big games so Jenkinson should be allowed the chance to show what he can do against the so called lesser teams in the league to build his confidence back up. The latter has penned a long term deal, though the previous has only got until the end of the season without no deal being offered to him.

It would be a mistake.

Obviously you know about the midfield with Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade Chamberlain etc. Moving onto Olivier Giroud who has all of a sudden looks as of he has got a new lease of life this term by banging in the goals left, right and centre (mainly the centre). The France international arrived in England with quite a high reputation from Ligue 1’s Montpellier as in his final season he guided them to the league title for the first time in the club’s history as the league’s top goalscorer with 21 and 9 assists. He won the golden boot due to his goals from open play since Nene netted the same amount.

In his debut campaign for the Gunners, he wasn’t as prolific seen as he concluded it with 17 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions. This certainly isn’t the worst start in the English game, but he didn’t catch the eye. In pre-season he has grown into a full centre forward built for the systems used in the modern-day, and more importantly he looks settled.

What people don’t grasp is the idea that foreign players need time to bed in not.only with their peers, but also make themselves at home. They are human beings despite some people using the petty argument of the fact that they should settle quickly because of the money they earn.

Some settle quicker than others.

At this moment in time, he could be a dark horse for the league’s golden boot particularly with the plentiful supply line. There have been calls for the board to invest in a world.class striker, but Giroud can be exactly that now he has had a year to adapt to his new surroundings. The only problem is if the Frenchman is injured or suspended then there isn’t a back up; Nicklas Bendtner is dire for the club and Sanogo doesn’t appear ready to step up to the mark. Lukas Podolski appears to be better when deployed on the left wing in comparison with Walcott who can fill in down the middle, but his end product, although it has gradually progressed, it isn’t up to scratch to be heavily relied upon.

Penultimately, the man who I wish to focus on really is going under the radar despite signing a new deal recently. Serge Gnabry is in his breakthrough season which people have failed to realise, thanks to the stunning midfield, though this could be beneficial to his development and football education. The English press have been consistently accused of building players up far too quickly only to shatter their self-esteem following a bad game let alone a run of them, that is the main reason for my thinking. Once the British media get a hold of you, then you become the subject of unmitigated denunciation.

The youthful German has seamlessly slotted into the first team atmosphere in the past few months or so, which is an achievement in itself. He doesn’t look out of his depth. Now I know that he hasn’t shined like his counterpart Mesut Ozil, but he is a prime example of what Arsenal is all about. It shows Wenger’s philosophy of nurturing the youth enough to make them comfortable in a starting eleven environment. In Arsene’s eyes, if you’re good enough then you will be gifted an opportunity to impress no matter what nationality you happen to be. It also indicates the intentions of the club to build for the future, the only negative aspect of that is he is from Germany. Typical.


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