I wrote in May of this year in response to Theo Walcott’s then comments that Arsenal were ready to mount a serious challenge to win the league. Arsenal fans in particular will recall the very strong finish to last season where Arsenal finished top of the form pile taking an impressive 26 points out of 30 points. A push which saw them clinch that final Champions League berth.
Fast forward 7 months down the line and naturally it is far too early for even Arsenal fans to begin suggesting that anything will come of this early season promise. However, the positive indicators continue to give plenty of encouragement to something monumental happening at Arsenal this season.
Many people rightly predicted that there will be an element of bedding down for both of the new Manchester managers and this is exactly what has happened. City look impregnable on home turf but totally weak away from home. United are still stuttering, however the signs are that the early season jitters under Moyes has finally begun to settle down. The ‘special one’ at Chelsea has found it a completely different proposition the second time round in the Premiership and Chelsea have been dropping unexpected points both at home and away are beginning to get into the groove. Liverpool continue to improve, but they will struggle to get into the top 4 never mind pushing for anything else. Spurs, who were many pundits dark horses to do well has seen AVB struggle to find his best 11 and this has showed as they have lacked consistency, even suffering embarrassing thrashings at the hands of Man City (6-0) and West Ham, where they lost 3-0 at home. Despite spending well over £100 million they have struggled to find the net and their fans (and Levy) will expect much better things to come in the rest of the season.
So back to the Arsenal – despite giving away a few silly goals this season, they are beginning to get that little bit of luck which is essential if a club is to do well. Wojciech Szczesny is finally showing the potential between the posts which breeds confidence in defence. This in turn has seen Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny strike up an excellent central defensive understanding. Indeed both players have been outstanding. The midfield is a real powerhouse of options and the outstanding player and undoubtedly best player in the whole Premier League has been Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey’s form has been incredible and a massive boost for Arsene Wenger. With the world class Mesut Ozil alongside Ramsey and Arteta playing the anchor role Arsenal’s midfield has blown most other teams away this season. A special mention must also go to Olivier Giroud who has also been outstanding leading the line in true Alan Smith style. Arsenal have also had their fair share of injuries and with Theo Walcott coming back into the team and Podolski also due to return they really are in a very strong position.
In relation to the Champions League, whilst qualification is not yet secured the Gooners are in poll position and when the draw was made not many people gave them a chance. Despite losing at home to last season’s Champions League finalists, they went to Germany and won at Dortmund in what was an epic performance.
Many of my friends remind me that I was calling for Arsene Wenger’s not that long ago. Some of Arsene’s previous decisions have had Arsenal fans scratching their heads and the zonal marking always sees goals leaked when man-to-man marking seems a more sensible approach. The lack of activity in the transfer market was a real worry and we have seen how all the players have reacted to signing of Mesut Ozil – they have upped their game by at least 20%.
All this said, I hold my hands up now and admit I had been premature in calling for the bosses head. In fairness, I thought we had many opportunities to end our trophy drought long before this season and that a lack of good fortune always seemed to play a huge part in ensuring our trophyless run continued. When Eduardo broke his leg in THAT match against Birmingham and Galas showed crass and opened dissent, Arsenal fans kind of knew that a great opportunity to win the league that year had disappeared. How an earth we lost to Birmingham in the League Cup final not long after than was always a mystery but history cannot be re-written and we have to accept it and move on.
Arsenal fans confidence will slowly be increasing as will the players belief. If Arsene can spend wisely in the January transfer window and maybe bring in at least one more quality striker to support Giroud, this could be the final piece of the jigsaw which brings home not just a piece of silverware but the Premiership title.