Let nothing be said of the quality of the opposition. Over the past month, it didn’t matter if it was Chelsea, Swansea or Championship Wigan, Arsenal failed to move out of first gear early on, struggled for confidence and looked nothing of a side capable of producing sharp, attacking football.
The win at Hull on Sunday afternoon felt like something of a rebirth for Arsene Wenger’s team. Important pieces had been missing, absolutely vital pieces for this Arsenal team to operate and function in the style the manager and supporters expect. The returning combination of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were the key components of a 3-0 win, and one, in hindsight, that would be looked upon as routine.
And that’s what Arsenal need now. After what feels like and endless list of struggles and disasters since the team were battling for the Premier League title, Arsenal really just needed a straightforward win.
The importance of this restoration of confidence can’t be underlined. Arsenal have it all to play for between now until the end of the season. A trophy, finally something tangible to show for the effort the club have made in doing things the ‘right way.’ And European qualification, of which the importance is higher than that of the FA Cup – at least that’s the impression we’ve been given by the club over the years, either directly or indirectly.
What Arsenal have needed so desperately over these past six weeks or so, what Arsene Wenger has been absolutely in need of is fresh options. And that doesn’t just mean players who have had a couple of games off. The team has, for the most part, been the same for a long period. Arsenal needed something different, a different kind of player in Ramsey and a higher level of attacking intellect in Ozil. The result was there to see, not just in the final score but in the manner the score was attained.
Ramsey’s involvement in the midfield gave Arsenal the runner from deep they’ve been lacking. Pace or not, a genuine threat arriving from the midfield is vital to the way this team play. A lack of movement can hinder even the most gifted of No.10s, shown by the harsh and at times baffling criticism of Ozil in the past. At Hull, Arsenal had the movement and the threat.
The need for confidence in this Arsenal team has been spoken of time and again. What has lessened in recent years is the importance of leadership. Arsenal now have what are perceived to be experienced players, in fact they have them in abundance. But the team have very few leaders in the same sense that Cristiano Ronaldo is the leader at Real Madrid without actually wearing the captain’s armband.
At Arsenal, Ramsey has very much taken on that responsibility through his performances this season. He’s been the driving force in Arsenal’s midfield in the way Cesc Fabregas was in the past. It’s extremely easy for a team to be knocked off course without their one standout performer.
The Welshman scored one, set up another and indirectly assisted the third when his shot, saved by Steve Harper in the Hull goal, fell to Lukas Podolski for the German international to put away his second.
The weariness of Arsenal’s players was telling in previous games, not just physically but mentally, too. The options available to Wenger now in Ramsey and Ozil has given everyone in the team that much-needed lift.
The game at Hull could have been another tricky affair, a potential slip up in the race for fourth. But the fresh minds of Arsenal’s returning stars ensured it was a comfortable dispatch. Arsenal look very much on course to being back to their best.