Arsenal’s trip to Manchester City last weekend was billed as a game that would tell us a lot more about the Gunners’ title credentials for the season. Arsene Wenger’s team didn’t have too much trouble getting points off the teams they’re expected to finish ahead of this season, but they were certainly courageous and continued to battle in a match against the champions, one which they might have taken all three points from.
Were City poor on the day, perhaps a hangover from the disappointment in Madrid last week? Roberto Mancini’s team are without a win in four games in all competitions at the moment, so maybe it’s fair to conclude that the team are not exactly firing on all fronts. However, that assessment would be wholly unfair to Arsenal and the good work they put in at the Etihad Stadium.
Once again, Arsene Wenger got his selection right, opting for Aaron Ramsey’s work ethic on the right flank. It’s certainly a good indicator of the quality and depth in this Arsenal side. I’ve been over the injury problems in the squad before, but it appears that Wenger has a group of players that can battle against different styles of opposition in the Premier League.
It’s all very early, of course, but Arsenal are doing what’s being asked of them. They can only beat or get points off the teams that are put in front of them. They are yet to suffer defeat, while only conceding two goals so far in the Premier League.
It’s the winning mentality that needed to be adopted by Arsene Wenger’s side. He has quality, that much has always been obvious, but are these players good enough to complete a full season in contention for the title, rather than suffer disappointment three quarters of the way through?
The new arrivals from this summer have done an exceptional job so far this season. The praise continues to pour in for Santi Cazorla and his contribution to Arsenal so far. Any club’s supporters would get carried away with a player of his quality in their team, but it’s not too far off the mark to suggest that the Spanish midfielder has been the best, if not the most consistent, player in the league so far. His pass completion is excellent, as are the manner of his passes—something which Alan Shearer certainly can’t question. Importantly, Cazorla has adapted to English football incredibly quickly, taking hold of games and helping to dictate the tempo with midfield compatriot Mikel Arteta.
Lukas Podolski gives Arsenal a great deal of fight and power to the front line, something which they may have even lacked during last season with Robin van Persie. The German international won’t give up on a phase of play, he has the composure and quality to convert in front of goal, and he really gives the team a greater sense of belief through his performances. In comparison, the alternatives to van Persie last season were more or less non-existent.
Are Arsenal the complete package? A team who are good enough to brush aside every other team in the league and come out on top? No, but then again no team in the league is. Manchester City and Manchester United have their problems, Chelsea appear to be coming out of a small dry spell, while we can’t really say there is much threat for the moment from outside those three and Arsenal.
Wenger needs to ensure all his players are producing where they need to be, he needs to completely eradicate needless mistakes, such as the one which led to Manchester City taking the lead. But above all, he needs a clean bill of health. Adding to that, the team will be incredibly strong with the returning Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna. Maybe even more so when Theo Walcott decides he fancies getting involved again.
However, what Arsene Wenger has at the moment is a winning formula. Mikel Arteta is the real centrepiece of this Arsenal squad. He ties both ends of the field together and keeps the team playing. He’s not your stereotypical holding midfielder, but the Spanish are hardly seen as tough tackling, heavy hitters. Instead, they’re readers of the game with the ability to intercept opposition plays. Arteta gives Arsenal something that they’ve been missing even since the days of Cesc Fabregas and the introduction of the 4-3-3. Arteta is a reference point for the players on the pitch and he keeps the game moving. It’s his discipline that helps Arsenal to keep the score line for their opponents down, and as yet, there has been very little talk of Arsenal missing Alex Song or a player of that ilk.
There will be greater challenges this season and teams who are in better form than Manchester City. But so far, and as I’ve mentioned, Arsenal are doing everything that’s being asked of them.