Arsenal are well known as a team fond of picking up nasty habits of making pig ears of games they should be winning comfortably – Monaco, Dynamo Zagreb, Olympiacos, West Bromwich Albion et al quickly come to mind.
The lack of sinew and slackness throughout the spine has been the team’s achilles heel for a long time and has been attributed to such lackadaisical and inconsistent performances.
The tenacity of the team in that position, however, cannot be downplayed since the meteoric rise of “pitbul”Francis Coquelin who made the position his before a knee injury sustained at the Hawthorns, and his partnership with the diminutive Santi Cazorla forced Arsene Wenger to play Aaron Ramsey on the right wing, a position the Welshman is not naturally suited to.
However, since his return from injury and the Spaniard’s long-term injury layoff, the manager has played Ramsey in his preferred central midfield role alongside the combative, albeit ageing, Mathieu Flamini.
Consequently, the team is evidently playing with genuine width and Ramsey who is more attack minded, seems to thrive. We saw this when he won the ball in the Arsenal half, rose from the tackle, dashed to the Villa penalty area and was teed up by the mercurial Mesut Ozil to score a sublime goal at Villa Park recently.
As a winger, Ramsey had the tendency to drift centrally and, as a result, Hector Bellerin had no one to pass the ball to. The versatility of Joel Campbell on either wing, combined with his defensive attributes, has barely made Arsenal fans miss the indefatigable Chilean in Alexis Sanchez.
The link up play of Arsenal’s full backs, as well as their overlapping runs, has by default been beneficial to big French striker Olivier Giroud to use his physical presence in the oppositions box, and cause panic amongst defenders – fact well elucidated in his impressive run of six goals in four matches.
The Cazorla-Coquelin axis has not been solely missed, since their replacements have aptly fit in and given the team an extra dimension – a plan B – and as most pundits put it; this season’s title is Arsenal’s to lose by virtue of their current position, cohesion and squad depth.
The fact that the other big guns have been inconsistent is sure enough the impetus to spur Arsenal on to take the title.
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