Football

Arsenal: The world is watching

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Arsenal have reason to be cheerful. (©GettyImages)
Arsenal have reason to be cheerful. (©GettyImages).

The Emirates faithful are currently in seventh heaven, with their side sitting pretty at the
top of the table nine games into the season, two clear of their nearest rivals Chelsea and Liverpool and playing some sparkling, champagne football on their way there as well.

They will also be quick to remind you that their formerly maligned French centre forward Olivier Giroud scored four in his first four Premier league games, and now has five after his latest strike, a late header which helped Arsenal on their way to yet another away win at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace.

They will also sing praises of reborn Welsh wizard Aaron Ramsey, who coincidentally also has five cracking goals to his name this season, and four assists as well - joint with Giroud for the most in the league.

The midfielder also leads the list of top tacklers in the division, having successfully contested 34 tackles (eight more than Chelsea’s Ramires and Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva).

Arsenal also are currently on a run of 14 away games without defeat, having won all but one of their away games in all competitions this season. They have scored 20 goals in only nine Premier League games, a tally only second to Manchester City…it is safe to say that they are off to a flying start.

There is, however, one plain truth to be mentioned amidst all this positivity. Of the nine sides that Arsene Wenger’s men have faced, only two are currently in the top half of the table. These two games, despite both having resulted in wins, were no walk in the park either.

They beat local rivals Tottenham by a solitary goal at the Emirates, and also were made to hang on before securing a 2-1 win at the Liberty Stadium against Welsh outfit Swansea City. They have, in fact, played against all of the Premier League’s current bottom four clubs.

One can argue, then, that the only stern tests Arsenal have faced so far have come, not in the
Premier League even, but in the Champions League where results have been rather
mixed. After making Italy’s second-best club last season, Napoli, look like an average side with a routine 2-0 home win, they came unstuck with a 2-1 reverse, again at home, to Borussia Dortmund.

The truth about exactly how good the Gunners are this season should however be clearer in the next 11 days. Between 29th October and 10th November, Arsenal play at home to Chelsea and Liverpool, before travelling away to take on Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United.

Most Arsenal fans will just be hoping to survive this unforgiving fixture list, a few will be optimistic, but the whole world will be waiting with glee. What this does provide Wenger and his men is an opportunity to make the whole world sit up and take notice of not only their wealth of talent but of their ambitions as well.

Never before has Arsenal been better-placed to take on such a run of games as right now, simply because the squad is finally large enough to see them through it.

One would find it hard not to admit that Wenger has amassed one of the best (if not the best) midfields in the division, with a plethora of options that includes Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey all competing for the two available defensive midfield slots.

There is also Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski fighting for a place on the left and Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry competing for wide right berth in the starting XI.

Another problem area for Wenger to solve is in attacking midfield, where the likes of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky are all available for selection. Add long-term absentee Abou Diaby to the mix and you have no fewer than 12 midfielders, enough to make an entire football team.

This is of course only hypothetical, however, due to injuries and suspensions, but is testament to the depth in both numbers and quality that Arsenal has in midfield. The club is
also in the best possible state of mind going into these fixtures, with the welcome tag of league leaders music to their ears and ensuring that the players are on a well-deserved high.

Another factor playing to their advantage is the experience which was so direly lacking in previous Arsenal sides. Youngsters such as Gnabry and Oxlade-Chamberlain find themselves training alongside experienced internationals like Podolski and Per Mertesacker, and veterans such as Arteta and Rosicky also blend well with the rest of the squad.

Others like Wilshere, Walcott and, most notably, Ramsey have finally began to hit their peak as well which makes this potentially the best season yet for Arsenal.

How Arsenal fare on in these four fixtures will be indicative of how far they can go this
season, and will be a true test of their character and mental strength as well. Wins will undoubtedly add confidence and self-belief to the side, and will prove to the world and their own fans just how good they are and how far they can go this campaign.

A poor run of results may however have a disastrous effect on the psychology of the players who might let their heads drop for the rest of the season. The wonderful, bouncing atmosphere that has recently engulfed the Emirates would be quickly forgotten, to be replaced by that
poisonous, tense, apprehensive mood that so often characterizes the Arsenal faithful when results are not going their way.

All in all, this is Arsenal’s moment to make a mark where it matters most, and they would do well to do exactly that.

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