Is this it? Is this the beginning of the victory run? At around 5pm on Saturday it was confirmed that Arsenal were going to be top of the league.
A late goal from Everton’s Jermaine Beckford, coupled with Samir Nasri’s slalomed effort, meant Arsenal would be a point above Manchester United and two above Chelsea. It was going to be for longer than first expected too, with United’s game against Blackpool being cancelled due to the pitch at Bloomfield being frozen.
This will be the case until next weekend at least, when a Chelsea win at Tottenham would take them back to the summit. The big game of the next round of fixtures will be the Gunners’ visit to Old Trafford next Monday night, where Arsenal have a chance to begin their title chase in earnest. United have a game in hand due to the postponement and so Arsenal’s position at the top is somewhat undermined by this.
Monday will bring the chance for a statement of strength and positivity to be made that could have a significant bearing on where the title ends up after 38 games.
Arsenal go into the game being the side with the best away record in the Premier League, but Manchester United are still unbeaten in the league and will be going into the game having had an extra bit of rest and off the back of drubbing Blackburn 7-1 in their last home league game.
Arsene Wenger will have to consider the fact that Wednesday brings with it a must win Champions League fixture against Partizan Belgrade and that his team will, most likely, have to do it without captain Cesc Fabregas.
Many people could see this as being a major handicap but there is a man who is looking like he can step up and fill the small Spaniard shaped hole in the side....
Tomas Rosicky. You weren’t expecting that were you? Samir Nasri is, of course, becoming increasingly entwined with any of Arsenal’s success and Jack Wilshere is becoming a more composed and tactically disciplined player, but it is the little number 7 who is making things tick in the absence of El Capitán.
The Czech Republic captain has just started to show some of his old form since returning from 18 months out with a most puzzling injury. The period coincided with players like Nasri, Wilshere and Arshavin arriving into the first team and it could be argued that people had forgotten the diminutive playmaker or, at the very least, gotten used to life without him.
Wenger originally attempted to use Nasri in the advanced central role when Fabregas was out – Nasri has publicly stated it is his preferred position – but such is the Frenchman’s form that the closer to the opposition goal he is, the better. It seems Wenger has recently decided Rosicky is capable now of completing a full 90 minutes in the central role.
In turn, Tomas has shown his ability and dynamism more and more in the last few games and his passing ability is well known. There are few things more satisfying than watching the little man take a touch to his right or left, turning sharply and accelerating into the space behind his marker. All that is needed now, for a complete return to his former self, is one or two thunderbolts from his hammer of a right foot – goalscoring being the aspect of his game not yet recovered.
Rosicky will be happy to have Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh take the limelight but he has been cutting a composed figure behind them, which is something Arsenal are in dire need of at the moment. Too often in recent times they have been put under severe pressure near the end of games through a combination of fragile defending and an inability to keep possession – these weaknesses have the squandering of leads, or at least coming close to it.
Rosicky coming into some form is a timely development with the next month possibly proving make or break with Arsenal’s aspirations for this season. The position they are in and the fixtures coming up will likely have a huge bearing on the successes of Arsene Wenger’s side.
The return of Robin Van Persie, Fabregas and, later in the month, Thomas Vermaelen could provide a major boost to the side.
If they can return to a side top of the table, in the Champions League knock-out stages and in the final of the Carling Cup? 2011 could quickly turn into a good year.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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