"New" Arsenal look beyond RVP

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Arsenal's first victory of the season against Liverpool suggests that, after a turbulent transfer window, Arsene Wenger's side may actually have a more rounded, less lop-sided, and ultimately more successful team this year.

After a summer which began so positively threatened to turn sour, yesterday's result against Liverpool suggests Arsenal fans can look forward, without fear, to life after Robin van Persie.

That notion would have appeared farcical towards the end of last season, as the Dutchman hit the back of the net with metronomic regularity, single-handedly overhauling Spurs into third place.

All was looking up for the Gunners at that stage. The signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud even created the slightly unfamiliar feeling of a feel-good factor around an Arsenal transfer window.

But, then again, Gooners could have be forgiven for being pessimistic as transfer windows of recent past have brought nothing but pain.

And Robin van Persie ensured that this summer would be no different. The Gunners' captain slapped down his statement of intent - like Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, and Emmanuel Adebayor before him, Van Persie wanted out.

The worrying thing for Arsenal fans was that this wasn't another Samir Nasri or Cesc Fabregas situation.

Nasri may have moved for the money or the trophies, and Fabregas never hid his desire to one day return to Barcelona, but their motivations were always individual.

For Van Persie the concerns were collective, and he spoke out to that effect. He questioned the direction of the team, the transfer policy of the board, directly challenging the work of Wenger, and cast doubt over the ambitions of the club.

His criticisms hit home hard, not least because a large portion of the Gunners faithful shared his concerns. For Arsenal the slippery slope has been a gradual gradient - the decline from Premier League winners, to top four challengers a painful descent.

But life goes on, even after the departure of a player as vital to the fabric of a club's success as Robin van Persie.

And, judging by the performances of several of Arsene Wenger's signings on Sunday, the future is brightening, if not already bright.

Key to this future is Santi Cazorla. The stocky creator is Arsenal's very own David Silva, and in the age of Silva, Eden Hazard, and Shinji Kagawa, a keen-eyed pass-master seems to be a must have for any top side.

The emergence of Giroud and Podolski against Liverpool was also timely, the new signings had shown little in their first two outings, but their international pedigree indicated it was only a matter of time before they did.

And while Arsenal fans will surely have loved to have seen Nuri Sahin on their side, the Turkish international's performance on Sunday softens the blow slightly.

Especially if Sahin's absence allows for the continued development of Abou Diaby. The Frenchman was rampant against the Reds, producing the kind of performance Wenger has been hoping for but which injury has prevented.

Reintroduce Jack Wilshere and the Arsenal midfield looks strong, even after the departure of Alex Song.

Over the last six years Arsenal fans have learned to brace themselves for disappointment in the transfer market - a big-name departure seemingly becoming an annual event.

With this year's window shut, the outlook should be typically gloomy. But it's not. Arsenal have kept three clean sheets in their opening three games, and their defence looks more secure than ever.

Even without first-choice keeper Wojciech Szczęsny for the last two matches, Arsenal have a new-found solidity.

But let's not forget, Liverpool were desperately poor on Sunday, and Carl Jenkinson is yet to inspire confidence at right-back.

Giroud and Podolski will need to maintain this level discovered on Merseyside, for the bench behind them is shallow, only the inconsistent talents of Theo Walcott and Gervinho were available to Wenger as attacking options on Sunday.

And their old achilles heel - an inability to score at home - reared its ugly head against Sunderland on opening day. So the problems are not fixed, but the gritty draw away to Stoke was an uncharacteristic Arsenal display - in the most positive sense.

New-found defensive steel is a welcome addition to north London, and perhaps it's no coincidence that Steve Bould, an ex-Arsenal defender, now parks himself in the Gunners dugout alongside Wenger.

It must be difficult for Arsenal fans not to think of what might have been, what if Nasri, Fabregas, Clichy, and Van Persie had stayed. How good a team would they have been when allied to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla?

But the hypotheticals must be resisted. Of course, it's easier to look forward when there's actually something to look forward to.

A few weeks back, forced to swallow grinning pictures of Robin van Persie and Sir Alex Ferguson, the forecast looked bleak.

But Arsene Wenger has a new Arsenal now, more rounded, and less reliant on the talents of a single individual.

Old habits die hard, and the new key player is now an attacking midfielder, but that's a less precarious position than striker for a team to place their entire faith in. If the Gunners can share the goals around they should match their achievements of last season - a 70 point target is a modest aim.

September will be a crucial month, with fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea to come. But while those matches would have held little hope just two weeks ago, Arsenal now have cause for optimism.

They may have lost a world-class talent, as Van Persie so pointedly reminded them against Southampton, but they've dealt with such departures before.

This new Arsenal has a fresh feel, a different, more robust complexion. After the loss of Robin van Persie a new approach was needed.

Sunday's performance was the biggest indication yet that Wenger's new squad is heading in the right direction.

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Robin Van Persie
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