A lot has been talked about who will be taking over the mantle after the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri over the summer. Well, after a stuttering start to the campaign, the Gunners have slowly but surely responded to critics all around and put a string of impressive performances. Here are the Top 5 Gunners, of this season, so far.
5) Wojciech Szczesny-
Arsenal’s young Polish goalkeeper has gone from strength to strength since making his debut against Newcastle in a League Cup game in October 2010. His big moment would come 2 months down the line when he was asked to guard the post at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Arsenal lost 1-0, but Szcz had done enough to impress Arsene Wenger of his ability. Szcz’s best performance came in a 2-1 win over, probably the best team on the planet, FC Barcelona, where he made some brilliant saves to deny Messi and Co. It was a marker of things to come. However, Szczesny’s moment of horror would come days later at Wembley. Arsenal hadn’t won a trophy for 6 seasons and this was the chance to break the jinx as they faced a Birmingham City side, struggling to survive in the Premier League. A lack of communication between defender Laurent Koscielny and the keeper laid the ball perfectly for Obafemi Martins to tap home a cruel 89th minute winner. He played a vital role in Arsenal’s Champions League qualifier against Udinese, when he saved a Antonio di Natale penalty. And he has been one of the main reasons, why Arsenal put a run of results to arrest their sliding campaign. He pulled off brilliant saves against Chelsea, Norwich etc to help keep the Gunners rolling up the table.In my rating,he is the goalkeeper Arsenal have been craving for, for years.
4) Mikel Arteta-
Arsenal’s £10 million signing from Everton, Mikel Arteta has been outstanding in Arsenal’s midfield. Bought in as a replacement for Cesc Fabregas, Arteta has not yet lived up to the standards of the Catalan, but is Arsenal’s key man in the midfield. In a relatively young midfield comprising fellow new signing Gervinho, flashy winger Theo Walcott and Wales captain Aaron Ramsey, Arteta is a seasoned professional. His game can be likened to the Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, the old fashioned playmaker. Arteta knows to control the pace of the game with his experience, and to channel the flow of the game through the centre or the wings, making him an important weapon in the armoury. He still has atleast a good 3 or 4 seasons of football left in him, so the most important signing of the season.
3) Alexandre Song-
Relatively unknown, when signed from Bastia, the only link him being the cousin of Cameroon international Rigobert Song, he has been another player to blossom under Arsene Wenger. Built like an ox, and physically imposing, he has been Arsenal’s unsung hero. His reading of the opposition’s attack patterns makes him the vital cog in Arsenal’s midfield. He was able to quickly fill in the empty boots of Mathieu Flamini, and also the injury of Abou Diaby. He has held a place of his own, putting up impressive displays as well as scoring some important goals. Just 24, Alex Song is here to stay.
2) Thomas Vermaelen-
Probably standing toe to toe as the best player on Arsenal’s books, with Robin van Persie; the Belgian defender brings with him grit and guts to Arsenal’s defence. Comfortable with his left foot, Vermaelen can also play at left-back or even at centre-forward; his goal-scoring instincts can testify. Though short for a defender, Vermaelen compensates for it with his amazing jumping abilities. He isn’t afraid to make the tackle either making him the hard man at the club and giving much needed steel to the team. Named vice-captain to Robin van Persie, Vermaelen can form a strong partnership with either Laurent Koscielny or the big German Per Mertesacker. One indicator of his never-say-die spirit was the game against Fulham, where he made up for his earlier own-goal to clinch a late equalizer.
1) Robin van Persie-
There was no doubt about this one, was there. Having scored almost a goal a game, for the calendar year 2011, Robin van Persie clinches top spot. Arsenal’s captain has been in scintillating form this year, since his return from a long injury layoff. Speaking of which, he is quite an injury-prone player, with them marking most of his Arsenal career. However, the Dutchman says he is ‘fitter than ever’ and hopes to push on as Arsenal go in search of that elusive silverware. Taking over the mantle of responsibility from Cesc Fabregas, who departed for Barcelona over the summer, van Persie’s goals in crucial games like Sunderland, Stoke, Chelsea, Norwich,Borussia Dortmund and Everton have bought a sense of optimism around the Emirates. Here’s to the Dutchman.