It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Arsenal Football Club, on the pitch this year. The club has lost 3 of its 4 Premier League games, and only managed a point at lowly Bolton. However, progress was ensured in the FA Cup at the expense of Leeds and Aston Villa.
There have been many fans who have been calling for the head of Arsene Wenger after the run of disastrous results resulted in the club languishing in 7th position in the table.
But, it is too early to sack anyone. There are still loads of games left to play. Here are 10 positives for the rest of the season.
10) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s form and confidence
‘The Ox’ has made an electric start to his Arsenal career with goals against Shrewsbury and Olympiakos. And he did his reputation no harm with a sparkling display against Manchester United. He will probably continue playing on the left, unless Arsene Wenger decides to re-deploy Gervinho. At the moment, he is running high on form and confidence, and will cause lots of problems to lots of defences.
9) Return of Gervinho
Gervinho will soon mark his return from the Africa Cup of Nations, where he is representing the Ivory Coast. He has been a vital player so far this season, and has displayed good skill in taking the ball to the final third. Of course, he still lacks the finishing maturity, but he can only get better.
8) Return of Full-Backs
Bacary Sagna was probably Arsenal’s best player on Wednesday against Bolton. He controlled play on his flank very well, and made Martin Petrov a cropper. He has been sorely missed since his injury in October. Arsene Wenger has since played Coquelin, Jenkinson, Koscielny and Yennaris at right-back, but no one has been as influential as the dreadlocked Frenchman. His return will strengthen the defence. At left-back, too, the Gunners have faced problems with both first-choice players, Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos out. Again, Wenger has had to make-do with Coquelin, Miquel and Vermaelen. The return of Kieran Gibbs is a positive, ahead of the mist-win match against Blackburn Rovers.
7) Home Games Advantage
The Gunners face some crunch home games against Chelsea, Manchester City, Newcastle and Tottenham as they look to cement 4th spot. These games will be vital and must-wins, and the players will be looking towards the fans to create a charged atmosphere and help them on to victory. This gives Arsenal a slight upper hand over other rivals. Liverpool still have to travel to Manchester United and Newcastle, and they host Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham at home. Chelsea travel to Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, while also playing host to Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham. And, finally, Tottenham travel to Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. This sets up for a very exciting finish.
6) History Books
I may be taking the old-school route here, quoting history. But, then again, history tells Arsenal have never finished outside the top 4 in Arsene Wenger’s tenure. The closest came in 2006, when the Gunners, 5th all season, snatched 4th spot from neighbors and rivals Tottenham. Now, 7th in the table, the team has the massive task of overturning the deficit, and emulating the class of 2006. We may not finish above Spurs, but that’s hardly the point. Finishing 4th is more important that anything for the club now.
5) Return of Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta, when joining the club in the summer, had appealed to the Arsenal faithful to not compare him with the departed Cesc Fabregas. He may not be as talented or influential as the Catalan, but he has shown he can be as important as his compatriot. He has been the midfield general this season, and his ability to control the tempo of games has been a vital addition to the squad. Having formed a triumvirate with Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song, he had been sorely missed in the games against Swansea, Manchester United and Leeds.
4) Vermaelen-Koscielny Partnership
I read this interesting stat, that Arsenal have never lost when Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny have been paired together at centre-back. With Gibbs and Sagna returning, Wenger will most probably ploy Koscielny with Vermaelen, while benching Mertesacker, who is still a bit slow to English standards. Both Koscielny and Vermaelen can play like liberos, and both have shown vast improvement in performances. Koscielny is the best tackler in the league, and has the right defending trick, while Vermaelen brings guts and tackles.
3) Form of Robin van Persie
Much of Arsenal’s season so far has been based on the form of van Persie. He has shown his class, this season, and has lead the team from the front. Already having scored 25 goals in all competitions, and 19 in the league, he has also netted 4 goals in 5 games this year. Arsenal will be hoping he can continue his hot streak for the rest of the season, as the Gunners enter the business end of the campaign.
2) FA Cup Prospects
The FA Cup represents Arsenal’s best chance of a trophy this season. Having beaten Leeds and Aston Villa, both in cup-style fashion, it seems like Arsenal are destined for the Cup. While it took a returning club legend to slot home the winner against Leeds, it took a spirited second-half comeback from 2 goals down, to 3-2 up in the space of 7 minutes against Villa. Moreover, the last silverware we lifted was the FA Cup in 2005. How nice it would be, to end the trophy drought by lifting the FA Cup.
1) Champions League Prospects
There may be some arguments to this, but I feel Arsenal’s style of football will be better suited for Europe this season. Also, it is the only trophy missing in Arsene Wenger’s glittering CV. A trophy, we came so close to lifting in 2006, returns to action with Italian giants AC Milan, waiting on Feb 15th. Should we progress, we could face the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona. But, Wenger is known to spring a surprise in the deepest of dumps. Will this finally end our wait for European glory. I am not sure, but I have been dreaming for days, Vermaelen and van Persie lifting the famous ‘trophy with ears’!
So, these are the positives for the rest of the season. There are still plenty of games to play for, and a lot left to fight for. So, Keep Calm and get behind your team, fellow Gooners.
Jai Arsenal 🙂