Arsenal: Power Ranking the Top 5 Gunners Through EPL Season so Far
It wasn't the start to the 2012-13 English Premier League season that Arsenal fans might have wanted—winning only one of their first three games and failing to score in two of those matches.
However, with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield their most recent result, there's a real sense that the Gunners are finding their groove and are going to be genuine contenders in the Premier League this year.
Players have been impressive across the pitch for the North Londoners; some we expected to shine, whilst others have been a pleasant surprise.
Let's take a look at the top five players for the Gunners so far this season.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
5. Thomas Vermaelen
Thomas Vermaelen has excelled as captain and on defense so far. The Belgian defender's stats might not be as impressive as some of his defensive counterparts, but considering what he brings to the Gunners, Vermaelen is a must-include if we're talking about the best players so far.
He hasn't turned the ball over once and has brought his usual attacking attributes to the North London club again this season, giving them plenty of drive through the middle and a great aerial threat in the box from set pieces.
This season might not be about numbers and attacking chances for Vermaelen more than it will be about good leadership and organization on the pitch. Through the first three matches, he's done exactly that, with Arsenal the only team left in the Premier League that hasn't conceded a goal in defense.
Tough not to give Vermaelen some credit there.
4. Vito Mannone
Coming in as Arsenal's third-string goalkeeper behind Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, the expectations for Vito Mannone were justly tempered.
But the Italian shot-stopper has been superb through Arsenal's two games since Szczesny went down with a rib injury, and is keen to give the Poland international a fight for the starting job at the Emirates this season (per the Daily Mail).
I would expect Szczesny to assume the top spot once fully fit, but Mannone has proved he is a more than capable replacement. He hasn't a let a single goal in so far, and whilst he has a strong defensive line to thank, he can't do much more than clean sheets.
At the least, I definitely expect him to become the team's new No. 2 ahead of Fabianksi.
3. Abou Diaby
Abou Diaby's career has been littered with injuries and failures to live up to expectation, but against Liverpool, the French international looked like everything that was once expected of him—and then some.
The midfielder was superb, giving the Gunners great forward attack and preventing Liverpool's pressing defense to get the better of him throughout the middle of the field. He combined well with Mikel Arteta, which will no doubt give Arsene Wenger a welcome dilemma when Jack Wilshere is healthy once again.
For all his attacking prowess, Diaby ranks high in the club for interceptions, tackles and aerials won so far this season. He currently sets behind Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta in average passes per game and is shaping as a key component for the Gunners' Premier League chances this season.
French national coach Didier Deschamps recently had this to say about Diaby following his strong match versus the Reds (per ESPN Soccernet):
"It's good to see Abou in that shape. If he plays at his best level, as he did last weekend, he's going to become a leader in this team. He has a lot of qualities, he's efficient and he can be dangerous going forward.
"He is on the right path. His potential is huge. He is a very interesting player. He's also 26, more mature, which is crucial for a midfielder..."
2. Mikel Arteta
Arsenal's new summer signings would be nowhere near as effective thus far were it not for the excellent play of Mikel Arteta.
The Spanish international has been superb—dominating the midfield in every possible aspect—and is shaping as one of the club's most important players this year, especially given his strong combination with Santi Cazorla ahead of him.
Arteta currently ranks second in both tackles and interceptions, but it is his ability to turn a defensive stand into an attacking raid that has Gunners fans most excited about the year ahead for the 30-year-old.
He is averaging a staggering 96 passes per game at the moment, with an unbelievable 93 percent completion rate—giving him one of the best overall match ratings for Arsenal this year.
Much of the Gunners' success this year will revolve around Arteta—his play throughout midfield, but also his combinations with the defensive midfielder alongside him and Santi Cazorla ahead of him on the pitch. If the Spanish international can excel in those key areas, the Gunners will be a very tough side to beat.
1. Santi Cazorla
Through the first three games of the English Premier League season, there has simply been no better player than Santi Cazorla—the Spanish general whom Arsene Wenger picked up from Malaga over the summer transfer window.
At just £16 million, Cazorla is already shaping as one of the best signings of the season, and one that could have a profound impact on the Gunners' chances this year. He is the heart and soul of their midfield, the driving force behind every attack, and someone who makes all those around him better.
The statistics speak for themselves: first in goals, assists, key passes and crosses; second in total passes per game and completion percentage; and his defensive contributions have also not gone unnoticed at North London this year.
He is without a doubt their best player at the moment, and arguably the best player in the EPL through this short season.
If Cazorla can keep working his midfield magic and can get the likes of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski firing in attack, the Gunners will definitely be a force to be reckoned throughout the year.
Who do you think has been the best players for Arsenal this year?
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