Premier League: Arsenal FC: Mid Term Report
With the latest international break putting an end to the real football for a couple of weeks it's time for me to have a look at Arsenal's progress so far this season. The team have played 10 games in all competitions so far and only suffered one defeat. The six wins they have managed are pretty good too and progress has certainly been made.
The arrivals of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla were seen as very positive moves in the transfer market by Arsene Wenger. The sales of both Robin van Persie and Alex Song were not greeted quite so joyously by Arsenal fans though.
There was little the club could do about Van Persie wanting to leave, but his departure to Manchester United was seen as a real blow for Arsenal.
He may have claimed it was in his desire to win trophies, but the massive wages United are paying was a huge factor in my opinion.He has yet to play for United against Arsenal and when he does he is sure to get a reception worthy of his loyalty.
Song was a different matter as his move to Barcelona seemed to come from nowhere. One day he was a large part of Arsenal's plans and then Barcelona came sniffing around for his services.
There were stories of Song doing all he could to force the move through, but ultimately Arsenal sold him because they felt they got a very good price.
Those two players were voted numbers one and two in the player of the season poll by Arsenal fans last season. It looked like Arsenal would have a big task on their hands trying to fill their boots.
Wenger moved Mikael Arteta into the defensive role in midfield in what has already proved to be a master stroke. Arteta has a lot more maturity and experience than Song and he has shown the discipline in that role which Song was missing far too often.
He has made more passes than any player in any of the top leagues in Europe in his first seven league games.
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Cazorla has taken the role which Cesc Fabregas filled so well for Arsenal before his departure to Barcelona last year. Arsenal had tried to buy Cazorla last summer as a direct replacement for Fabregas, but Malaga were able to outbid them. The financial troubles of Malaga meant Cazorla was available to Arsenal at a price they could afford this summer.
Cazorla has quickly become the creative spark in the Arsenal team that was missing on too many occasions last season. He has shown he can play equally well with either foot and he is always available to take the ball. He has a great eye for a pass and he has shown he has an excellent shot too.
The Spanish connection in the Arsenal team has become very important only a year after they sold Fabregas. Of course since then they have also signed two players from another one of Europe's powerhouse countries.
Per Mertesacker was signed just over a year ago and he has taken a little bit of time to settle into English football. He has shown exactly how good he is this season and he has become Arsenal's best central defender in my opinion. His ability to read the game and intercept the ball at the perfect time is second to none.
Podolski has made the wide left role in the Arsenal attacking trio his own and he has also shown he has plenty to offer to the team. He can score goals from that role and Arsenal need goals from every position now that van Persie has slung his hook. Podolski isn't shy when it comes to his defensive duties either and he has bee a great help to Kieran Gibbs.
Gibbs has been very impressive, so far this season at left back and he seems to have made the spot his own. He picked up an injury against West Ham, but hopefully he can recover quickly to take his place in the team against Norwich next week. The off field problems of Andre Santos may have helped him start the season at left back, but he has done more than enough to keep his place.
On the other side of the defence, it looked like Arsenal might have a few problems with Bacary Sagna missing after breaking his leg late last season. Carl Jenkinson has stepped up to the plate though and hit the ball right out of the park in the process. He has played so well that he is already being tipped to play for England very soon unless Finland get him first.
Gervinho has already scored more goals than he did in all of last season despite being so frustrating to watch at times. He's a player with loads of talent, but there seems to be a lack of communication between his brain and his feet at times. I'm not quite sure how he has managed five goals already this season, but long may it continue.
Theo Walcott has played a bit-part role so far this season for Arsenal, but he has managed to score four goals. His current contract situation has led to him sitting on the bench for almost every game so far, but he has made an impact when he has come on. If he does sign new contract he might have a lot more to offer, but I think this will be his last season at Arsenal.
Olivier Giroud has taken a little bit of time to settle at the club, but his performance against West Ham showed what he has to offer the team. I think he could become a very important player for Arsenal and hopefully time will prove me right.
Both Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey have had varying degrees of success in midfield this season, but the return of Jack Wilshere is eagerly awaited by Arsenal fans. His addition to a midfield containing Arteta and Cazorla is much anticipated and hopefully it will happen very soon. It may take him a little time to get his form back after 14 months out, but I have no doubt that he has a big role to play this season for Arsenal.
The other two central defenders have maybe not done as well as Mertesacker so far and they didn't play too well together against Chelsea. I really like both Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen, but they should be fighting with each other for the right to play alongside the big German. It's a battle Vermaelen is bound to win as club captain, but he will have to find a little more discipline in his game.
Alex Oxlde-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin have both shown they have plenty to offer the team too and they can be trusted when called upon. Chamberlain continues to progress and I have no doubt he will be a star of the future for Arsenal. Coquelin will find it tough to get a lot of game time with all of Arsenal's midfielders fit, but he will give his all if he does get the chance.
Despite the fact Arsenal's first choice goalkeeper has only played twice this season because of injury their defensive record is still very good. Only Chelsea have conceded less goals than Arsenal in the league so far and the return of Wojciech Szczesny will hopefully help the defence to remain tight. I'm not so sure Vito Mannone is up to the task of playing at such a high level and I think Arsenal need Szczesny as soon as possible.
The influence of Steve Bould has been there for all to see as they are far more disciplined for the most part. There is still some work to be done in defending set pieces obviously, but I'm hopeful Bould will get the team there. The disciplined role played by Arteta in front of the defence has been a huge factor in their stability from open play so far.
Arsene Wenger made a profit on his summer transfer dealings yet again and he has money available to spend in January if he wants to. The experience of the players he brought in during the summer was a key factor in their influence in the team. Hopefully he can add a little more class and experience in the January transfer window to help Arsenal push towards a trophy this season.
I would be happier if Arsenal had a few more points on the board from their first seven Premier League games.
The three draws could and possibly should have ended in wins and Arsenal certainly should have four more points at this stage in my opinion. They have had a solid start though and now they need to build on that wit a couple of league wins before they visit Manchester United early next month.
The Champions League has gone as well as could be hoped for so far with six points from two games and Arsenal topping their group.
Four points from the back to back games with Schalke 04 would probably be enough to see them through to the knockout stages. Once they reach that stage it's anybody's guess what will happen with the draw or with the form of teams next spring.
Overall I think the mid-term report is a very positive one and more of the same will be required if the team are to have a successful season.
They look capable of going on and possibly lifting a trophy if things go in their favour at the right time. The mental strength of the team really does look to be right at last and that could be the deciding factor for them at a crucial time later in the season.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.
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