20 Reasons to Believe Arsenal Are on the Right Track
It's a nice time to be an Arsenal fan.
A mere couple days ago, most of the club's supporters would have been met with piteous looks and conciliatory pats on the back if they informed another football enthusiast that they follow a club generally assumed to be in perpetual decline.
Transfer deadline day changed that, of course. Mesut Özil's arrival has completely lifted the mood around the football club, and has reignited hope that Arsenal can not only break their infamous trophy drought but contend for the Premier League title.
There are many other reasons to have faith in the Gunners at the moment. Here are some.
Olivier Giroud's Form
Sure, if Olivier Giroud gets hurt or suspended for any significant length of time, Arsenal will be in dire straits. But he is currently fit and in the best form of his Arsenal career.
The Gunners have played five games this season, and Giroud has scored in four. His work rate up front is fantastic, his understanding of the creators around him continues to mature and he has finally learned how to effectively use his rare blend of size and technical ability.
Even if Arsenal had another true striker, Giroud would be first-choice.
Arsene Wenger's Experience
When Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of last season, Arsene Wenger became the most tenured manager in the Premier League.
Do not underestimate the importance of that title.
Wenger knows the intricacies of each team his side faces better than any other side, and has worked with every player in his squad from the moment they arrived at the club.
David Moyes, Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini, all of whom manage Arsenal's primary domestic competitors, cannot say the same.
Arsene Wenger's Track Record
Arsenal may not have delivered the goods since 2005, but the fact that Arsene Wenger is the most successful manager in the history of the club is not something to dismiss.
It is mentioned when Arsenal qualify for the Champions League every year, but many fans need to be reminded during the course of a long season: The club have qualified for the Champions League for 16 consecutive years.
That is a truly amazing feat of consistency, considering that all sports are cyclical. A man who can do that deserves some credit.
Arsene Wenger's Epiphany
For pretty much the entire duration of Wenger's time at Arsenal's helm, he has been rather extraordinarily frugal. In recent years, criticism of the Frenchman's ostensibly unnecessary austerity has ballooned.
This summer, the club was flush with cash. Wenger realized that he really did need to look for bigger and pricier names to repair the scuffs and enhance the polish of his squad.
Other than Özil, Arsenal targeted Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez and others whose transfer would have smashed the club's puny £15 million transfer record. Now that Wenger has financially committed to sitting at the adults' table, fans can be more confident that he has reconciled himself with modern-era transfer politics.
Theo Walcott's Goalscoring
The knock on Theo Walcott was always that he was solely an asset because of his searing pace, and not due to any particular footballing skill that necessitates superb technique.
Interestingly, around the time when Arsenal were in negotiations with him about a new contract, Walcott began to find his proverbial shooting boots, and has become one of the most lethal goal-poachers on the team.
Even if he is not a ready-made replacement for Olivier Giroud up front, a sprinter who can nick a goal at any second is a huge asset for any team.
For almost the whole of the last two seasons, criticisms of Aaron Ramsey were so numerous and vociferous that reproducing them would create volumes of bile-filled pages.
But toward the end of the last campaign, the Welshman began to transform. He simplified his game and turned into an all-action midfielder, who could be anywhere on the pitch at any given moment.
The quality of Ramsey's performances have exploded this season, and if he can avoid serious injury, the mere 22-year-old could cement himself as a thoroughly complete midfielder in the heart of Arsenal's team for years to come.
Arsenal Were Able to Beat Tottenham Without Spending a Penny
Whereas Tottenham Hotspur shelled out over £100 million in their attempt to replace Gareth Bale, their North London neighbors did not shell out a single cent in transfer fees before their meeting on September 1st.
We all know which side won.
Put simply, if Arsenal could slay a rival that had improved so much, imagine what they can now do with Mesut Özil spearheading their attack?
Thomas Vermaelen Will Come Back
Arsenal have no depth whatsoever in central defense right now. If either Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker get suspended or injured, there are no center backs to fill in for them.
That actually did happen after the very first game of the season, when the former picked up a red card against Aston Villa, and then injured himself against Fenerbahçe.
And where were the negative consequences? The Gunners have obviously received excellent defensive coaching, and have not conceded a single goal for a long stretch.
When club captain Thomas Vermaelen returns—even if only to the bench—Arsenal will have even more cover in a position that is already flush with quality, even if not with quantity.
A Fantastic Central Defensive Pairing
Arsene Wenger dropped Thomas Vermaelen for Laurent Koscielny late last season and, in so doing, discovered a pairing of center backs that can carry Arsenal to the title.
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker complement each other extraordinarily well. The former loves to run forward and laterally to bust up attacks, while the latter is calm and content to stay back and read the game from a distance.
The result is a perfect balance of defensive stability and attacking drive. Moreover, because Koscielny has a tremendous vertical leap and Mertesacker is a towering 6'6", Arsenal's ability to defend set pieces has vastly improved.
All good teams have to have a solid foundation, and Arsenal have finally found theirs.
The Best Holding Midfielder in the League
Arsenal are undeniably a better team when Mikel Arteta anchors the midfield. No other player on the team is willing to remain at the back and provide cover for the defense like him, and none can simultaneously serve as the team's metronome.
Without Arteta, Arsene Wenger has to cobble together a midfield that can collectively compensate for the loss of its rudder. The Spaniard's combination of discipline, unselfishness and attacking nous when he wishes to employ it is unique in the Premier League.
Moreover, he is a natural leader, and was made vice-captain after only a season at Arsenal. When Thomas Vermaelen was absent last season, he lead the team with aplomb.
A Blend of Youth and Experience
Unless you're Manchester United in 1999, a team must have a healthy blend of youth and experience to win trophies and titles.
After years of relying much too heavily on the former, Arsene Wenger has assembled a side that possesses an even smattering of older players to nurture the younger ones and lead on and off the pitch.
Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Wojciech Szczesny and Mesut Özil are the team's brightest stars and are all quite young. But their relative inexperience is counterbalanced by the likes of Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Nacho Monreal, who are above the age of 30 and/or possess a wealth of experience at football's highest level.
Renewed Defensive Steel
Perhaps the defensive transformation that Arsenal have made since the beginning of last season is not entirely due to the influence of Steve Bould. Regardless, the defensive guru has massively improved the solidity of the team's defense.
Arsenal relied heavily on their mettle and grit to get them through the tumultuous finish to last season. A series of extremely close victories were the difference between qualifying for the Champions League and ending up in Tottenham's Europa League obscurity.
After conceding three goals in their opening game, the Gunners have sealed themselves up at the back once again.
They Signed Ozil
Mesut Özil is obviously a fantastic player, but his signing means a whole lot more than tactical changes and improved quality.
It is a sign that Arsenal are willing to fully modernize their transfer policy and financially commit to sitting at the proverbial adult table—which they need to fully do if they are to build a sustained period of success and maintain the respectability of the club.
By nearly tripling their transfer record for one of the best players on the planet, Arsenal gave fans hope about a new and more progressive era of transfer policy within the club.
Ozil to Giroud
The thought of Mesut Özil linking up with Olivier Giroud, who is in the most lethal form of his Arsenal career, should make Arsenal fans' mouths water.
Very few footballers possess the German's creative instinct and, moreover, the quality to act upon it. Özil will simply be able to provide opportunities for goals that would not have been available before.
And Giroud is the man to finish those chances. He is scoring at will right now, and looks to be improving with every successive game. The two will form a productive partnership almost instantly.
Cazorla and Ozil Together
Arsene Wenger obviously has a plan for how to fit Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil, two utterly complete and brilliantly talented attacking midfielders, into the one team that allows each to fully express their skill.
It will be interesting to see what it is. Presumably, Cazorla will be permanently moved to the left wing, where he has played for much of his Arsenal career, and Özil will operate centrally, where he can drift the most and maximize his influence.
If these two form a trust and a partnership—and both are unselfish enough that this must be possible—then Arsenal will have the most potent attacking midfield in the Premier League.
The Goalkeeping Problem Has Been Fixed
For the longest time, Arsene Wenger refused to sign a quality goalkeeper, and Arsenal's most prominent Achilles heel was in goal.
Wojeciech Szczesny looks to have solved this problem. He can occasionally show his youthful impetuousness, but the Pole is supremely talented, and is a viable long-term option if he continues to develop as he has.
The next-most significant problem between the sticks has been depth, and Wenger has taken care of that in the short-term. Lukasz Fabianski has proven himself to be a very competitive second-choice goalkeeper, and Emiliano Viviano's loan signing allows Arsenal fans peace of mind.
The English Core
There is a reason why one no longer hears criticism about Arsenal not fielding a squad that adequately represents the nation in which it plays.
Almost all of the club's young talent is British, and this has contributed to the general hopefulness about the team.
Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Carl Jenkinson and the crown jewel, Jack Wilshere, are all Brits. When more than half of the starting XI is comprised of truly home-grown talent, it is easy for supporters to take pride in their team.
Great Players Want to Come to the Club
Could anyone really blame Mesut Özil for opting to stay at Real Madrid instead of coming to Arsenal?
Even though he was not going to receive sufficient playing time in the Spanish capital, one could certainly argue that the Gunners are a step down from the mighty Merengues.
Evidently, the best players in the world still believe in Arsene Wenger's footballing philosophy, and regard Arsenal highly enough to seek transfers to the club from other, no less prestigious, institutions. That should imbue every Gunners fan with hope.
A Big Deal Was Done with a Big Club
So Ivan Gazidis and the Arsenal board decide to approve a big-money transfer that will significantly alter how the club does business in the future. Great. But can they actually get the deal done?
Before deadline day, most fans probably would have responded skeptically. The club had, after all, dealt with two massive clubs—Real Madrid during the Gonzalo Higuain saga and Liverpool during that of Luis Suarez—and were embarrassed twice.
But when both parties needed to get down to brass tacks, Arsenal's negotiating team was actually able to quickly seal a deal with one of the largest and most intricate footballing corporations in the world.
That bodes extremely well for the club's future, considering that the entire world now knows that Arsenal are a force to be reckoned with in the market.
The Club's Business Model Is Sustainable
For several years, Arsenal fans constantly bemoaned the droning of Ivan Gazidis and the like about the unique, sustainable plan that the Board was crafting for the club in the wake of the financially crippling move to the Emirates Stadium.
There was certainly a barren period that resulted from the austerity that necessarily resulted from this decision. In fact, Arsenal are still in this period, insofar as they have still not won a trophy since 2005.
But the sudden expenditure of £42.5 million on a single player indicates that the Gunners are exploding their cocoon, and entering the same plane as the rest of their rivals.
There is one extremely important distinction between Arsenal and Manchester United, City or Chelsea: The club is not saddled with debt or dependence upon sugar daddies, and is therefore primed for the long-term success that has always been promised.