5 Players That Need to Step Up for Arsenal to Win a Trophy
For the first time in years, Arsenal are still in the hunt for silverware with the end of February approaching.
The Gunners have stuttered during this period of the campaign in recent seasons, and it looked like the trend was going to continue after they started a tricky run of fixtures with a 5-1 loss at Liverpool.
A 0-0 draw against Manchester United wasn't encouraging either, but Arsenal responded by beating Liverpool 2-1 in the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition that Arsene Wenger's side are definitely capable of winning this season.
The North London outfit do face an uphill battle in the Champions League after losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich at the Emirates, but they once again proved that they can respond to setbacks, producing one of their best performances of the season in a 4-1 win over Sunderland.
The tough matches aren't nearly over though, as the Gunners face a stretch of games that will make or break their season when they play Everton, Bayern Munich, Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Everton once again.
If Arsenal are to get through that run and still have a shot at winning a trophy, the entire team will need to be at their best.
Here are five players that need to step up their performances for the Gunners to win a trophy this season.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com unless otherwise noted.
Nacho Monreal's first year at Arsenal can best be described in one word: solid.
Anyone is better than Andre Santos, but it's safe to say that Monreal is a significant upgrade on the calamitous Brazilian in the left-back position.
Since arriving from Malaga last January, the Spanish international has provided some healthy competition for Kieran Gibbs, and is a reliable backup to Gibbs, considering the Englishman's injury record.
Not only does Monreal defend soundly, but he gets up the wing and often puts in excellent crosses.
Some of his recent performances, however, have been less than impressive. He was a liability in Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Southampton, he looked out of his depth in the 5-1 loss at Liverpool, and he was once again poor in the 2-0 loss against Bayern Munich.
Considering the foundation of Arsenal's title challenge this season has been their sturdy defense, Nacho Monreal will need to regain his form for the run-in.
At his best, Mikel Arteta is a Xavi-esque presence in midfield, keeping everything ticking with metronomic passing and tidy defending.
For the most part, Arteta's first two seasons at Arsenal have been filled with consistent performances as he's admirably adopted a holding-midfield position—after all, he was more of a No.10 in his Everton days.
His performance in Arsenal's 4-1 win against Sunderland exemplifies the best of the Spaniard: he amassed 121 passes as well as three tackles and four interceptions, quietly but efficiently doing the dirty work in midfield.
Unfortunately, that type of performance has been the exception rather than the norm in what has been a difficult campaign for Arteta.
At his worst, the 31-year-old is vitally exposed for his lack of pace and natural defending ability, as seen when he was completely overrun by Liverpool's energetic midfield in Arsenal's 5-1 defeat at Anfield. While he can control matches against smaller teams, Arteta has often struggled to make his stamp in big games.
If Arsenal are to win trophies this season, we'll need to see more of the Arteta against Sunderland and less of the Arteta against Liverpool.
While you know that Jack Wilshere is always going to give 100 percent, you don't really know what you're going to get from him on a match-by-match basis.
Against Sunderland he was fantastic, constantly driving forward with pace and always looking to play positively. His three key passes and two completed dribbles were the highest on the team, while his 108 completed passes were second only to Mikel Arteta.
That being said, Wilshere has both the potential to dominate games and the potential to be completely ineffectual. In Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Manchester United, the 22-year-old was constantly dispossessed as his passes were misplaced and his dribbles went nowhere.
Wilshere can be Arsenal's best player on his day, and if he consistently performs at the level everyone knows he's capable of, he will be an instrumental player in the Gunners' push for trophies.
While it's true that Mesut Ozil has gone off the boil as of late, the harsh criticism that's been directed at him recently seems like quite an overreaction.
While it's easy to call him "lazy" due to his nonchalant playing style and the way he glides around the pitch, many don't seem to be considering the fact that he could just be tired.
After all, Ozil has barely received a rest since joining Arsenal, and it's no secret how physically taxing it is for foreign players to adjust to the Premier League. In La Liga with Real Madrid, the German international had winter breaks and didn't play quite as frequently as he does at Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger made a wise decision in resting the 25-year-old against Sunderland, and I wouldn't be surprised if he rests him again when Arsenal visit Stoke next weekend.
Hopefully we'll begin to see the best of Mesut Ozil when he returns for Arsenal's decisive run of games in a few weeks' time.
Making his first start for Arsenal since the news about his personal scandal, Olivier Giroud could not have responded to the recent adversity in better fashion.
The Frenchman scored two goals and grabbed an assist in Arsenal's rampant 4-1 win over Sunderland, and it looks like he could be discovering his best form once again after going through a bit of a dry spell recently.
The rest that he got for Arsenal's games against Liverpool and Bayern Munich clearly showed, as he looked more like the clinical striker he was at the start of the season rather than the frustrating burden that he's been recently.
Giroud has struggled in the big games this season, but Arsenal will need goals from the 27-year-old if they are to get results against the top sides in the next month.