Blog by: Tee Tribute
As Mesut Özil lined up in the Arsenal starting eleven against Sunderland the other day, it finally dawned to me and Arsenal supporters worldwide that we had actually signed one of the best players in the world.
That we had smashed our record transfer fee by almost three times and that this was not an elaborate hoax that had gone too far. After the match, fresh from some of the most incredible and free flowing football that Arsenal have played for a number of years now, understandably the excitement and confidence levels in the squad and the fan base are very high. Özil showed enough on his debut to suggest, despite having trained barely once since joining up with Arsenal thanks to a stomach virus, that he completely merits the fee that he commanded. And that Cesc Fabregas’s proclamation that Özil would love the Premier League as he would get “more” space looks to be chillingly accurate. Arsenal created a dozen or so great chances and if only Theo Walcott had brought his shooting boots, we’d have been looking at a tennis score and not just a simple 3-1.
Aaron Ramsey has been phenomenal since the turn of the year and he just keeps getting better. This writer has always backed Ramsey and can’t help feel a bit smug. Just a bit though. Mainly because nobody knows what Ramsey could go on to be. So it was only fitting that the one player who overshadowed Özil on the pitch was our very own Ramsey. If Flamini was the base then Ramsey was the springboard from which all good things of Arsenal’s play originated. For reference’s sake, Ozil was the sharpshooter.
The midfield of Arsenal consisted of Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, and Mesut Özil. This midfield could claim to be one of the best in the Premie League, if not the very best. And yet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla and the mythical creature that is Abou Diaby were absent through injuries. This shows the deep depth (and quality) that Arsenal are blessed with in the midfield department at the present moment.
However the embarrassment of riches that Arsenal display in midfield is only matched by the paucity of depth in the striking positions. With Lukas Podolski a long term absentee, as well as Ox, who too can play in the front three? Arsenal have only Olivier Giroud up front before we start getting into the reserves and the kids – like the immensely talented Chuba Akpom, who made his full senior Arsenal debut over the weekend.
Sure with the form that Giroud is in, the striking role is not so much of an immediate concern. And yet it is not uncommon for Arsenal fans all over the world to clench their back sides whenever Giroud seems to go down. Hopefully, we could get through to January unscathed and this situation could be rectified without much problems. The moment that Giroud went down in the latter stages of the match against Sunderland, I could literally hear the evil laugh of Ciprian Marica’s agent as he prepared a dossier of his demands but luckily Giroud seemed to be taken off only as a precautionary measure.
Moving on to the bigger picture, it is not unreasonable to be very excited about the potential of this team. Even with the many experienced heads, this team is a young team which has got a few years in it at the very least. The camaraderie too seems to be at its highest level since a number of years. No doubt thanks to the amazing and increasingly influential, both on and off the pitch, British core. But I can’t shake off the feeling that Arsenal would need to be very lucky to win anything significant with this squad. At the moment to me it feels like a 2 year project and if the recent trend of buying proven quality and the massive changes on the pitch in terms of formation, mentality, etc continue then I would have no qualms about proclaiming the team as title challengers next year. Not this year though.
There is a decent amount of gambling going on at the moment with the squad strength and that does make me slightly less certain of success this season. The trick to mounting a very strong league challenge, something we last did in the season of 2010/2011, would be to go on a sustained run early in the league until other top teams try and come to terms with a summer of changes, which has seen managerial changes at Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea. This is where the title of this piece makes sense. Suddenly the stability and the quality inherent in the squad even before the transfer window business looks like the real deal, doesn’t it?
Brilliantly assisted by the presence of the Özilof course. Arteta is supposed to be back within 10 days and Thomas Vermaelen was already fit enough to play 10 or so minutes, after missing the entire pre-season with a back injury. There are other reports too that the Ox and Podolski aren’t too far away from being match-fit. The cavalry, that is the hordes of injured Arsenal players, is surely coming over the hill soon. Eerily reminds me of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and his last minute return to save Rohan. Can it get the ground running? Only time will tell I guess.
This kind of nit picking is for another day though. We can celebrate the return of Wengerball but with an increased defensive assurance. We can celebrate the return of the smug Arsene. Till then we can see Wilshere develop, free of pressure and learning from some of the best on and off the ball proponents, namely Cazorla, Özil and Rosicky. Till then, we can enjoy Ramsey’s late runs, technique, unparalleled industry and oodles of heart. Probably on his way to become one of the most complete midfielders in the Premier League since Steven Gerrard. Long may his resurgence continue.