The past few months have been a roller-coaster for Arsenal fans.
The past few months have been a roller-coaster for Arsenal fans. After only seven games of the current campaign they had notched a mere two wins and had been on the back of some truly embarrassing results. When you look at the league table and see Arsenal lurking outside the relegation places, it is obvious something is wrong and of course the fans look for someone to blame. The easy target, as always, is the manager and Arsene Wenger, a man who has brought joy and fantastic football to North London for more than 15 years, came under heavy criticism from all sides. Wenger’s refusal to replace Nasri and Fabregas with players of similar calibre was what frustrated the Emirates faithful the most and, despite signing Mikel Arteta on deadline day, the damage that had been done looked decisive.
As an Arsenal fan I am ashamed to say a bit of me thought ‘should he go?’ but there is no alternative to Arsene Wenger and, even if there was, a replacement could never do what he has done. Of course there will be a day when he does step aside but now is certainly not that time. Jurgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund and Dragan Stojkovic of Nagoya Grampus Eight have been mooted as potential managers for the future and they certainly seem viable options, but Arsenal’s decision to stick with Wenger has been vindicated in the last month.
Arsenal have won 11 of their last 14 matches including excellent results against Chelsea and Marseille. The outstanding form of Robin Van Persie is of course the catalyst for this resurgence but there are other contributing factors that everyone insists on overlooking when one player does so much in front of goal.
The form of Laurent Koscielny cannot be ignored. It has resulted in him winning his first French cap a few weeks ago (and keeping a clean sheet) and has made him a solid fixture in the Arsenal defence. He played as right back against Norwich because of the absence of Sagna and Jenkinson and played well out of position. He would like to play alongside Vermaelen but with Mertesacker playing at centre-half, all four of Arsenal defenders (with Andre Santos) contain sufficient threats either in set-pieces or attacking wing play.
The emergence of Alex Song. I must say I had never been one to overlook the importance of a defensive midfielder but Song has to be one of the most effective in this position. His shielding of the ball, his awareness of what is around him, not to mention his cameo against Dortmund, have meant he is a player at the top of his game. With Abou Diaby coming back to fitness and Wilshere still injured, the fight for Arsenal’s three midfield slots will be very interesting.
Also the two wing men, Gervinho and Theo Walcott. Since Gervinho arrived from Lille he has brought something to the side that Walcott seems to be paying attention to. Dribbling. Gervinho runs at defenders without fear, culminating in eight assists so far this season. His finishing in one-on-one situations could be improved but the qualities he brings to the team mean Andrey Arshavin won’t be getting much pitch time in the Premier League (at least until January when Gervinho goes to the African Cup of Nations). Walcott has a new lease of life in the last month. Now an England regular, he has pushed on in the Arsenal side when there were calls for him to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Walcott’s performances against Chelsea and Norwich showed how good he can be when he has the self-belief. On his day, he really can be unstoppable and at the moment it is his day in the majority of matches. Arsenal’s front three are on blistering form.
Wojciech Szszesny is brilliant. There is nothing more reassuring for a fan than to see their goalkeeper rush from his goal and grab his defenders and put them in their place. For a 21-year-old his confidence borders on arrogance but he is the number one and more than that he loves Arsenal. He even sang songs to the Arsenal fans after the Chelsea win. That passion cannot be matched.
December has been a profitable month for Arsenal in the past but they need to negotiate past Manchester City (Carling Cup) this week. I will not make any predictions on what this season may hold but I am optimistic, as all fans should be, that this is not a momentary resurgence but the return to the team of old.