Monday, 24 January 2011

Arsenal Appear To Be The Real Deal At Last.

It's not always easy to know what to write about on a Monday morning/afternoon, but thankfully it's a little easier when Arsenal play twice a week. Having seen the highlights of all of the weekend's games, I have to say that I thought Cesc Fabregas looked by far the best player on view in the Premier League.

The quality of Arsenal's opposition is always called into question when they win easily, but sometimes it can just be down to good play from Arsenal. Last week West Ham were said to be very poor when we beat them 3-0 away from home, but they then went to Everton and got a draw this week. They may have had Scott Parker back in their team, but their performance was that of a team fighting for survival. Surely it can be possible that teams look poor against Arsenal, because Arsenal are simply so good and so difficult to play against.

On Saturday I read comments that Wigan hadn't shown up, but again I think that was down to the way Arsenal played. It will be interesting to see how Wigan fare in their midweek Premier League game against Aston Villa. If Wigan put in a good performance it will go part of the way towards proving my theory that Arsenal are making some of their opponents look bad by playing so well, and wearing them down from the first minute to the last one.

Cesc has only scored three Premier League goals in an injury interrupted season so far, but I'm not quite sure how he managed not to score on Saturday. His ability to make space for himself in the opponent's box is quite incredible, and from what I can see his injury problems seem to be well and truly behind him at last. At times on Saturday he made the Wigan defenders look almost amateur, and they will be very happy that they don't have to play Arsenal again this season. When Cesc wasn't in the opposition penalty area, he was placing 40 yard passes over the heads of the Wigan defenders to set up Arsenal's second and third goals, and his all round game is quite fantastic.

At the start of last season Arsenal were scoring goals for fun when Robin Van Persie was leading the attack, and they struggled in front of goal just a little when he picked up his injury that just about finished his season. At the start of this season it was hoped that RVP would again be the man to terrorise opposition defences, and lead Arsenal in their hunt for trophies, but he again picked up an injury. Arsene Wenger has brought him back into the team slowly but surely, and it appears that his policy is working very well. His performances have got better with each game, and both West Ham and Wigan learned in Arsenal's last two league games exactly what he's capable of.

If RVP can remain fit for the rest of the season I fully expect him to become Arsenal's top scorer for the season, despite the fact that he will have missed almost half of it. With the business end of the season approaching very quickly it would appear that Arsenal are in a very good position to challenge for all four trophies. The Carling Cup final is within touching distance, Arsenal are second in the Premier League, through to a home tie against Huddersfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and up against the favourites in the last 16 of the Champions League.

I would be very surprised if Arsenal don't progress to the Carling Cup final to play against either West Ham or Birmingham, by beating Ipswich Town tomorrow night. The FA Cup fifth round beckons after next Sunday, when Huddersfield pay a visit to the Emirates for a game that Arsenal are massive favourites to win. Regular readers will know that I don't think the current "Manure" team are particularly good, and any of their fans I know are of the same opinion. They might increase their lead over Arsenal to five points if they can win away to Blackpool tomorrow night, but I am fairly confident they will start to slip before the end of February. The Premier League title is there for the taking for Arsenal, and if they can continue to show their current drive and commitment I feel they might just do it.

As Arsenal have improved their overall play recently, their defence has managed to keep four clean sheets in a row. It's no coincidence that the defence has looked better, as Arsenal have had more possession, and more chances against their opponents. It's very difficult for a team to get it's attacking game going when they don't have the ball, and Arsenal are becoming experts at keeping the ball. Only "Manure", Chelsea and Man City have conceded less goals than Arsenal this season, but the best of them have only conceded three goals less. The form of Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny as a central defensive partnership has been crucial during the current run, and with no other centre backs currently fit, it is vital that they both remain injury free.

The Champions League games against Barcelona will be a huge test, but I feel that Arsenal need to be able to remove those games from the rest of their season. Barcelona are favourites to win the trophy, and they have set records in terms of points gained, and goals scored in the first half of the Spanish league season. The big difference between this season and last season could well be the fact that Arsenal will possibly be able to field their strongest team against Barcelona. In the away leg of last season's quarter final Arsenal had to play a very much weakened team, and they paid the price by losing 4-1. I'm not saying that they will beat Barcelona this time, but I think they have a much better chance than they did last season.

There's still no news of a possible centre back signing for Arsenal during the January transfer window, and with Sebastien Squillaci now probably only a week away from fitness there probably won't be a signing. I would prefer to see another central defender coming in because there is no certainty that Thomas Vermaelen will return before the end of February. The "procedure" that he underwent will hopefully be cured, and he will hopefully return to full fitness as soon as possible, but considering the fact that he was only meant to be out for a week to start with I am not at all confident of seeing him again this season. I wouldn't like to see Arsenal facing into the run in without Vermaelen available, and I hope that Arsene Wenger is just playing his cards close to his chest. It would be just like him to pull a signing out of the hat on deadline day, but then again it would be similarly like him to ignore the problem, and make do with Arsenal's current options.

That's it for today, but I'll be back tomorrow morning to preview tomorrow's game against Ipswich.

Here's a look at how important Cesc can be.

See You Tomorrow.

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