Monday, 20 January 2014

We Are Top Of The League

January continues to be a good month for Arsenal as they won yet again to keep their 100% win record intact. That means they're still on top of the pile in the Premier League and it's FA Cup action up next. The latest team to go by the wayside was Fulham who were dispatched by a couple of Santi Cazorla strikes on Saturday afternoon. 

Arsenal went into the game with the same team which had won 2-1 away to Villa on Monday night. I was a little surprised to see Nacho Monreal in the team after he had limped off in that game and looked like he might be out for a few weeks. He didn't show any ill effects from that injury though and kept his place ahead of Kieran Gibbs.

The first half was a bit if a damp squib but Fulham duly crumbled when Arsenal turned on the heat after the break. The move for Cazorla's first goal was a great one and Jack Wilshere again played a prominent role in it after his man of the match performance against Villa on the previous Monday. He scored one goal and made the other goal in that game and he seems to be thriving in the central midfield role he's playing at the moment.

The array of talent Arsenal have in midfield is exceptional and it has meant some of the players have had to wait for their chance to shine. With Aaron Ramsey currently out injured and Mesut Ozil not exactly at his best Wilshere has stepped up to show what he can do. He's still very young and has a very bright future ahead of him but it's good to see him taking the chance when it comes his way.

Cazorla has done likewise in recent weeks and he has scored three goals in his last three games. His season has been a stop start one so far with injuries affecting him and he has struggled to find his form at times when he has played. It's great to see him coming back to his best form again and coming somewhere close to the form he showed last season.

Tomas Rosicky has been very good too when the chances have come his way and his enthusiasm and energy are a joy to watch. Injuries robbed him of some of his best years at Arsenal, but he's doing all he can to make up for it now. He's like a little dynamo when he's on the ball and when he's chasing back to win it. Sometimes his tackles when he tries to win it back can be a little risky, but you can't argue with his desire to do his best for Arsenal and to help the team to win.

Arsene Wenger thinks Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will both end up playing centrally too, but where the team will find room to accommodate them both is anyone's guess. For the moment the two of them are more likely to get a run out in he wider positions with Theo Walcott injured and Lukas Podolski not getting too much of a look in. When both Ramsey and Mikel Arteta return from injury in the next week or so the options in midfield for Arsenal will be almost endless.

Besides the return of both of those players we're also likely to see the return of a couple of striking options with Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo on their way back from injury. Giroud has been heralded as one of the reasons Arsenal have done so well this season with some excellent hold up play and how he had laid the ball off for others. At his best Bendtner can do that job too and he has shown that he still hasn't lost his goalscoring touch in the few games he has played. 

Sanogo was known to be injury prone when he was signed and he has certainly lived up to that reputation. He's a very promising player but he needs some game time to adjust to football in England and at the level Arsenal play. I would be surprised if got that game time in the Arsenal team with so many players vying for roles and so much at stake this season. 

The FA Cup game on Friday night should give a chance to one or two players to make an impression with so many important games coming up. I would imagine Podolski, Chamberlain and Gnabry will all get a chance to play and maybe Bendtner too if he has recovered fully. With a league game away to Southampton next Tuesday there will be a chance for one or two players to have some down time and recharge their batteries with the business end of the season just around the corner. 

While Arsenal have been good going forward this season their real strength has been at the back. They have the best defensive record in the Premier League despite conceding six goals in one game away to City. It's vital for those defenders to stay fit between now and the end of the season and if they can do that there's a real chance of Arsenal lifting a trophy. 

They still haven't lost a game when Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have started and finished together and their partnership has been the rock in the defence. Mertesacker has taken a lot of stick from many quarters since he joined Arsenal, but gradually people have come around to appreciating what he adds to the team. He has shown himself to be a very good defender and a great reader of the game and he compliments Koscielny perfectly.

There are interesting times ahead for Arsenal with Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich all on the horizon in the next four weeks along with an FA Cup fifth round game as long as they get past Coventry. Those games will go a long way to determining how their season goes, but they need to get as many points as possibly before those games. 

For the moment the Arsenal fans can still sing "We Are Top Of a The League" as they have done for most of the season and hopefully they will do for the rest of it. A 51 point return from 22 games is the stuff champions are made of and it's a great return considering how the season started. It won't be easy but if they can win another 12 league games it could well be enough for them to win their 14th league title.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I really feel we'll have to play Bendtner up top in order to rest Giroud. Absent a new signing or a Sanogo appearance, we're going to need to rest him whenever we can afford to get away with it. It's not that Bendtner is a huge drop-off from Giroud, but that's cold comfort as neither man inspires a great deal of confidence. Giroud is probably serviceable at best, capable of occasional spurts of excellence, but is far too wasteful to lead the line--and I say so while fully aware of his other contributions (build-up play, defending, work-rate, etc.). We may be top of the league and deservedly so, but I worry that we won't hold off City or Chelsea for much longer.