Life has not been easy for the Gunners faithful this past decade. Bitter discontent and perennial frustration have been ever-present; with the years since Arsenal won a piece of silverware continuing to increase.
Indeed in the eyes of the fans, the 2013/14 season was seen as the final chance for many in the Arsenal echelons of power; and things continued to look bleak after a dismal home defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day.
But a dramatic turn of form, stimulated by the stunning capture of one Mesut Ozil, saw Wenger’s side shoot to the top of the Premier League by the end of September; and they have remained there ever since.
While arguably every one of the Arsenal players have performed admirably so far, there are a specific five that have truly stepped up to the plate, and delivered when needed most.
The French striker had a decidedly mixed debut campaign last season, having arrived from Ligue 1 side Montpellier in the summer. His 11 goals and four assists in the league was not a bad return, but with the Gunners fans voicing their wish for a 25+ goal a season striker, the future did not seem bright for him.
Yet, Giroud has been outstanding this term. With Wenger failing to secure a striker in the summer, the onus was on the Frenchman to excel, especially with the presence of £42.5m creator, Ozil, charged with providing balls for him. With 10 goals and five assists from the 19 games played in all competitions; Giroud’s presence has so far been crucial.
You feel that even if Wenger decides to bring in a striker in January, Giroud has done enough to have that starting berth nailed down.
The Welsh international has been nothing short of a revelation this season.
From being jeered and booed in previously unproductive seasons; the 22-year-old has proved every doubter hideously wrong this term with consistently dominating displays of drive, potency and passion. Indeed, that passion arguably stems from his horrific leg-break in 2010; with the midfielder desperate to repay the faith Wenger has had in him, while also finally showing to the world his incredible talent.
With 13 goals and six assists to his name already this year, comfortably beating any previous tally he has achieved, Ramsey is an early front-runner for the ‘Premier League Player of the Season’.
Now the firm number one at the club, Szczęsny is another who has come of age this season. Potentially the best keeper in the league at present, he has kept five clean sheets from his last six outings; with Arsenal currently with the best defensive record in the league, with only 10 conceded.
Still only 23, the Pole was the man of the match in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in October, with the 10-man Gunners indebted to Szczęsny for a string of fine saves. He has carried that form on excellently, and has convincingly solved Arsenal’s perennial goalkeeping conundrum.
The big German has been imperious this season alongside centre-back partner, Laurent Koscielny. Arguably both have been equally as impressive this season so far, but it has been the transformation of Mertesacker that sees him entered into this list.
With pace certainly not his strong suit, the German was often criticised last season, with many seeing the 6’6 centreback as one who could not fully adapt to the fast-paced English top flight. But Per has proved them wrong, in spades, this term. He has a superb reading of the game, and has utilised this trait so as to compensate for his lack of speed.
With a pass success ratio at a 91.8% average, and continually dominant in the air; Mertesacker is now one of the most relied upon members of the Gunners lineup.
While a small number of football fans scoffed at the incredible optimism that arrived with the signing of the German international; none can now claim that Ozil has not had a revitalising effect on this Arsenal side.
Dubbed the ‘King of Assists’, having become a firm fan favourite during his three-year spell at Real Madrid; Ozil is now the darling of the Arsenal faithful. With a almost-languid style not too dissimilar to that of Dimitar Berbatov; the 25-year-old is noticeably a class above much of the opposition. His ability to retain possession, and distribute with effortless precision has made him one of the main focal points in the Arsenal line-up.
He has been assimilated into the starting XI comfortably since his summer move, and has is a personification of the Arsenal fans’ hopes for the future of the club.
With these five players leading the Gunners’ renaissance, it is no wonder Arsenal fans everywhere are showing continued optimism as we go into the crucial Christmas period.
This week at Soccerlens we discussed how essential the winter period will be for the Gunners; with Chelsea, Man City and Everton all on the immediate agenda for Arsene Wenger’s side.
If they can come through December and out the other side of January relatively unscathed; then maybe, just maybe, a first Premier League title for over a decade could be within their grasp.
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