The new dimension to our play.
During the off-season, gooners worldwide clamoured for new additions to bolster our rearguard and forward line. This was heeded by the club with the arrival of Chamakh on a free,the relatively unknown Koscielny from FC Lorient and the veteran Squillaci from Sevilla. Not exactly the signings you need to win the league, everyone thought; seeing as our rivals boasted the likes of Drogba-Lampard-Terry (Chelski) and Vidic-Scholes-Rooney (United). But we had no choice than to settle down, as it was obvious that none of the 50+ defenders, strikers and goalkeepers were going to be wearing the red and white of Arsenal this season.
The fans stuck to the old but popular saying, ‘Arsene Knows’ and hoped for Koscly to do a Vermaelen and Chamakh to be our 20+ goals-a-season striker. Then today, it struck me that we missed out on something, our midfielders have grown, not only in performances, but in experience and stature and they are now getting the recognition. Though relatively young, our midfielders have spent at least 3 seasons playing together, the combination of Fabregas-Denilson-Song-Diaby are less than 25 years old but they can boast of well over 500 games for Arsenal among them, and I stress the “well over”.
Every time we hear Arsene say at the beginning of the season how playing together as a unit has helped the players grow and that they will be mentally stronger and better from past experiences. Is this finally becoming a reality? I should think so.
Arsenal repeatedly get the stick for how soft our core is and how opponents roughen us up each time we play. It looked as though that routine will continue this season, but against opposition like Bolton and Blackburn we have more than held our own, dominating both games, scoring 6 goals and conceding 2. Not bad eh? It’s funny how many times the midfield has been changed this season and how it has hardly caused any disruption to our play. Are we losing the ‘soft core’ tag or is that we have we found a way around these teams? It’s a bit of both, I think.
Our early season form and good fortune is mostly down to the efforts of our midfileders. Take a cue from key games such as the City away, Shakhtar at home, Braga away, and the League Cup game against Spurs. Earlier in the millennium, we used to be feared for how efficiently we “shared” our goals. Midfielders like Pires, Ljungberg, Vieira and Parlour put in more than their share of goals but as the years went by, it all dried up…Hleb et al.
But these crop of midfield players are determined to change that, contributing over 42% of our total goals. Nasri, 23 is enjoying his most productive start to any league season with seven goals scored already and quite some assists. Arsene says he’s beginning to show his “inner Pires” and I cannot agree more. His range of passing has improved vastly and so has the ability to cut in from both flanks, deliver a killer pass or end a good run with a goal. He’s got this mixture of confidence and arrogance, and his maturity on and off the pitch coupled with his leadership qualities has been a joy to behold. He showed utmost composure to bury 2 penalties against Spurs on their turf. His versatility, playing comfortably on either wings, attacking midfield and even in defensive midfield has prompted Wenger to add that he is becoming a complete midfielder.
Another who has matured in bounds this season is Alexandre Song. Would you believe that someone who had just 3 shots on target the whole of last season has already put in 4 goals in October. That’s more than Arsharvin and Cesc, including the extremely important winner against West Ham, which brought chants of ‘We’ve only got one Song’ from the fans.
Truth be said, Song had a shaky start to the season, picking up stupid bookings and getting caught out of position. Maybe it was the World Cup hangover or adapting to the new hairstyle(hilarious eh?). But his transformation has been nothing short of fantastic as he ventures forward more and is always lurking around the penalty box. He’s become the all action box-to-box midfielder we crave and as his transition from defence to attack is mesmerizing. Can the hunger to win titles be at its peak among this crop of players?
It would be serious injustice if I omitted Wilshere from this. The young midfielder at 18, is fast becoming a main stay in the Arsenal midfield. Given the opportunity due to Cesc’s absence, he has grabbed it with both hands giving mature and inspired displays that bely his age, scoring a goal in Europe and and also adding assists. A red card has shown that he has this edge to his game, he loves getting stuck and won’t be pushed around. Against top teams, he did not hide behind the older players and always demanded the ball. You can see it in his eyes, he’s got this winning mentality.
But for the injuries to Ramsey(another one of them) and Cesc he might have found himself farmed out on loan again. He has made a name and endeared himself to the fans. A Man-Of-Match performance against Spurs in the League Cup, more than staed a case for his emergence on the world stage. Just yesterday, he was rewarded with a new long term contract rumoured to have tripled his pay. Wilshere, to me is the future captain of Arsenal…at least he’s got Arsenal DNA!
Honourable mentions must also go to Fabregas, Denilson and Diaby for their performances so far. Cesc yet to hit top form has a couple of goals and some assists. One thing about his game he’s that even when he’s not playing to his usual standards, his presence gives the others a lift. Denilson has also put in solid shifts each time he’s been called upon. Some may point to his somewhat poor display over the weekend, but this is the only player who featured in all 3 games last week; art least he played the most minutes.
If we do win the League come May, let these guys not be forgotten because it would not be because of Van Persie’s magic goals, or Bendtner’s now-refined finishing, or Chamakh’s work rate and the penalties he’ll win, or even Vela’s chipped goals. It will be because the boys in the middle picked up the mantle when the forward guys were could not deliver.
From wherever you are reading, have fun.
Escobar says so!