After a cruel opening duo of league fixtures went as many would have expected them to, Arsenal Football Club, at the beginning of what was supposed to be a new era for the club, were no doubt stuck with rigidly familiar feelings of frustration. After leaving Stamford Bridge knowing that their team should have gotten something from the game, a much kinder set of upcoming fixtures still seemed like an uphill battle for a club that was no doubt wondering if they could ever fully turn an increasingly adrift ship around. However, just over two months later they found themselves celebrating ten wins (in all competitions) in a row with a style and panache that was reminiscent of the glory days of the Wenger years. Indeed on Monday night it was apt, that on their old manager’s birthday, the current team showcased an exciting mixture of both new and established strengths.
Exciting and devastating football versus the smaller teams, even in Wenger’s later years at the club, is nothing new for fans yet clearly it is the renewed consistency of these kind of results and performances that is giving them reason to dream once more. Many will point to the level of opponents Arsenal have faced in their run of seven straight premier league victories however for a club that struggled away from home so much last season, wins on the road versus the likes of Newcastle, Cardiff and Fulham are not to be sniffed at. Simply due to the fact that in recent years these were the kind of games they would so often under-perform in and consequently pile the pressure on their ever beleaguered manager. For whatever reason, under new boss Unai Emery (continual well planned use of the bench being perhaps being one) the players are managing to churn out results one week and produce moments of excellent football the next. Something that hasn’t really been seen at Arsenal on a consistent basis since the mid-noughties.
Mesut Ozil deservedly grabbed the plaudits on Monday night with the kind performance that will leave fans gagging for more of the same in Arsenal’s upcoming fixtures in the next month or so, which include hosting Liverpool and Spurs at The Emirates and as well as a trip to Old Trafford. Sometimes the ex-German international makes the game look effortlessly simple with a barrage of sublime flicks, dummies and measured finishes. Yet his established critics will no doubt wait on eating their words until assessing his performances versus the bigger sides, which traditionally has been where his level of performance has often slipped during his time in an Arsenal shirt. Whether the level of scrutiny Ozil has been under in the past was justified or not, his teammates will need him to buck the trend and be confident enough to show the world what he can do on the big stage if they really are to go for glory in the next few seasons.
Indeed, much like their North London rivals Spurs, how Arsenal fare versus the bigger clubs will likely determine whether they can be seriously talked about as title contenders anytime in the near future. Though if they continue this kind of form versus the smaller teams, with eighty four points on offer outside of the games versus the rest of the top six, then Arsenal will no doubt be there or thereabouts for a top four spot by the time May comes around. Also to note is the fact that, much like Chelsea they can utilise their squad to get to the later stages of the Europa League before unleashing the first team regulars in the league to attempt to bring European silverware to the club for the first time in twenty five years and earn an historic fourth UEFA Europa League for Emery.
After the distinct feel of euphoria at the Emirates died down on Monday night, many from within and outside the club began to contemplate the idea that big things could be on the horizon for Arsenal. Yet, just like with Monday night’s star Mesut Ozil, many will reserve proper judgement until bigger challenges have been faced and negotiated. Nevertheless, even if Arsenal struggle to pick up points versus those around them at the top end of the league as long as they continue to both dominate and grind out football matches versus the rest of the bunch then they will once more become a fixture in the top four of the league. Which cynics would point out was a culture that Arsene Wenger established long ago. However, this current Arsenal side unlike those from previous seasons, now unshackled from a club legend who stayed at the party a little too long, perhaps have the potential to truly challenge for a league that is becoming more ridiculously competitive by the day.
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