Still playing without Mesut Ozil and maybe before adding one or two more players before the transfer window closes, the current Arsenal team isn’t a finished product. But even if they’re still in a transformation stage, having Aaron Ramsey to complete the job on a not-so-great day from the Gunners is an invaluable asset to have.
Arsenal found that opening at home for the second straight season isn’t exactly easy. They fell behind through another defensive mistake, allowing Brede Hangeland to give Crystal Palace, a team with different ambitions, direction and a way of approaching things the lead. Arsenal attacked with eight players all the time and conceding didn’t change that, but eventually, they made it past their indecision in the final third of the pitch.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Mesut Ozil returns. Arsenal started with Yaya Sanogo up front while Olivier Giroud started on the bench. Behind him, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta filled the middle. Alexis Sanchez was on the right wing, sometimes playing as a second striker, and Santi Cazorla was to the left. Instead of playing a more balanced attack, it seemed like Arsenal were forcing things through Sanchez a bit too much.
And when Ozil returns? It’ll probably come at the cost of Cazorla, losing his standing within the club despite being one of the team’s best players in his two seasons at the Emirates stadium. Obviously, it’ll give Arsenal another world class play maker behind their striker, but Arsene Wenger should try to find a way to make things less obvious about who he’s trying to use as his main distributor.
One thing this match cleared up? Aaron Ramsey should see the ball go through him more. He’s the most decisive of Arsenal’s players, which is something that was lacking when others had touches near the penalty box. Ramsey keeps improving as a finisher, and it was his 90th minute goal that meant Wenger avoids any early day criticism, which seemed to be almost too much when they lost to Aston Villa on the opening match a year ago.
Early matches in the season aren’t about ability – this team needs more time to come together, like everyone else. But coming away with the results, especially against opponents that don’t give anything away easily like Crystal Palace in their post-Pulis era, is usually a good sign about the character and mental strength of a team that always seemed to be lacking in that area over the last 10 years of not winning titles.