Only one big signing, and suddenly everything seems to be completely different. Mesut Ozil hasn’t been at his finest since arriving at Arsenal, but whatever he’s done so far has been enough to put the Gunners on top of the Premier League and be overflowing with confidence about their chances of finally being an integral part of the title race.
Beating Stoke 3-1 might be a sign things are changing, after struggling for so many times against the most physical and slightly violent team in the Premier League, Arsenal managed to find the quality to win their fourth consecutive league match, even without Theo Walcott (ill), joining a very long list of unavailable players.
But before we dive into the depth problems, the positives are worth mentioning as well. It begins with the midfield, and Mesut Ozil. By becoming the dominant ballplayer in the five-man unit, Arsenal are finally rid of their need to move everything through Jack Wilshere. Maybe Arsene Wenger has realized that England’s greatest hope is A)Not that good, and B) More useful when he’s not in charge of playmaking.
The thriving of Aaron Ramsey is a sight to behold, scoring 7 goals already in all competitions this season. Last season he was wasted away too many times on the left flank, unable to perform either as a winger or as a wide attacking midfielder. Now, playing in the middle, behind Ozil or whoever fills the attacking midfielder position, Ramsey’s strength, timing and off the ball movement all come out, getting into the box to threaten the goal time after time without anyone being able to pick him up along the way.
Wilshere? He was placed on the left wing, where he did reasonably well. Wilshere is a very hard worker, but Arsenal are simply a better team when the ball isn’t at his feet for too many moments, and he rather provides a passing option and a diligent player to use for tactical assignments.
Mathieu Flamini might be the steal of the season, coming for free. He doesn’t add much to the attacking game, but he does provide the defensive midfielder Arsenal were missing, even though Mikel Arteta coming back from injury is going to drop him from the lineup at some point. It’s good for Arsenal to have options, which is a rarity, especially at that position.
The front is a problem, as the injuries forced Wenger to use Serge Gnabry, who didn’t leave much of an impression. The same goes for Olivier Giroud, who continues to play with a slight knock, but Arsenal don’t really have a choice. There’s no backup striker at the moment, which means that the Frenchman, not scoring a goal for the first time this season, will simply have to suck it up and hope that things don’t get worse for him.
Only five matches in, but it’s been a very long time since there’s been this kind of optimism at Arsenal about their chances to win a title. All it took, it seems, was one big signing Arsene Wenger was avoiding all along, but had the wisdom and the luck to make the most of the developing Real Madrid situation.