Success erases anger and doubt. Arsene Wenger was the most maligned manager in the Premier League before the season started, but one under the radar signing (Mathieu Flamini) and another huge and uncharacteristic one (Mesut Ozil), among other decisions, have made him the most popular figure at the Emirates among Arsenal fans, for now.
Because even if Arsenal are sitting on top of the league at the moment, everyone knows it’s too soon to rejoice and declare that the old Wenger is back, or that this season will finally land the club a title, a first since 2005. There’s no sufficient backup to Olivier Giroud, and the injury crisis which the club has dealt with quite well so far is far from over.
But what’s going on that a manager that vexed so many for an entire summer by ignoring the calls for signing big-name players and acting like everything’s fine, or failing to sign those the club wanted by making desperate offers towards untouchable players, is suddenly looking like the genius of old?
Mesut Ozil is one simple explanation. No one thought Arsenal would be able to land someone who is among the top 10 or 15 players in the world, arguably the best attacking midfielder in Europe right now. The fallout from the Anceoltti arrival and the whole Gareth Bale signing certainly helped, but it was still surprising to see Arsenal spend over £40 million on a player from a club that rarely lets go of its best players.
Mathieu Flamini is more of an old-school Wenger move. He isn’t young, but it was quite and delibarte signing, giving Arsenal a defensive midfield presence they needed, especially due to the injury Mikel Arteta is only now coming back from. Flamini didn’t cost any money and he isn’t the Patrick Vieira replacement everyone still wants to see, but he offers a lot of confidence to Arsenal in the back, allowing Ozil to play freely behind Giroud, and maybe most importantly release Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere to more creative endeavors.
Ramsey is finally playing like the man he was supposed to be before the Shawcross incident. He came back, but once he returned, he had Jack Wilshere branded as the new wonderkid, one of the worst decisions by Arsene Wenger. Wilshere is too dominant when he plays in the middle, cancelling out others. Trying to do too much on his own, it often doesn’t bring the best of results. Sharing the burden with Ramsey and even moving to the left side has given better players at finishing and passing the chance to step out of his shadow. It might be taking Wilshere out of his ‘wonderkid’ spot, but it’s better for the club.
The way the league is shaping out, there’s no reason Arsenal won’t be this high or close to it in 10 and 20 game weeks. In terms of lineup, they might have the best one among all Premier League teams, competing with Manchester City and possibly Tottenham, who they’ve already beaten this season. One injury to someone like Olivier Giroud might make this all unravel, but there’s a January transfer window for a reason, and maybe this smarter Arsene Wenger will be willing to use on the right players.