The action in the Premier League has strolled past eight match days. What surprised everyone who follows the Premier League around England and the world is that Arsenal rest comfortably on top of the pile. There is a saying that tells, “Trophies are won in the summer and not in the autumn.” But it never said that the road to the stage for summer is built only during the autumn.
Arsene Wenger, generously called “Le Professeur” guided the Gunners to League glory in 2003-04 without losing a single match throughout the season; an achievement which earned that Arsenal team, the nickname “The Invincibles.” Arsenal’s last trophy came with an FA Cup win in the year 2005, when they edged Manchester United on penalties.
Had you told any Arsenal fan in 2005 that they will not be winning any silverware for the next eight years; they’d have probably book you a place in the special ward of the nearest mental hospital.
Arsenal competed in three finals since 2006, two League Cups and one Champions League final. They’ve found themselves consistently knocked out each year in the knock out stages of the Champions League and Cup competitions. Each year they lag behind in the league and later fight to finish third or fourth. It seemed Wenger was content finishing third or fourth each season. Wenger saved as much money as possible by not paying out of the pocket for a certain player. He’d sign players for the right value or free or develop them.
Arsenal made significant profits by selling the likes of Thierry Henry, Emanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. Rival teams have robbed players who are on the verge of reaching, or at their peak from Arsenal and strengthened their team. Wenger never managed to suitably replace these players who went on to win trophies at other clubs.
But something changed over the last two summer transfer windows. With the transfer of their best striker Van Persie to rivals Manchester United acting as a catalyst, Wenger clearly thought he has had enough. Fans lamenting the lack of trophies, star players leaving Arsenal FC while reaching the peak of their performance; it was time for Wenger to do what he does best. Spot young talented potentials who can fill in the holes that have been caused by departing players in the past. Not teenagers, but players between the ages of 23-27, who will hit the peak or will maintain their performance. Players like LukasPodolski, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud and Thomas Vermaelen to name a few. Each of them brought in at least for a price over £ 10 million.
Frankly, Wenger struggled to find a perfect replacement for Fabregas, and Van Persie too was nearing thirties and leaving eventually for greener pastures. It was hoped that Jack Wilshere would step up to the abyss left by the Spaniard. Arteta was brought in, but he never really performed to the levels that Fabregas.
Many laughed at Wenger when Arsenal lost to Aston Villa at The Emirates on the opening day of the current EPL season. No stellar signings, memes on Facebook had a field day mocking Wenger. It was clear that Wenger wanted to sign a star player when he pursued to sign Liverpool striker Luis Suarez who made the news for wrong reasons. Wenger clearly admired Suarez and placed a cheeky bid of £40 million and one which obviously didn’t work in Arsenal’s favour.
It seemed just like any other summer transfer window...until the deadline day. The deadline day has always had an element of surprise. But raises many eyebrows nevertheless. The most unforeseeable aspect this time was that Arsenal stunned the football world. Wenger splashed £ 42.5 million for one of the best players in the profession. Real Madrid`s Mesut Ozil traded the white of the Bernabeu to join the Gunners in what was the most expensive signing in Arsenal history.
Ozil took his first steps in Arsenal colours against Sunderland and showed his magic as early as the eleventh minute. His impeccable control of the ball, clear vision and a sublime ball to assist Olivier Giroud was celestial. Ozil’s assist tally in Spain has also been impressive with 72 assists in three seasons out of which 47 came in the La Liga.
Arsenal clearly have no need for Fabregas anymore! Ozil has been a phenomenal player for each club that he has played since making his debut for Schalke 04 before moving to Werder Bremen and eventually to Real Madrid two years later. Plus he is over a year younger than Fabregas.
This season, the players at Arsenal have stepped up multiple levels from last season. The assist table displays three Arsenal players among the top four with Olivier Giroud on four followed by David Silva (Manchester City), Aaron Ramsey and Ozil on three. Wilshere is keen to maintain his spot in the starting eleven. Ramsey has also embarked on a scoring spree with eight goals in as many matches scoring five in the league and three in the Champions League.
Most importantly, Wenger has managed to fill the place between the sticks with a confident young goalkeeper in Wojciech Szczesny -- a position he has struggled to fill after Jens Lehmann’s departure. Arsenal boast a squad of competent, young talented players on the field and on the bench. Once players like Walcott, Podolski and Chamberlain shrug off their injuries; Arsenal can send a cold chill down every other manager’s spine.
It may be premature to call Arsenal as title contenders. Their real test will come in November when they face Liverpool and Manchester United; and in December when the fixture list gets tighter as they face Man City. This Arsenal are certainly capable of surviving the storm in the league.
Their loss to Borussia Dortmund only shows the German side’s superiority and not Arsenal’s complacency. Arsenal face Chelsea in the League Cup - Fourth Round midweek. Wenger will be hoping his players shine in all tournaments and maximize the opportunity to win silverware this season.
Tables could turn in January when the transfer window reopens. But as of now, let us enjoy the football that the Frenchman has to offer us!
Ask any Arsenal fan if this is their chance to win the league and they will confidently retaliate with a “Yes!” quite similar to that of Daniel Bryan of WWE.