Arsenal has played six games this season (5 in the EPL, 1 in the Champions League) so I feel it is a good time for an assessment following the big changes in their lineup from last season. Through the matches, Arsenal has won 3 and drawn 3.
After a few nervous 0-0 draws to start the season, the Gunners have come alive. New signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have provided excellent goals and the team looks very strong in defense. Abou Diaby has thankfully stayed injury-free and provides a large force in the middle of the team. Long forgotten are the high-scoring Robin van Persie and the tackling of Alex Song who have seemingly been replaced with ease. Theo Walcott has been relegated to the bench over his contract situation, but hasn’t been missed thanks to the good play of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Against Manchester City, Arsenal looked the better side although they did have to fight back for the 1-1 draw. This match was their first real test of the season, and I felt they came through in exciting fashion, earning a draw away to the Premier League Champions.
One player that I feel is beginning to really add to the team is Carl Jenkinson: the young right back. He has had his share of growing pains, but against Man City he was terrific. He repeatedly made forward runs and even got completely free in on the end line during the first half, beating Joleon Lescott and setting up a good chance. He also provides good low cross, which resulted in a goal against Montpellier, and almost beat goalkeeper Joe Hart during this match. Crossing has been suspect at Arsenal for as long as I can remember, so this is a valuable addition to the squad. I feel that Bacary Sagna may find it hard to break back into the team once he recovers from injury.
It’s not all great for Arsenal though. Olivier Giroud has failed to take over the central striker role, and Arsene Wenger’s plan B, Gervinho, isn’t necessarily the answer either. He scored two goals in the 6-1 drubbing of Southampton, and he got a tap-in for the victory against Montpellier, but he sure does make a mess of most his chances and was woeful against Manchester City, the first good defense he has faced.
He is a very unpredictable player. He’ll get the ball and one simply cannot reason where he’ll go. The only problem is that 95% of the time he is dispossessed. He wasted a golden opportunity at Manchester City in the first half when he was free in on goal, and his first touch gave the ball right to Hart.
Personally, I feel that Lukas Podolski ought to be given more opportunities in a central role. Perhaps place Gervinho back out on that left wing where his trickery and pace are more useful. Podolski looks the man who can actually score goals in the Arsenal offense.
But what makes me most excited about this team is their defensive improvements. This is not only evident in their back line, but in the overall defensive effort of the entire team. Everyone looks far more determined to win the ball back, and rarely does the team get caught on a counter attack. They have only conceded three goals through six games. Therefore, I have high hopes for the season and feel that Arsenal could have a say in the title race come the New Year.