Arsenal Football Club – Champions, once again?
Another year of misery..
Having been an Arsenal fan for over 10 years now, I can relate to the disappointment and gloom that engulfs the being when, for yet another season, the Gunners find themselves in a similar spot as previous years – knocked out of the Champions League last 16 phase and out of contention for the domestic league title, with only the FA Cup in sight, a mere consolation.
It was the same old story as Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of AS Monaco, a side that everyone, including myself, imagined to be beaten quite comfortably. However, a 2-0 win in the second leg was not enough to see us through, Monaco advancing on away goals. Again, it highlighted the importance of the final goal conceded during the 1-3 home loss at the Emirates. Arsenal should have shut shop after pegging a goal back. Ultimately, it didn’t matter whether we played our best football of the season at the Stade Louis II – the ugly truth was that we were out, yet again.
However, all hope is not lost!
Although it’s heavy on the heart, I’m willing to look beyond that particular performance. Because what I can see in this team, in the longer run, is the potential to be feared. A team of commendable footballers, I feel that the current squad has the blueprint of being champions once again.
In David Ospina we may not have the best keeper in the world, but he’s definitely more assured between the posts than his Polish counterpart Wojciech Szczesny, and a lot more commanding at corners and set pieces.
A rock-solid defence
At first, I was skeptical about Hector Bellerin, throwing him as such in at the deep end for the more experienced Mathieu Debuchy owing to the latter’s injury woes. And sure enough, he did struggle defensively at first, but he has come into his own as the season has progressed, attacking fearlessly down the right to much effect, whipping in cross after deadly cross. His positioning when the team doesn’t have the ball can be a lot better, though.
Per Mertesacker is not the fastest defender in the game for sure. But he reads the game as well as anybody else, and puts in good shifts more often than not, although we may need to find a replacement sooner rather than later, he having reached the twilight of his career.
I cannot press hard enough on how underrated a central defender Laurent Koscielny is. The Frenchman is a powerhouse, solid as a rock and assured when on the ball, starting plays from the back with relative ease. He has matured as a player and is now much more disciplined as well.
Spaniard Nacho Monreal was treading the Andre Santos path, seeing his performances last season. But he has clicked in a way no one expected, and has cemented his place as first choice left-back, keeping Kieran Gibbs at bay.
Francis Coquelin has been the surprise of the season. From a disastrous loan spell at Freiburg to being an automatic start at Arsenal, the defensive midfielder has come a long way. He has added a great deal of steel and tenacity in his play, a trait he attributes to his loan at Charlton. Maybe he’s the long term solution to the defensive midfield problem?
Summer signing Alexis Sanchez was remarkable from the get go, putting in hardworking displays week after week. His dribbling skills can send anyone into a trance, and some of his control is simply stunning. His signing has proved to be a masterstroke by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Santi Cazorla seems like the king of the midfield, given his current form. By far the most consistent and probably the best player (close battle with Sanchez here) of the team, Cazorla’s footwork is a revelation and so is his close control; presently, he can get out of a tricky situation with a hop, skip and jump.
I was really surprised by the addition of Mesut Ozil last season. He has failed to live up to his price tag till now, but we all know of his prowess. A master in keeping the ball ticking and passing the opposition out of the competition, the German has shown glimmers of his Madrid potential, but needs to do that on a consistent basis. And fast.
Aaron Ramsey had an unbelievable campaign last year, but that form seems to have eluded him this season. He still is a utility midfielder and needs to work a bit more to get back to his best.
Olivier Giroud is having the best season of his Arsenal career so far. He’s not too far away from previous seasons’ goal tally, but he’s doing much more than just scoring goals. He brings a lot of physicality to his game, using his height to the best advantage. But what excites me the most is his deft one-touch flicks that define his link up play that make for countless scoring opportunities.
In the substitutes, we have more than dependable players like Theo Walcott, who is coming back from injury, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Callum Chambers and Tomas Rosicky (a player who always performs when called upon, in my opinion).
Arsenal FC – A resurrection in the making?
For all the flak that Arsene Wenger’s been prone to over the past decade, there is an undoubted certainty that he has been doing things right as well; the biggest one being building a team that can win trophies and relive Arsenal’s glory days.
Surely, there are some areas where the manager can still do much better, but only time can tell what happens with that regard. As for now, this team is already showing flashes of being top contenders at all competitions and if everything goes smooth, 5 years from now the likes of Coquelin, Serge Gnabry, Chambers and Bellerin will be in their prime and the next incoming manager will already have all the required resources at his disposal to ensure the Arsenal continue competing for all titles.