A pre season where our main man was sold to a big rival and the loss of another key man in Alex Song it was looking the same old story at The Emirates. To some this may have seemed another bad start would follow.
Three games into the premier league season and all things Arsenal are looking good from my point of view. Arsenal are yet to concede a goal and have 5 points on the board. This is in contrast to the this time last year where 10 goals were conceded and things were not looking good. But what has made this year so different?
A factor in this years start may be down to the squad. Arsenal have taken in Lukas Podolski an experienced German international, Santi Cazorla a double European Championship winner and Olivier Giroud a French international and joint top scorer in Ligue 1.
Santi Cazorla has been a breath of fresh air to watch. The Spaniard has played behind Olivier Giroud and has been the link between midfield and attack and has been productive what we are mostly worried about with a goal and assist to his name. Graham Hunter has stated that Cazorla has ability but perhaps more importantly “this guy has bottle too” . Another thing about Santi is that he likes a shot from distance which is refreshing to see. This may also help Arsenal shake this media view of walking the ball into the net.
Another new boy Lukas Podolski has had a good start and has looked better as the games have went on. Podolski doesn’t rigidly stick to his left wing post and comes inside to play centrally, this seems to have benefited Kieran Gibbs whom he seems to have formed a good partnership with. The German also has struck a partnership with Cazorla, this was evident on Sunday when Cazorla first assisted Podolski and then the German International returned the favour.
Giroud also has had a positive impact despite some media outlets putting pressure on him to replace last seasons top scorer. The Stoke game in my opinion was a good day for Giroud, he was not bullied by their centre halves. Giroud will give another option in attack as he is strong in the air. The movement of the French man has been impressive and it seems a matter of time before he gets off the mark.
Abou Diaby has played in all 3 matches after spending so much time on the sideline and has looked top class. Links have also been made between Diaby and Patrick Vieira, this may be a step too far after 3 games but it is looking positive. Diaby received the man of the match award at Anfield which was well deserved. When Diaby plays it looks as if he drives Arsenal Foward whenever he has the ball, this can only be positive as maybe this sort of quality was missed last season.
His return is a great thing because it adds to the extensive midfield options. This seemed a problem in years gone by because it seemed that if Arsenal picked up an injury it meant that players were coming in who clearly were not up to Arsenal standard. Now, if injuries are picked up the replacements look better with the likes of Coquelin, Ramsey, Rosicky waiting for the chance to come in and play. This can only get better with the return of Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong.
Arsenal’s impressive start to the season also seems down to Steve Bould becoming Assistant Manager. Not only have the back 4 been impressive but there seems a better defensive work rate throughout the side. Arsenal have made the most tackles in the premier league so far with 76 tackles. Those who seem to have benefited most are Mertesacker, another who’s positional play has improved. Despite Mertesacker not being the quickest he seems to be a yard ahead of the game in his head. Another who seems to have improved even more is Kieran Gibbs, who has been sound defensively and also great at getting Foward to link up with Podolski. However there were times where if Gibbs had been caught out in an attacking position where had the same have happened last season it would have been worse as Alex Song was not as disciplined as Mikel Arteta has started this season.
The decision to have Arteta as the deeper lying of the midfield trio seems to have been a master stroke, the discipline shown by the Spaniard is great to see as this to me was the one thing that has been missing in a holding player since Gilberto. Arteta’s experience is also seen as he knows when to make a cynical foul and when to take a booking for the team. Arteta plays well without many noticing as he does the simple things well, wins the ball and passes it. This in my opinion has been the best thing to see as the role has been missing for so long. The role of a holding player is to anticipate danger and when the full backs push on to cover in behind so the centre backs are not exposed and Arteta in the 3 games so far has done this excellently. This may also soften the blow for those who were unhappy about the lack of movement for a player in this position during the transfer market.
These are only some of the reasons why the start to this season feels a lot better than this time last year from an Arsenal fan’s point of view.