By now you know Arsenal won today 4-0 at the DW Stadium against a Wigan side in a good run of form, with goals from Arteta (28′), Vermaelen (29′), Gervinho (61′) and RVP (78′). You also know Manchester City got outplayed at the Emirates but a three man, 100 million dollar link up bought them a Carling Cup semi-final appearance. Being late to the party, I’m going to assume you’ve read up on those matches and are ready to go.
No, today I’m going to take some time to make some special mentions that deserve some major respect after our near-four months of League, Cup and CL play.
1. Laurent Koscielny
After a middling performance in his first year at the club, LK6 has burst onto the scene this year with a steady stream of tough, committed appearances at both centre-back and lately right-back. To be frank, I think few Gooners – myself included – would have expected a whole lot more out of him from last season, but he has proved his worth and delivered on Wenger’s promises in spades. A great slide-tackler, he has rounded out his game with better positioning, a stronger physical presence, and improved communication with our new #1 (or #13) Szczesny. It would be easy to dismiss his improved performances as a result of having Vermaelen back or Mertesacker brought in, but the truth is he has done very well when partnered up with either, and at times has actually looked the stronger of the centre pairing when put with the massive German. Wenger now has him playing at right-back, which seems a bit of a stop-gap solution; we need a proper sideback brought in, especially with the absence of Sagna for the next little while. However, LK seems to be managing the difficult transition relatively well, and we hope to see him continue to thrive this season (and beyond).
2. Theo Walcott’s… Crossing
I’m still not convinced that Theo is ideally suited to a centre-forward role, despite his repeated insistence. Regardless of his satisfaction of playing on the wing, he has finally stepped up his quality in delivering the role’s most important task – crossing. With a dearth of assists – including another very unselfish one today at Wigan – it is clearly evident that Theo is putting in far more dangerous balls than he has been over the last couple seasons. Low crosses, high crosses, all are coming in with real pace and deadly height that’s been making it a struggle for opposition defenders. His shooting choices and finishing haven’t been top-notch so far, but it hasn’t made much difference as he’s doing what is most important correctly.
3. Mikel Arteta
Here’s a player who’s been underrated his whole career. Largely in the shadows when it comes to international duty, he has really stood-out under the floodlights of the Emirates… and wherever else he’s playing. Mikel has brought to the Arsenal midfield the level-headed experience we’ve needed for ages, and has offered a creative presence akin to (although not as dynamic) as Cesc and Nasri. It isn’t his flashy play or the few goals he’s pitched in that make him such a deadly addition to the club however. His ability to slow the game down, buy the odd foul, and distribute the play from back-to-front and side-to-side has allowed Arsenal to sharpen their cutting edge on the counterattack and has helped cool the game when emotions are running too hot. Perhaps most importantly, he has the presence of mind to cover Song on his frequent incursions forward. No matter where Arteta lines up at the start, he is always filling in gaps and has significantly improved the safety of Arsenal’s interchangeable midfield.
4. Arsene Wenger
Like him or not, AW has done a good job righting the course of a team that was without belief and in a tailspin culminating in an 8-2 drubbing at United. Perhaps his signings were knee-jerk and we were actually lucky to lose like we did. And yes, we still have weaknesses in our squad and it appears (frustratingly) that Wenger isn’t about to address them in January. But, he has the team believing, our form has rapidly improved, and some of his lesser-known buys of the last couple years (Vermy, Kos, and perhaps Gervinho and Santos depending on who you ask) are really starting to show their worth. Now bring in another world-class talent to help put this team over the top, Arsene!
5. Robin van Persie
Really? If you don’t know why he’s on this list, you haven’t watched enough games. His form can’t be described as anything other than world-class. (His lack of a nomination for the Ballon d’Or is a travesty). Many questioned if a striker is the right type of player to wear the Captain’s armband, but since donning it RVP has led by example and at times has put the team on his shoulders. Unplug the bat signal; Robin’s on the case.
6. Arsenal’s Away Fans
Brilliant. The best in the league. No matter the score, they are loud, proud, and eager to show the Gunners their support – and I believe the team’s away form reflects the players’ appreciation. Despite the club’s very corporate feel in the last few years, our Away fans have really tied the Gooner community and its players closer together. Full marks, and much thanks from those of us who aren’t there helping out.
Next up is a comfortable game against Olympiakos with nothing on the line. Should be good to see some youngsters out there on the pitch – personally I’m hoping to see another game for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been massively successful in his few appearances this year. Then it’s Everton followed by a mammoth clash against Manshyster $ity on Sunday December 18th.
Will speak with you before that I’m sure. Until then, COME ON YOU GUNNERS!