Arsenal’s close wins vs. Swansea and Burnley signs of champions?

walcott koscielny arsenal burnley swansea

Arsenal’s 2016/2017 season so far…

Review & rants by a Malaysian Gooner

I haven’t been blogging about Arsenal this season ’cause after the failure to sign sufficient players before the league started, I thought it was going to be yet another frustrating title-less season. The Gunners failed to win the first league match yet again for the 9th or 10 consecutive season (sorry, I lost count) and we didn’t sign a striker when that was crucially needed. Pretty much a #WengerOut situation all over again, probably stronger than ever before.

But le boss Arsene Wenger and his thrifty ways managed to turned Alexis Sanchez into the new central forward and got the right new defender to partner up with Laurent Koscielny to make it all work out very well so far. We even got our first win against Chelsea and Swansea in years. After winning 6 straight league matches since our home loss against Liverpool and draw against reigning certain-former champs Leicester City, we now find ourselves joint league leaders with Guardiola’s highly offensive Manchester City. Perfect present for himself and timing for the media to pay tribute to his 20th anniversary as the club’s manager.

Although we’ve been here many times before like last season where we had a decent start and then crumbling down crashing around holiday season, it does feel exceptionally more optimistic this time around. Le boss may finally prove us the #WengerOut boys wrong — for real (after years of top 4 as the “title” though). Will I purchase a new jersey if we stayed within top 2 until Christmas like last year? Probably not but only because the home jersey looks ugly to me. The away kit, maybe. But we’ll see.

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Anyway, the reason why I think because of great squad depth in every position now with the new additions in defence, midfield and forward — Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Perez respectively. It would not be as costly if we lose Koscielny or Gabriel, Santi Cazorla or Francis Coquelin, Giroud or Welbeck to injuries. So unless we get hit by a far worse injury problem than previous seasons, we’ll still be okay.

Mustafi wasn’t a cheap transfer but he immediately adapted into the squad. The Swansea game aside, his partnership with Koscielny seems to have formed the best back line in the league along with speedy youngster Hector Bellerin, the consistent Nacho Bellerin and of course, our reliable world class goalkeeper Petr Cech. Xhaka’s first contribution to the club’s competitive match was a yellow card and his last from yesterday was a red. Sure he’s got disciplinary issues but let’s hope he can learn ’cause we’ve seen his quality in distribution and long range boom-xhaka-laka’s. Perez, however, may just be a backup signing as he has yet to be given much playing time and Giroud might still be the number one or two choice for that main striker position.

Besides the overall squad, the tactics and motivation seem to have improved too. It’s been fun to watch the team play. We no longer float crosses into the box blindly even when we ran out of ideas. With Alexis being almost successfully converted into the new target-man now, it opens up a lot of attacking options. Theo Walcott is now like a new man who finally realised his strongest points are pace and poaching, not dribbling down the flanks like a headless chicken. Mesut Ozil has zero assist but still brilliant creating plays and scoring couple from assists by Alexis instead. Alex Iwobi is playing fantastically, offering penetration and vision for final passes (sorry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but he’s been way better than you). Also, le boss himself seems to have stopped making stupid statements as well. The team seems hungrier and more confident than before. It may not be as scary offensive compared to City but it’s definitely more balanced. And we’ve seen that City is not unstoppable either.

Were the Gunners just lucky thus far? There were certainly luck with Laurent Koscielny’s injury time handball goal against Burnley (we were terrible offensively) and fortunate bad finishing by Swansea (we were terrible defensively) yesterday. But it wasn’t all only luck. We totally destroyed Chelsea and had very convincing wins before that as well. Besides, we usually don’t follow up after a defeating a top club or coming back from international breaks. This time we did.

With the combination of both luck and true quality gives us the much required ingredient to win the Premier League — hence the signs of champions. I know I said the same thing last season. It now all boils down to whether or not we have enough quality against the other less thrifty clubs, if le boss would make less wrong decisions and how much injuries are gonna play its part. We shall see. For now, I am optimistic that it’s going to be a very, very interesting season for us. Come on, you Gunners! And prove us wrong, Wenger!

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