The feel-good factor is well and truly back at the Emirates. Having been made to wait to correct our defeat to Manchester United due to the international break, Arsenal returned to winning ways once again on Saturday with a very good win against a top Southampton team.
To add to that, Liverpool and Manchester United dropped points, Tottenham Hotspur were destroyed, and we now have a four-point advantage at the top of the Premier League heading into Tuesday night’s encounter against Marseille.
Also sitting top of the Champions League group, Arsenal can secure a spot in the knockout stages of the competition should we emerge victorious over Les Phoceens and Borussia Dortmund fail to beat Napoli. Either way, a win over Marseille will put us all but in the next round regardless of the result in Germany, and given the strength of Group F, that’s a huge achievement so early on in the season.
So the good times are well and truly present in North London (for some anyway) at the moment, and if you needed another reason to be jolly, today also marks the 10-year anniversary of when we went and did this:
As well as that, it’s also 12 years to the day that this happened:
Certainly a lot to smile about, and with that in mind, here are my top five points of the week.
I thought I’d get the more negative point out of the way early and, before I go into depth, I just want to say that I’m a big fan of Mikel Arteta and have every faith in him.
However, it was plain to see that he didn’t have his greatest game ever against Southampton at the weekend. The Spaniard looked completely off colour, gave the ball away on numerous occasions and seemed far from his usual self.
Since joining from Everton on deadline day in 2011, Arteta has been a wonderful player for us. He is one of the many leaders that you need on the field if you are to strive towards success, and he has been superb in adapting to a more defensive role having built his glistening reputation on his attacking creativity.
In a team that puts the impetus on going forward, Arteta has been the disciplinarian who sits, makes the runs back towards his own goal and breaks up the opposition’s attacks. His recent display in the 2-0 win over Liverpool epitomised this perfectly.
However, while I feel that he hasn’t received the plaudits he deserves due to his job in the system, I think it would be wise to give Arteta some time to rest among the substitutes.
Due to injuries, suspensions and whatever other reason, we haven’t seen too much of Arteta and Mathieu Flamini alongside each other in deep part of midfield. Despite that, we seem to have coped just fine when only having one of them available.
Our strength in depth is frequently improving as players continue to return from injury, and the 31-year-old may well benefit from a breather. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that his best days are behind him by any means, but Arteta doesn’t have a huge amount of time left in the game and needs to be used to his best sparingly.
Dropping Arteta would also send a message that nobody is certain of a place in this team, and it wouldn’t weaken us like it would have done in recent years due to the volume of top-class midfielders Arsene Wenger has at his disposal.
He was poor against Saints, but I think a short rest before coming back into the team against Cardiff City would be just what the doctor ordered for El Capitan.
2. Big Fucking Captain
It’s been quite the week for our BFG.
First, he amuses the public by showing the rest of the Germany team how to use the tube, then he goes and scores the winner to beat England at Wembley, before rounding it all off by keeping a clean sheet and winning the key penalty to send Arsenal four points clear at the top of the league.
Mertesacker has come on leaps and bounds since first joining us, despite being ‘shit because he is slow’. The thing with Per is that he knows how to make sure that his weakness isn’t exposed when playing alongside Laurent Koscielny. His intelligence, reach and reading of the game make him a force to be reckoned with, and when combining that with his experience, leadership and attitude among other qualities, we have one of the best central defenders in Europe in our ranks right now.
It’s amazing that it has taken this long for rival fans to recognise his talent, and far too much has been made of his lack of pace and dangly appearance. He is closing in on a century of caps for Germany, which is an absolutely brilliant achievement given the players that he has to come up against when competing for a spot in the team.
The fact that Wenger has so much trust in him both on and off the field is a huge compliment to the BFG, and you can tell how much the big man is loving life at Arsenal – look no further than his reaction to winning the spot kick on Saturday.
If you’re to believe the talk in the press, then he is on the verge of signing a new deal at the club, and in my opinion, I think we should give him the armband. He is one of the first names on the team sheet, a wonderful example to the others and quite simply captain material.
3. Return of the Wing
It was great being at the Arsenal on Saturday for the win over Saints, but seeing Theo Walcott return from injury made it that little bit better. Having missed the past two months of action, our wing wizard came on with 20 minutes to go at the Emirates and got some much-needed game time under his belt.
He didn’t fair too badly at all on his comeback, especially when you take into consideration the time he has spent on the treatment table. He sent one low shot just wide of the far post, and also had the chance of going one-on-one with Artur Boruc if only Mesut Ozil’s pass had not been behind him.
However, it was clear to see that Theo’s presence, never mind his pace, certainly created his old club a number of problems. The boy has taken so much stick off many Gooners over the course of time, but it’s clear to see from their reaction in his absence that they now appreciate how effective he can be both on and off the ball.
His speed and movement will help the likes of Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and others find more space around the penalty area and allow them more time on the ball. And it goes without saying that Walcott will get tons of opportunities himself with Ozil, Santi Cazorla and company pinging the passes his way.
I’m not sure how much of a role he will have against Marseille, but I would certainly expect him to have a starting place against Cardiff come the weekend should all things go to plan up until then.
The crowd was begging for him to come on against Saints, and it’s wonderful to have him back as our team goes from strength to strength.
4. Spurs hit for six
I’m not one to laugh at other people and have a dig when they’re down, mainly because you look like a Grade A prick if it comes back to bite you on the arse. However, even the most dignified of fans would find it hard not to have a little wry smile and chuckle under their breath after watching Spurs get torn apart at the Etihad Stadium.
It remains a mystery to me how Manchester City can be so rampant at home yet poor on the road. On home soil City have scored four against Manchester United, smashed seven past Norwich City and now a further six at the expense of Spurs. Yet away from Manchester, they’ve tasted defeat to the likes of Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Sunderland among others. Crazy.
Back to Spurs though, and a lot of their supporters seem fairly subdued at the moment due having given it the biggun in the summer after spunking over £100m on new players, but almost ignoring the fact that they sold their best player. I’m sure there’s a song about that somewhere…
Anyway, have a little peek at the video below and enjoy their misery. Think how much you hate Mondays, and then imagine how bad they would be if you supported Spurs.
5. Mind the gap
It may not be as good as a five-point lead, but as the games tick on, four points is certainly enough to satisfy the Gooner faithful. Also, has anyone seen title-challenging Spurs?
That’s all from me this week, let me know what you think, I do love a Twitter debate.
However, just before I go, I would like to give a special mention to Jack Wilshere, who I thought had a great game on Saturday. He has really been hit and miss so far this season and it’s up to you whether or not you put that down to injury. It’s amazing how much he gets fouled during a game, regardless of the opponent, but he never shies away from a tackle and always gives his all for the Arsenal. He was much better against Saints, both on and off the ball, and I hope that this is the start of an upturn in form for Jack. On a similar note, Kieran Gibbs was, yet again, brilliant. Kudos to the kids.
Have a good week.
Never forget that you’re a Gooner.