While a January 1 defeat at the hands of Southampton quelled some of the momentum Arsenal generated throughout December, the 2-0 FA Cup win over Hull City may have gotten the Gunners back on track. And once again, it was thanks in large part to some nice contributions from bench players. The focus, in January, is often on transfer targets and with Arsenal pursuing the likes of Edinson Cavani, Julian Draxler, and others, there’s a lot to keep track of away from the current roster. That being said, it’s time to acknowledge that some of Arsene Wenger’s internal options are actually paying off quite nicely.
To begin with, Santi Cazorla has been a revelation. Seeing more minutes essentially as a result of the injuries to Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, Cazorla now looks as if he should have been a starter and centrepiece all along. He finished December with four goals and an assist on the month, which earned him the honour of the PFA fans’ Player of the Month award. In just a handful of games, Santi Cazorla transformed himself from a useful fill-in to a vital piece of the Gunners’ attack, and in doing so, he provided Arsene Wenger with flexibility in shaping the roster.
Next, there’s Theo Walcott, who wouldn’t be a bench player had he not been injured, but is nonetheless looking to get up to speed. Bet Fair in previewing the Hull City match, made a note of Walcott’s potential contribution in returning from injury but speculated that Wenger could bring him off the bench as a substitute later in the game. However, Walcott ended up starting the Hull match and acquitted himself fairly well in 76 minutes of action. Walcott didn’t score, and he actually missed a few chances that may have resulted in goals. All the signs were positive, though, as noted here in the Mail Walcott seems excited to get the chance to finally play with Alexis Sanchez, and Wenger was pleased with what he saw from what could become a very threatening pair.
Joel Campbell and David Ospina were two additional exciting bench options showcased in the Hull game. While there are rumours that Campbell may be out on loan before long, both showed promise. Campbell was involved in some of the best attacking interplay and stayed on until the 90th minute in the 2-0 victory. Ospina, admittedly, didn’t have a great deal of action. But as Arsenal’s match report acknowledged, he did show some strength and command early in the match. Neither of these two players figures to have a significant impact on the EPL race from here on out—or, really, the FA Cup or Champions League campaigns either—but with Campbell 22 and Ospina 26, their respective contributions were a nice sign for the near future for the Gunners.
Lastly, there’s the possibility of a Mesut Ozil comeback looming as well. He has not been anywhere near worthy of his contract thus far for Arsenal, and many supporters may be rolling their eyes at the prospect of seeing him back with the club. In spite of rumours of the star German midfielder angling for a transfer away from London, <a href=”http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/mesut-ozil-keen-return-action-spur-arsenal-following-disappointing-new-years-day-performance-1481676″>IB Times</a> reported that he’s eager to return and help the team win, at least in the short term. Ozil seems frustrated with having had to sit out, and while he’s been largely disappointing, he still has the talent to push the team to new heights for 2014/15.
All in all, that’s a lot of talent from within. Between bench options and players returning from injury, Arsene Wenger can make a lot of moves to improve this year’s team without even dipping into the transfer market. And that should make the next few weeks of matches particularly interesting.