People who regularly read my Twitter feed and this blog, will know that something that annoys me are the “football experts”, especially those on BBC’s Match of the Day, who still refuse to acknowledge that Arsenal are capable of winning the Premier League.
And as I sit here writing this, Manchester United are 9 points behind us (despite beating us at Old Trafford and “kickstarting” their season) and Tottenham, with a superior squad to ours are 10 points behind. Liverpool are currently losing to Hull City, and Chelsea and Manchester City have yet to play. And even if they win their games, we will still finish the weekend 4 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The “reasons” Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy and co. believe that Arsenal can’t win it is because we have yet to beat the “top teams”. And that if Arsenal suffer an injury to Olivier Giroud, then our season will be over.
However, I’ve come up with 10 reasons why Arsenal fans can be optimistic and can at least consider themselves genuine title contenders:
1. Mesut Özil
We have been crying out for a world class player for along time and he arrived this summer, in the form of German International Mesut Özil. We needed someone to give the whole club a lift and he has done that. He has the best assist record in Europe, ahead of Messi and Ronaldo, and has already assisted a high number of goals for Arsenal in his short time here. Was he worth the £42.4 million we paid for him? You bet, and he is only going to get better and better.
2. Our Defence
Since the start of 2013, we have had the best defensive record in the league and that has continued into this season. The central-defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has been unbelievably solid and Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs have been equally fantastic. Conceding stupid goals is now (hopefully) a thing of the past.
3. Wojciech Szczesny
The 23 year old Pole is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league. So many times this season, he has made some vital saves and yesterday was no exception. As Arsenal were leading 1-0 against Cardiff City, Campbell had a header saved on the line which would have been the equaliser. Fortunately, Szczesny made a fantastic save and we went on to win 3-0. More and more this season he is being asked questions and every single time he is getting the answers spot on.
4. The Strength of our Squad
We may be slightly light in the striker department but we have adequate cover in most positions. We have Jenkinson and Monreal to cover the full back positions, Sanga can fill in at centre-back and we of course have Thomas Vermaelen who can cover. In midfield, we almost have an embarrassment of riches, with Flamini, Arteta, Cazorla, Özil, Wilshere, Ramsey, Gnabry and Rosicky available for selection – and that doesn’t include Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby who have yet to come back from injury. We also have Theo who has just come back, and Lukas Podolski who should be back in a few weeks.
5. Our Midfield Options
As I’ve already mentioned, our midfield options are plentiful and Arsene Wenger has a selection problem most weeks. We have Arteta and Flamini who can play in the defensive midfield role, and Cazorla, Özil, Wilshere, Ramsey and Rosicky who can play further up the pitch. In most of the games we’ve played this season, and whoever has been selected, we have still managed to play our expansive, attacking football. There is a fantastic understanding between this group of players and they have the belief they can do something special.
6. Everyone is “Writing Us Off”
With no-one really taking us seriously for the Premier League, that is to our advantage. I’ve always said this season that the longer people write us off, the better. The pressure is off the squad and we can keep going about our business and picking up points. I’ve been saying for a while now, by the time everyone starts taking us seriously, it will be too late.
7. We Beat the “Lesser Teams” in The League
A big criticism is that we can’t beat the big teams. We’ve played Liverpool and Tottenham this season and beaten them, and lost to Manchester United. That means we still have to play Chelsea and Manchester City. We were under the weather against Manchester United (and unlucky with those Sagna crosses which should have been converted) and the fact is because we’re top, we don’t need to beat Chelsea or Manchester City. Teams like West Brom, Cardiff City and Southampton have taken points off Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool and West Brom apart, we’ve beaten them. When people say Arsenal haven’t beaten any “big sides” yet, they conveniently forget that the other title contenders keep dropping points against the “lesser sides”, and we are not.
Manchester United apparently “kick-started” their season after beating Arsenal at Old Trafford, yet several weeks later we are now 9 points clear of them instead of 5. Hmm…
8. Aaron Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey has really made the Arsenal midfield his own and been sensational this season, continuing the excellent form from the tail end the last campaign. He has now completely recovered, physically and mentally, from his horrific injury and is more than fulfilling his potential. His form has had a knock-on effect on players like Jack Wilshere, who look at the Welshman and step up their game as well. We all know about Ramsey’s form and goals but of late, Wilshere has been chipping in with some quality goals of his own.
If you’re superstitious, and I am, then you would look to the 10 year anniversary from the last time we won the league, with The Invincible’s. Also that season, we had an iconic yellow away kit which I’m sure most Arsenal fans have fond memories of. Could it mean something? Who knows.
10. We Don’t Actually Need a Striker
A lot has been made of Giroud and his importance to the team. With Lukas Podolski still injured, we have been slightly over-relying on the Frenchman but in a way, if he was injured I believe that we could still cope. If you’ve watched Arsenal lately, the midfield options of Ramsey, Rosicky, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta and Özil are all intelligent enough and adaptable enough to interchange and almost play in any position.
Remember when Spain lined up without a striker? There is no reason whatsoever why Arsenal couldn’t do the same – our midfield is that good.