By: Danny Shin
International play has commenced until March of next year, so the focus now shifts back to the Premier League, where Arsenal find themselves in a great position at the top of the table.
Despite the 2-0 loss to West Ham on the opening day of the season, the team’s response has been excellent. A defense that has been questioned at times has been solid, conceding just nine goals in 12 total matches. Arsenal’s lone summer signing, goalkeeper Petr Cech, has played a huge role in that. That’s why Arsene Wenger went out and spent £10 million on a new goalkeeper.
Arsenal’s resurgence has continued despite a litany of injuries to key players. For this team to be sitting at the top of the table with Manchester City having been without Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky completely is no small feat. Not to mention, players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin were out for extended periods of time as well.
Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bellerin are all expected back for Saturday’s match against West Brom. Walcott’s return in a week or two will give Arsenal a different option and provide competition up front for Olivier Giroud.
Walcott showed how dangerous he can be as a central striker in Arsenal’s 3-0 win at the Emirates in October. His pace and movement off the ball created space for Alexis Sanchez to wreak havoc against United’s defense. Wenger’s ability to rotate Walcott and Giroud means that he won’t be forced to run either one into the ground. In addition, it means he’s getting something close to the best out of both of them.
What should also have a big impact for Arsenal is the return of their preferred right side partnership of Ramsey and Bellerin. Ramsey prefers to play more of a central role, but having Bellerin on the outside allows him the opportunity to drift into areas where he can cause problems for the opposing defense.
The young Spaniard has not only slotted in wonderfully at right-back, but he’s played so well that he has taken the starting spot from an experienced and respected French international in Mathieu Debcuhy. It’s a testament to Bellerin’s potential that a player who has yet to play 50 games at the senior level has Debuchy thinking about his future at Arsenal.
Wenger’s men did look tired in their final game before the international break, a 1-1 draw against Tottenham. It’s understandable given the inability to rotate players, but now with Bellerin and Ramsey back, the rest of the Premier League will have to contend with a completely different Arsenal squad that is poised to make a run at their first Premier League title since 2003-2004.