OK, there is a mistake in the title..or sort of. When you divide 38 with 6, you get a little over 6. Still, I think that one might say one sixth of our Premiership journey is behind us and a brief look at the table should leave us with a huge grin on the face. We are two points clear at the top of the table and three teams that have had the best odds to win the league – Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United – can’t leapfrog us next week even if we lose to West Brom.
Granted, we haven’t had the toughest fixtures yet but so far – apart from that defeat against Aston Villa under ugly circumstances – it has been a fine season for us. Perhaps our second segment of the season will give us a more realistic view of our title chances as the list of our opponents (West Brom, Norwich, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Manchester United and Southampton respectively) looks more impressive than we have already played.
Our victory over Swansea – 12th away victory in a row! – was a result of sharp counter-attacks, splendid passing, off-the-ball-movement and defensive balance. For the sixth time this season, we scored the first goal of the game and kudos to Serge Gnabry, 18-year-old German, who scored his first goal in official games for Arsenal. I have a feeling that Gnabry feels comfortable in a CAM-role where he can show his ability to burst through the middle and that role might suit him more than on the wing. He will however manage a lot of minutes on the wing over the next five weeks as Theo Walcott is out due to injury and the goal he scored in Wales should do well for his self-confidence. He hasn’t showed his full potential yet but glimpses of it look very exciting.
Aaron Ramsey has scored 8 goals so far and he might be a Freddie Ljungberg of this team. I have always underlined his intelligence as his biggest asset but his engine and work-rate shouldn’t pass unnoticed either (especially the way he fought Swansea players for every ball until the last whistle). There was a special connection between Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg in 2001-02 – Bergkamp’s vision and passing combined with Ljungberg’s ability to spot every millimeter of space available behind the opponents defense. That connection allowed us to overcome the absence of Robert Pires after his terrible injury and eventually to win the double. In terms of our current players, it means this: Özil’s vision and passing combined with Ramsey’s ability to spot every millimeter of space available should allow us to overcome the absences of Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott.
Speaking of the duo, there is a very important thing that should be said. At the end of the last season, Arsenal had four players that had scored ten goals or more in the Premiership. At this very moment, only one of them – Olivier Giroud – is not injured. That makes Ramsey’s goal-scoring spree even more important.
The aforementioned Giroud perhaps didn’t find the net at the end of the first half but the Frenchman grabbed an assist for Ramsey’s goal and showed again – in the same attack – how good his back-heel passes can be.
Wojciech Szczesny was in a good mood on Saturday. He made a few good stops and couldn’t do anything to prevent Davies from scoring.
Jack Wilshere gave a good performance as well. His contribution to our second goal was crucial as he won the 50-50 duel a bit before Ramsey scored.
Now, we have a difficult match against Napoli in the Champions’ League. The Italian side won their opening fixture against Borussia Dortmund and they have lost just two points in Serie A so far (at home against Sassuolo, arguably the worst team in the Italian top flight). It will be a tricky encounter – we played against them at the Emirates Cup this summer – as they have cup-expert Rafa Benitez on their bench and players like Higuain, Insigne, Maggio, Pandev and Hamšik in their line-up. We’ll need a victory from this match in order to avoid pressure in later fixtures.