A really good week is behind us and the way the Champions’ League draw panned out suggests that this week might be another good one as well.
Here are some pointers from the last week.
1.We can score a lot of goals
Now, before I get the well-deserved “No shit, Sherlock!”-award for 2014, I need to explain why the fact we scored eight goals in two matches last week is a big thing.
We all know we had a really good 2013-14 campaign – we had been top of the league for almost half of the season, we had won our first trophy since 2004-05 and we had collected 79 points – just seven points less than champions Manchester City.
Do you know, without the use of Wikipedia, how many times we scored four goals during that excellent season?
Four. Yes, I’m serious – the best Arsenal team in almost a decade filled with a lot of creative players reached four goals in just four fixtures. Out of 56 played.
This season, we have already managed to score four goals on three occasions (twice against Galatasaray, Newcastle). We’ll have at least 25 more matches to play this term and it looks like a safe bet to claim we are about to score four goals (or more) on at least another two occasions.
Now, it’s more about quality distribution of goals than about their overall quantity. For instance, our 2012-13 campaign saw us score four or more goals on nine occasions. Then again, that same team failed to find the net in ten matches out of 53 (18.8%). Our team in 2013-14 did not score in nine out of 56 (16%) with a higher number of matches where our goalkeepers kept a clean sheet (24:17).
2.We have a lot of players that can score
Alexis Sánchez has been immense ever since he arrived from Barcelona. He has already scored nine goals in the league, scored a vital goal against Bešiktaš in the qualifiers for Champions’ League, one goal in each of our home games in the group and a beautiful free-kick against Southampton in the Capital One Cup. However, it should be said that Alexis has scored none of our last ten goals (Stoke, Galatasaray, Newcastle). Four different players scored braces against Galatasaray (Podolski and Ramsey) and Newcastle (Giroud, Cazorla) and that is brilliant news.
3.Santi Cazorla is returning to the form
The Spaniard has looked much better in recent games and it seems that he might be the creative spark our attack needs for the fire. Santi’s goals against Newcastle were magical – the first was one of those goals that often get overlooked when the best goals of the season are picked. Balance, technique, finishing and, above all, intelligence. Oh, it’s worth mentioning that he avoided falling down when he so easily could have.
4.Theo Walcott is yet to return
We don’t know how Theo will look on the pitch once he finally returns but he has been improving every season (can you imagine Theo from 2009 scoring a goal like the one he scored in 2013 against Manchester City?) and if he hadn’t picked up that stupid injury against Spuds, he would be an indispensable member of the team.
Once he returns, however, Theo will have to break through into the starting eleven – our attacking lineup with Alexis down the right, Welbeck down the left, Cazorla in the hole and Giroud to spear-head the attack looks very impressive and difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, Theo’s return will be a huge boost for our chances.
5.Lukas Podolski is still alive
The German has scored three goals this term including a match-winner against Anderlecht in Brussels. His first goal against Galatasaray in Istanbul was a real beauty – it was like watching Gabriel Batistuta, one of the best finishers ever, firing one of his unstoppable shots under the crossbar. Poldi’s second goal of the game wasn’t bad either – the way he approached the attack that led to his second goal showed a huge passion and hunger for goals.
He is the best finisher at the club – it’s just that he has looked like a square peg in a round hole for the largest part of his Arsenal career. One shouldn’t forget that Poldi can easily score ten goals a season – it’s all about the playing time he gets and his willingness to appreciate that time with his approach on the pitch.
6. Remember Mesut Özil?
The German is the best No.10 in the world, one that can see a goal before the goal-scorer. His magical left-footed-passes will soon pick out our pacey attackers and when it happens, both our counter-attacking and possession-based game will look even sharper.
7.Our full-backs know a lot of stuff with Bellerin being a surprise package
We have full-backs that can bomb down the flanks and add width to our attack. It’s not just Kieran Gibbs who can do it – Hector Bellerin has shown that he can do it as well as his senior colleague Mathieu Debuchy. Bellerin’s performance against Newcastle was especially good. The way he intercepted the pass before our first goal or made a pin-point low cross for Giroud’s second goal of the game suggests that he is a very intelligent and gifted player.
With Giroud’s aerial prowess and physical presence that will open space for our other attackers, there is a huge role for our full-backs as well.
8.Bellerin is not the only young lion waiting for a chance to roar
Yaya Sanogo has opened his account against Borussia Dortmund and his physical attributes might turn out to be more important than we know, especially when Wenger decides to give Giroud a rest. Serge Gnabry’s injury problems haven’t helped him this term but we all know how talented he is. The German is one of the most exciting prospects at the club but perhaps a loan wouldn’t be a bad idea for him.
9.And I’m yet to mention Chamberlain, Campbell, Rosicky…
Chamberlain has been moved to midfield due to Aaron Ramsey’s injury but it feels like he is much more comfortable playing higher up the pitch. That’s where losing the ball doesn’t hurt that much – against Newcastle he had to make “a smart foul” to stop Cheick Tiote from, er, sending the ball over the stadium and his performance against Chelsea in the central midfield role last term was terrible. Still, The Ox is a great attacking asset – his bursts through the middle offer a different attacking dimension to the one Cazorla or Özil offer in the same role.
Joel Campbell is yet to show why so many Gooners want him to play more but he has quality and ability to show from the outside. Another dimension for our attack.
And, there is The Little Mozart. Or The Great Warrior as I – not very creatively – re-nicknamed him last season. The Czech maestro can add an impulse to our team. He looks much better in the spring so perhaps he is waiting for March to show his true class.
10.Finally, there are Giroud and Welbeck
The two strikers with different styles of play are yet to click together but it will eventually become either a strong partnership or two different strong options for Arsene Wenger to choose from. The Frenchman leads the attack, adds physical presence and gives a headache to the opponents. He has already scored four goals in the league, one more than Welbeck despite having much less playing time so far.
Welbeck, on the other hand, has exceptional pace and work-rate. He literally never stops chasing down the opponents and is our first line of the defence too. His finishing has been poor so far – he should have scored much more than just three goals in the league and a hat-trick against Galatasaray in Champions’ League – but he can still find his shooting boots.
Our next game is against Liverpool. We had a very unpleasant visit to Anfield in February so our attackers might want to settle the score on Sunday!