Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lesson from Swansea Game

It was a nice weekend for the Gunners. Tottenham drew Chelsea 1-1 on White Hart Lane. On the other hand, Manchester City was beaten away by Aston Villa 2-3, and Manchester United surrendered against West Bromwich Albion 1-2. Liverpool is yet to play their game.
"Yeah, we're on the top of the league" (photos from
Well, Arsenal won 2-1 against Swansea in Liberty Stadium, making them stays top of the table. The results brought them two points ahead second placed Tottenham Hotspurs and four points ahead third placed Chelsea. It wasn't an easy game, as seen on the tight scoreline. Swansea dominated the game, especially on the first half, while they enjoyed more possession on the both halves, with 58% possession. But ultimately, it's a vital three points for Arsenal.

There are few things I would like to point from Swansea game, from Arsenal point of view.

1. Patience Paid Off
Aaron Ramsey, he is the hottest player in Arsenal. Yes, Ozil might have provided the much need creativity for Arsenal, but Aaron Ramsey has been our best player so far. Wenger said he 'transformed this season' and I have no choice but to agree that he has been a different player from last season. Now he can pass, dribble, tackle, intercept, and score (which he can't stop doing it now). He scored 16 goals for Arsenal, 8 of them came this season. He has changed into a complete midfielder, shortly said.

The incredible Welshman (photos from

He was criticized heavily last season and the season before by Gooners, as he failed to repay the faith of Wenger, who played him often. Wenger was also blamed for keep playing a player who failed to reproduce a good form when chosen in the starting XI. I also criticized him for his form, even though I know he always gave 100% to the team. You would never see Ramsey not determined in the field.

However, few noticed that he was he was played out of position, sometimes in the winger, while his best position is central midfield. He also just came back from horror injury which almost destroyed his career back in 2010. It was never easy to recover from such a bad injury, especially when you were severally injured 20 years old.

This season he proved wrong to doubters. Had Wenger never played him, he would never reach this top form. He regained his confidence by playing, and now he is ready to deliver. The only question now is whether he can keep his form for one year to help Arsenal achieve something this year.

Another player who is slowly gaining form after criticized is Kieran Gibbs. He was not stable defensively last season, but this season he was so solid on the left, forcing Nacho Monreal relegated to the bench due to his tremendous form.

2. Blessing in Disguise
Injury, injury, and Injury. It has been a familiar issue for Arsenal for having half of the first team lying on the treatment table. This year was no different. Abou Diaby, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta were injured, though the latter two names has returned to pitch recently.

However, with those kind of injuries, there are several players stepped in to the first team. Serge Gnabry, he has been selected in starting line up for the last three games and did not disappoint anyone with his performance. He was not due to start in Stoke game, but Walcott was injured during the warm up and he stepped up to play on the right wing. Against a physical Stoke City, he was not afraid to play his game, and even he looked physically ready to play in the premier league.

Gnabry celebrates the goal (photos from
Last night he scored his first goal for Arsenal, as he coolly slotted the ball past Michel Vorm, to make it 1-0. Aside from the goal he looked bright, providing sparks that Arsenal needed. On the first half, he was arguably the better performer for Arsenal, giving lay off to Giroud who shot it wide from the target. He never scared to duel with the more senior player.

I never hoped for an injury storm, but this time, the injuries brought Gnabry to first team exposure and he looks ready for it. If there's no injury, Gnabry would only play for U21 Team and we wouldn't see his quality in the Premier League. Walcott and Chamberlain might find it quite difficult to break in to first team, should Gnabry maintain his form.

Another player benefited much from this injury is Flamini, who filled in the Arteta role, with a more aggressive mood. He was exactly what Arsenal need, a hardman in the central of the park to allow the more creative midfielder to attack. He was brought to the team (read : signed on free transfers) after Arteta is injured and the team looked vulnerable without a defensive midfielder. Arteta, who just came back from injury, might find his position is not as indispensable as usual now.

3. Win an ugly Game
It acutally started last season, but Arsenal now started to be used to win ugly game, where the opposition got more possession (not necessarily more threatening). Arsenal defensive unit looked quite solid, and they defended as team. We've never seen this from old Arsenal, who was used to play well but dropped points.

 Struggled, but Won the game (photos from
Against Tottenham, Arsenal were under pressure in second half. Against Marseille, they were second best in possession, and also in Swansea game. Against Stoke, they were outplayed for the second half. But they won all of those games. This is a mentality a winner need to have, a winning mentality regardless of how you play. An ugly victories would give us 3 points, ultimately.

I would not complain if Arsenal won in ugly way, but surely I would love to see Arsenal win the Arsenal way!

4. Don't be complacent
15 points from 6 games. Top of the Table. Ramsey can't stop scoring. Defensively Stable. Here's the reason of the recent optimism felt by the Gooners. But, hey, it's just end of September. It's still a looooooooong way to go to the end of the season. It's a nice feeling to see our team in the top, but remember, we haven't faced most of our top 6 opposition. We just played Tottenham home, which we won 1-0, but we haven't played duo Manchester, Liverpool, and Chelsea. Those games are games we might dropped points, but if we stayed firm and focused, I do believe Arsenal can win those kind of games.

Another factor is that our squad is so thin, and we are forced to play youngsters (yes, they might paid off as I said in the 3rd point), but we are limited in rotating our players. Few players like Rosicky, Cazorla are nearing their comeback, and I hope there will no other players injured for long time. We might be forced to buy someone in the winter, and I know Wenger still have money on his pocket.

Don't be complacent to see our team in the top of the table. It's just beginning (even though I hope to see the same composition on the end of the season), and we need to be consistent throughout the season. A trophy on the end of the season is a possibility if we keep playing like this.