Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his team’s 2-0 victory over Liverpool at the weekend can instil an added sense of belief among his squad as they go into a challenging set of fixtures. The Saturday evening game at the Emirates pitted the league’s top two teams with each other and provided further evidence among the home fans that this could well be the season their team claims a trophy. A commanding display from the Gunners’ creative midfield trio of Santi Carzola, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky ensured they capitalized on Chelsea’s earlier result against Newcastle to open up a 5 point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Wenger believes it was vital for his team to take maximum points after the recent high profile reversals at the hands of Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea respectively. The exit from the Capital One Cup at the hands of their London rivals will be of little concern to Wenger who has often viewed the tournament low on his list of his priorities. It did however raise questions about Arsenal’s ability to compete against the bigger teams in the division. Seeking a quick response from his young squad, Wenger knew that with a victory over Liverpool, those questions could be put on hold for a little longer.
They may have benefitted from a kind start to the season’s fixtures, but Arsenal’s victory over a strong Liverpool side can be added to the one-nil defeat of local rivals Tottenham, and an impressive 2-0 conquering of Napoli – at the time sitting at the top of Italy’s Serie A. It is unsurprising the team succumbed to Dortmund, as the mighty Germans were last year’s runners-up in the Champions League and likely contenders for a similar run this year. There was enough on show in that second half display to suggest they could well win on another day, and will get another chance when the two teams meet in Germany for the return leg this week.
Indeed the fixture offers the opportunity for Arsenal to show another display of maturity. This year’s outstanding performer Aaron Ramsey has spoken of the need to be ‘street-wise’ in their approach and finding the right balance of forward play and defence in a game that will be hotly anticipated by the entire continent. Between them, Arsenal and Dortmund share admirable qualities that determine their attractive style of play and ethical dealings in the transfer market, while there is a great level of mutual respect between Wenger and his opposing number at the German club, Jurgen Klopp.
The match on Wednesday evening will be the second in a run of games that may define the success of Arsenal’s season. The Liverpool game saw the north Londoners get the run off to a flying start before facing trips to Manchester United, Everton and Manchester City, as well as facing a much improved Southampton side before mid-December. It’s a period that will be keenly observed by supporters and commentators alike, all seeking proof that after a succession of fruitless seasons, this current side is capable of maintaining a credible title challenge.
Results so far suggest it may be likely and, as Wenger openly points out, they have achieved these results, table topping position, and group leaders in the Champions League without a number of high profile players absent through various knocks. Last season’s top scorer Theo Walcott, the experienced German international Lukas Podolski, and exciting prospect Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all been sidelined for months and will provide greater upfield variety upon their return. The midfield that has convinced so regularly this season already is still without Abu Diaby, while recent injuries to Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini have been masked by the return of Mikel Arteta, fitting in seamlessly where he left off last season.
These are exciting times for Gooners and perhaps it’s time the rest of the league heeded their well worn mantra: in Wenger we trust.
Which other teams can match this exciting crop of Arsenal players?