Man City have slipped up twice already, and Man United have shown a certain degree of fallibility conceding five goals, and losing one. Chelsea are in the strongest position having picked up 10 points but there have been question marks about the performances, not least against Wigan and Reading. Other potential contenders in Liverpool and Tottenham both look as though they will struggle with new regimes, Liverpool more so than Spurs on recent showings.
So could this be the year Arsenal sneak through to take their first piece of silverware in seven years? I recently wrote an article about the best signings so far. Santi Cazorla was on top of that list, and I firmly believe that no one player has contributed more to a team than Cazorla has to Arsenal; unfortunately despite fantastic performances against Sunderland and Stoke his teammates were not quite on the same level and two 0-0 draws followed. However there were some very encouraging signs, Diaby was especially impressive and carried this form to his national team gaining praise from Jeremy Menez, Didier Deschamps, and L’Equipe magazine. Young fullback Jenkinson has also started well, along with Arteta and Vermaelen who have all contributed to a team that have kept three clean sheets in their first three games. In a league where goals have flowed conceding only one in four games is a fantastic achievement, something the much fancied Manchester clubs can only dream about on current form.
The only problem seemed to be scoring; the press sharpened their quills and began feverishly bemoaning the loss of RVP, who was already scoring for fun against Southampton, while also piling the pressure on Giroud who after some unconvincing performances, is still finding his feet. However a fantastic team performance against Liverpool saw Arsene’s men secure their first three points, and although Liverpool are still adjusting to the new boss, leaving Anfield with three points is never easy. The game was also pleasing because of the interplay between Cazorla and Podolski, which caused Liverpool problems from the off. Podolski had not played fantastically up to this point, but some clever passes, strong running, and a good finish certainly laid to bed some of the concerns over Arsenal’s ability to replace RVP.
This weekend saw the most emphatic suggestion that Arsenal can be real contenders. Many will say that the recently promoted side should be no barometer for success, they are a team that should be cannon fodder for the likes of Arsenal; however strong performances against both Manchester clubs suggest Southampton will be a tough team to play this season whoever you are. Fantastic performances from virtually the entire team saw a completely helpless Southampton put to the sword, and with the likes of Gervinho, Podolski and Arteta all arguably outshining the still impressive Cazorla it is clear that the team will not need to be reliant on the sensational Spaniard this season. What is more promising, if just in an ironic way, is that Man U needed RVP to save them against Southampton where as the RVP-less Arsenal comfortably romped to victory. If I were an Arsenal fan the chant of “one man team” would be flung Old Trafford’s way without a moment’s hesitation.
Although the season is still young there are some very positive signs for Arsenal fans; the sturdiest defence in the league, the most impressive individual in Cazorla, and a sign that the memories of Song and RVP could soon be extinguished by the impressive Diaby and Podolski. This is coupled with a general improvement in the way the team is defending, which could be attributed to the input of Steve Bould, or could just be because the team is more settled than last season.
There are possibly some areas for concern however - conceding one goal in four games is by no means a problem, but the manner in which the goal was conceded will raise an eyebrow or two. Szczensy’s blunder can be overlooked in a game where six goals went the other way, but an error like that in a tighter game will receive much harsher criticism. On his day he can be brilliant, but he is prone to errors and there could be a few nervous moments this season. Despite scoring eight in the last two games I do think there will be weekends where Arsene will rue missed chances. Giroud will score goals for Arsenal and Podolski is already well off the mark, but with players like Walcott and Gervinho, who have been criticised in the past for some inconsistent performances in front of goal, I can see Arsenal fans being frustrated more than once this season.
I believe that Arsenal will be in contention in the League this season, I am unsure if they have the squad to go all the way but they should certainly consider themselves one of the contenders. Where I think Arsenal will really shine is in the cups. An organised defence and an intelligent attack could see them beating anyone, and they could even be a dark horse in the Champions league if they can maintain the high standard set in defence.