The English Premier League is shaping up to be a fascinating contest. All the pre-season predictions saw pundits tipping the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea as the stand-out title contenders. However, it is Arsenal that is setting the pace and as they maintain their lead at the top of the table, the question has to be asked whether they can stay there?
The Gunners’ form is perhaps even more surprising given the chorus of calls for manager Arsene Wenger to resign following an abject opening day defeat at home to Aston Villa. Since then though, Arsenal have been excellent and have quite often brushed aside teams with style. The collection of goals which they scored in a 4-1 home victory over Norwich City was almost a ‘goal of the season’ contest in itself.
There have been several secrets to Arsenal’s success so far this season. For a start, they have been able to rely on a solid defensive set up, a historical trait of every successful Arsenal team. The centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has been imperious so far this season and is the main factor in an Arsenal defence which rarely looks like conceding goals. All of which is a stroke of luck, as the Gunners have just one real striker to rely on. However, that very striker, Olivier Giroud has proved to be a revelation so far. Not only has he improved his goalscoring record, but the big Frenchman is the pivot around which Arsenal’s attacking play is based. Giroud’s effectiveness stretches way beyond his physical prowess as his deft touch has been key in bringing Arsenal’s exciting midfielders into play.
This is another area in which the Gunners have excelled this season. They have stamped a tidy, neat and intricate passing game on the Premier League which when at its best is very hard to defend against. Summer signing Mesut Ozil has slotted straight in and complemented the passing ability of young Jack Wilshere. However, the real surprise midfield package has been Welshman Aaron Ramsey who has not only found the net with regularity but has also contributed enormously with an excellent all-round game. Credit must also go to skipper Mikel Arteta who has often sat deep and marshalled the midfield quintet effectively.
However, as impressive as the Gunners have been, question marks remain over whether they can mount a genuine title challenge. It will be interesting to see how the live betting at www.nordicbet.com/ develops on Arsenal as the season progresses. Much will depend on injuries. Although Arsenal have plenty of midfield cover with the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky ready to step in when needed, Arsene Wenger is desperately short of options up front. Nicklas Bendtner is hardly a reliable option and although Walcott can play a more advanced role, it would alter Arsenal’s attacking style hugely. There is also a feeling that Wenger must have a ‘plan B’ at his disposal. If the midfield fails to sparkle or if Giroud is kept under wraps by the opposition defence, the Arsenal boss will need to have an alternative ready at his disposal. And of course, much will also depend on Arsenal’s success as the season progresses. Should they reach the latter stages of the Champions League or the FA Cup, Arsenal could well find that their squad is stretched thin. However, the longer Arsenal remain top of the league, the more their confidence and determination is bound to grow. It will be an interesting few months ahead.