On July 4, 2012 German international Lukas Podolski, he of 103 caps at just 27 years of age, joined Arsenal FC to the joy of Gunner fans everywhere. August 7, 2012 Spanish international Santi Cazorla, winner of both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 and 48 caps, makes the surprise move from Malaga to Arsenal FC to complete a summer in which Podolski and Ligue 1 top scorer Olivier Giroud joined the club.
After a slow start to the season that began with two goalless draws to both Sunderland and Stoke City; Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2-0 and smashed Southampton for 6 while also defeating Montpellier Herault SC in their Champion’s League opener and tying last year’s Premier League champions thanks to a late goal by defender Laurent Koscielny. Arsenal are so far unbeaten in the Premier League and now hold the 5th spot and are only 4 points behind league leaders Chelsea.
In the summer Arsene Wenger went against the grain and bought a duo of proven and experienced players. With the addition of Lukas Podolski he now has a winger that can provide a healthy amount of goals while threatening defenses with his pace and direct running and dribbling. Cazorla is versatile attacking midfielder that can play on both flanks as a winger or through the middle while providing a threat from set pieces and defense-splitting passes. Giroud has endured a hard start but it is expected that he will adapt soon and once he does he will provide Arsenal with another goal threat.
With the German backbone of Podolski and Per Mertesacker, Wenger now has players that will be efficient in possession and go about their assignments every game without issues while also providing the cool heads so often associated with Germans. In having a midfield that consists of vice-captain Mikel Arteta and Cazorla, Arsenal have a deep-lying playmaker and attacking midfielder that are very comfortable in possession and able to pick out holes in the defense with passes that set up strikers with goals on a platter. These types of players are so central to the Barcelona and Spanish tiki-taka system, the deep-lying playmaker being in the form of Xabi Alonso or Xavi, and the attacking midfielder being David Silva or Iniesta. Wenger is even attempting the ‘false nine’ system Barcelona uses with Lionel Messi and Spain used to win Euro 2012 with former Gunner Cesc Fabregas. It was used to devastating effect against Southampton with Gervinho, the ‘false nine’, scoring two goals and Arsenal wreaking havoc on their defense.
Due to their new Spanish and German presence; Arsenal are able to grind out victories that in the past would usually have held them to a frustrating draw or a devastating loss. The Montpellier game was one such example of Arsenal not being able to play well, and while in the past they would lose after falling behind so early in an away game, they somehow they ended up winning thanks to goals from Podolski and Gervinho. The Manchester City game was also an example of Arsenal dominating proceedings but unable to get that goal until Cazorla’s power drive lead to the corner from which they were able to equalize late in the game.
Winning games from behind and also getting goals to draw something out of a frustrating game is the hallmark of a championship team. They cannot always be pretty and too often in the past Arsenal was unable to win games that they could not dominate or start off clinical in.
But we’ve seen this all before haven’t we?
In the past seasons (with the exception of last season’s terrible start), Arsenal always started strong and would seem to be genuinely threatening for all trophies, but come crunch time in February-April they would hit a dreadful run of form and find themselves without anything to show for their hard work. It’s been seven long years since the last trophy entered Arsenal’s big cabinet and the frustration is starting to show in fans.
Once again we are hit with the optimism that this is the year that Arsenal will finally come through and challenge for the honors come May, but we need to be cautious. The previous failures could be attributed to the youth and inexperience of Arsene’s team but that is now more than covered due to the presence of such experienced internationals as Cazorla, Mertesacker, Podolski, and Tomas Rosicky who between them have an incredible 320 caps. This type of experience is invaluable and may prove to be the difference this time around. This time around, it may be Arsenal who finally has the last laugh.
About the Author
Written by Mahmoud Ghellai