For four games in a row now, Arsenal have played pretty good football. I’m not exaggerating when I repeat the old warhorse that this is “some of the best football I have seen from Arsenal”. And I think we should just enjoy it while it lasts.
Everything is working. The Mustafi-Koscielny partnership has shown its strengths, which are speed, passing, and a surprising aerial strength. Wenger’s experiment in midfield, with Coquelin pushed high up the pitch to press and cover for players like Özil and Iwobi worked exceptionally well. The move to put Alexis as a center forward with Walcott playing beside him has also paid dividends, as Alexis is free to express himself and make runs that he wouldn’t normally make from wide positions, close down on opponents in a way he couldn’t playing wide, and create for his teammates in a way he couldn’t before.
Wenger has harnessed the strengths of his players and put them in a formation which best utilizes those strengths for the good of the team. And the team have responded so very well.
Walcott is the epitome of this response. After years of wanting to be Arsenal’s “number one guy” he showed tremendous humility to back down and accept a role which he had excelled at years before, as a wide support striker. That wide support striker position requires defense, something which Walcott has too often proved uninterested in doing but which he is gleefully applying himself to these days. Wenger loaned out Campbell this summer because he must have seen Walcott playing defense in practice and thought that here he had a complete player on his hands and no longer needed Campbell.
And Wenger himself has seemingly come up with a strategy which may prove that the old dog has some new tricks. He has the team pressing, something they seemed to have abandoned last year, after it worked the year before. This is the perfect strategy if you have Alexis playing as a forward as his natural inclination is to press.
The big question is how long can all this last? How many games can Alexis press? Will Walcott play defense for 90 minutes for 50 games? How long before teams figure out what Alexis is doing up top? How many games before teams find a weakness in the center backs? And how will Wenger adjust for the inevitable injuries? Especially an injury to Santi Cazorla?
Arsenal have a long run of games ahead that are “winnable.” Games against teams that “Arsenal should beat”. From now until November 6th, Arsenal face Burnley, Swansea, Ludogorets, Boro, Reading, Sunderland, and Ludogorets again. This is the perfect time for Arsenal to get some wins under our belt. To consolidate the system and make adjustments as needed.
I’m looking forward to the month ahead as a time when we can see what this Arsenal team is all about. I’m looking forward to the team building on its strengths and playing the way that we have been in the last few weeks. This could be a time for us all to start falling in love with Arsenal all over again.