Stars Emerging At The Emirates

Created on Aug. 18, 2014 9:12 AM EST

Arsenal escaped their opening day encounter verse Crystal Palace with all three points thanks to a last-gasp winner from Aaron Ramsey.

It was another slow start on opening day for the Gunners.

The synchronicity in the midfield was missing; the pinging around of passes still on holiday.

Santi Cazorla was average, wasting numerous set-piece opportunities and never quite got going.  Jack Wilshere, selected to start alongside Ramsey and Mikel Arteta in the midfield triangle, began the season the way he left-off: ineffectual and tedious in his play.  Arteta, Arsenal’s new captain, was average in the role of the pivot as on more than a few occasions he put his back-four in trouble by conceding possession in the wrong spaces.

The first ten minutes of the match were dominated by Arsenal.  

The next twenty minutes the North Londoners were uninspiring.  

It was a worse case scenario for Arsenal when they went behind in the 33’ minute in front of their home supporters.

Brede Hangeland lost his markers with a free run through the box and glanced home a well-taken header.

Arsene Wenger was frustrated and rightfully so; luckily he has the ever-consistent Laurent Koscielny in his ranks.  The Frenchman, brilliant all day, but somewhat at fault for the Palace goal it must be said, rectified the situation by equalizing with his own superbly taken header just at the stroke of half-time.

The body control and precision of Koscielny’s touch as he guided home the finish was first-class.

Half-time came and a sigh of relief filled the Emirates.

On to the second half, and It was a dull affair until the entrance of Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

Yaya Sanogo never came close to troubling the goalkeeper and Jack Wilshere’s play was pedestrian.  

Not surprisingly both were removed with some twenty minutes left in the match.

As the minutes ticked away, and Arsenal looked set to walk with just a point, a good move down the right, followed by head tennis in the box, and the ball fell kindly to new signing Matheiu Debuchy, who half-volleyed at goal.  His shot was saved by Julian Speroni; but Ramsey was Johnny-on-the-spot to fire the Gunners to all three points and get the campaign off to a flying start.

Not Good Enough:

Yaya Sanogo is not ready, nor I fear ever will be, to lead the line for Arsenal.  He was poor in his hold up play, uncoordinated, and clumsy.  He doesn’t look athletic, skillful, or clever enough to be a Premier League striker.  At just 21, it’s harsh to make such a verdict but I don’t see it happening for the young Frenchman.   

Olivier Giroud’s introduction provided a serious upgrade; great holding the ball up with back to goal, generating a few well intentioned cross/shots, Giroud again looks comfortable and secure in his abilities, and that means a lot to Arsenal.  

The question is how long can he maintain form during the long run of fixtures across all competitions?

I’m excited to see Joel Campbell get a chance to play the #9.  He’s powerful, fleet of foot, and packs a wallop of a shot in either boot. 

Cambell needs to get bumped up the pecking order.

Make or Break:

This season is critical for Jack Wilshere.  He will either prove that he can be a two-way player, create and score more goals, be tactically disciplined, and control his temper; or, he will continue to hold on to the ball too long, invite injury and more damage to his ankle, earn unnecessary yellow cards in frustration, become a serial chain-smoker, and fade into obscurity in a side that’s strength lies in its midfield options.

The Professor is clearly pulling for Wilshere and so should all Arsenal supporters.

Fact of the matter is the signs don’t look good.

Off the field drama, injury prone for years, less than immaculate performances when fit, and increasingly playing second-fiddle to his peer Aaron Ramsey doesn’t bode well for his future at the Club.

This season Wilshere is playing for his Arsenal career.

Star Power Has Returned:

Many years have come and gone since there was a genuine superstar playing for Arsenal.  Robin Van Persie obviously comes to mind, but even in his final years scoring brilliant goals for the Club he seemed to be dimming just a bit; or to be more precise, his heart and mind were already elsewhere.

Mesut Ozil arrived last summer and the culture began to shift; the creative playmaker ignited the aura around the Emirates, bringing with him the flame of a renewed sense of positivity; yet his lack of engagement at times, and tremendous dip in form during the last half of the season, has created more doubt than expectation for the upcoming season.

In Alexis Sanchez, Sirius has come home.  Gooners worldwide will be feeling a warm sense of excitement and pride knowing that a player of such class, guile, pace, creativity, and most importantly, confidence is amongst their charge.

The scorcher will have a fantastic first season for Arsenal; providing 15-20 goals, 10-12 assists, and plenty of flicks, scissors, and tricks to get the Emirates oohing and ah-ing all season long.  Expect his artfulness to make him one of the most fouled players in the BPL this year; those fouls will lead to points for the Gunners.

Positive Signs :

Calum Chambers looks like another shrewd purchase from Southampton.  He’s versatility ensures that he will see plenty of minutes this season.  At 19, it’s astonishing that he is playing with such insight into the game.  He didn’t put a foot wrong in his Premier League debut for the Gunners and looked both more athletic and quicker than Per Mertesacker.  Good things ahead for Chambers.

Mathieu Debuchy was efficient and solid.  The French transfer brings an experience that the Gunners will value all season long.  It will take some time to develop an understanding with his teammates, but it looks to have been a smart buy, a player that can step into the side and provide the stability needed for the departed Bacary Sagna.

Aaron Ramsey is a confirmed super-star.  Unlike the aforementioned Sanchez, he exudes quiet confidence, a fantastic box-to-box work-rate, an unquestionable skillfulness.  Ramsey’s health is critical to the Gunners success this season.  Let’s hope Shad Forsythe can keep him on the pitch for 38 matches.

The best teams find a way to win.

That’s exactly what Arsenal did on Saturday. 

It wasn’t their best football, they caught a few breaks and had to rescue it at the death, but that’s exactly what good teams do; find a way to win even when not playing particularly well…

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