The 2012/13 Premier League season is still very young -- only three games in -- but we have gotten a glimpse at what is in store for us between now and May. With the break in league play, we once again appraoched our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to give their views on the season so far.
Arsenal supporters all over the world voted Santi Cazorla as EA SPORTS Player of the Month for September. But we wanted to go a little deeper. So rather than asking out panel who they thought has been the best player so far, we took a different tack.
Question: Which player has been the most important to Arsenal's performances so far in 2012/13?
Difficult response, and were the question of who the best player has been in the first three matches, the answer would undoubtedly beSanti Cazorla. But to me, the clear choice for most important player is Mikel Arteta. With the sale of Alex Song creating what might have been a vacuum in the defensive midfield role, Arteta was again asked by Arsène Wenger to do a different job than he might have been used, and again, he's performed brilliantly. His positioning (which was always better than Song's) ahead of the back line has been immaculate, he's stepped in an broken up play well, and he's moved the ball forward.
Arteta has also had the sense to know where to be when defenders needed help or coverage was needed. He's been outstanding in his new role and hasn't complained, he's just gotten on with the job. I really do think his play in a more holding role has been the biggest reason Arsenal have yet to concede a goal this season (knock wood). And he's done all this without a single hair being out of place, which is what I find most amazing.
Of the new signings, Santi Cazorla has obviously been stellar in three consecutive matches. He's so assured on the ball it's as if he is just toying with defenders, and his passing and movement are exceptional. He has an eye for the pass and once he knows where his teammates are going to be, he's going to be even more dangerous. He's also not afraid to take a crack at goal when the opportunity arises, and perhaps most impressively he doesn't shirk his defensive responsibilities but embraces them. Xabi Alonso once said (and I'm paraphrasing) that "tackling in England is considered a skill, but in Spain, it's just something you do when the other team has the ball: you get it back." He could have been talking about Cazorla.
Podolski has similarly impressed, he moves well in the box and has a hammer of a left foot; he's going to put a lot of chances away, and his confidence never wavers (and he tracks back!). Giroud has shown he is adept at constantly putting himself in great scoring situations, but he really needs a goal. It's only been three matches but he already seems to be pressing a bit. Of course with Southampton up next, I think he'll get on the scoresheet. They were the opponents for Thierry's and Dennis' first Arsenal goals, and first league goal for Ian Wright (Wright Wright).
I have to agree with Brett's choice on the most important player in the first three games. Although, again it is a close one between the two Spanish midfield maestros, Arteta has done a brilliant job in keeping this new-look Arsenal midfield working together seamlessly. He has slipped into the void left by Song and dare I say done a better job in upholding his defensive responsibilities than the Cameroonian.
Of the three signings, Cazorla has been the favourite of most fans including myself. The Spanish playmaker has embraced his role of creative playmaker almost effortlessly. I, personally, have been most pleasantly surprised by Podolski out of our new signings. I was wary of how the striker would adjust to the Premier League and England in general due to his previous club history but so far he seems to be enjoying life in London and his pace, stature and abilities seem to be well suited to English football. I have also been impressed with Giroud's determination and ability to find himself in useful positions in the box. Hopefully he will be rewarded for his efforts with a goal soon.
I have to echo Brett in also saying it's difficult to pick out a definite top performer from the first three games, both Arteta and Cazorla have been exceptional in the way they've propped up opposite ends of the Arsenal midfield, but for now I'll have to tip my hat toward Santi for his contributions.
His ability to almost single-handedly dictate an attack that still has a number of parts moving out of sync has been outstanding, especially considering the fact he is -- believe it or not -- one of the new boys himself. Not only did he play a major part in both goals against Liverpool, but he was also the man asking all the questions of both the Sunderland and Stoke defenses and his ability to put a shot on target just as easily as slip a teammate through on goal gives his game an element of unpredictability that I feel has been largely missing from Arsenal's attack in the last several years.
It's always difficult to say which is more important -- the contributions of a successful forward player or a quietly effective holding midfielder -- but for now I'm going to say Santi's attacking verve has been the most important injection for an Arsenal offense that's still slightly dormant.
As for the other newcomers, Podolski and Giroud, you can probably justify their not-as-meteoric growth in the squad with the explanation that they're both entering positions that aren't as ready-made for
their instant success. Santi may already be a smash hit, but he's stepping into a position that has been begging for someone with his exact creative attributes, whereas Giroud -- an experienced point man
-- is replacing a highly-mobile, often deep lying forward who probably fielded only a handful of crosses at head height over the last season. Watching Kieran Gibbs spend most of the Liverpool game dialing in the preferred altitude for Giroud's service indicates the Frenchman is entering a role to which both he and his teammates will require time to acclimate, so his muted contributions are something I personally
can live with in the short term (though I do wish he'd at least put the few straightforward chances he's had on frame).
Podolski is likewise going through a bit of a learning curve -- albeit a shorter one than Giroud -- as he fine-tunes the timing of his runs as he cuts in from the flank. At times he's looked a bit out of sync with Cazorla and co. in the first few games, but watching his devastating inward movement and merciless finishing for Germany gives you an idea of what he's capable of when he's on the same frequency as his teammates. Add to that his already impressive physicality, defensive commitment and
knack for impromptu creativity and you've got a player who I think is doing quite well for having played in a relatively short preseason and only three league games. Picking up a goal against Liverpool doesn't hurt either.
The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband Ltd.