October 4, 2013
A few years ago, Arsenal.com put out a series counting down the 50 greatest goals in the Club's history. I think we can safely say that one of those got bumped this week. And I'll put a fiver down that we have already seen Arsenal's Goal of the Month for October. But we'll get to that in a minute.
First we have to revel in Arsenal's position in the Premier League table.
By the time kick-off came around on Saturday, a morning of favorable results gave Arsenal the opportunity to move two points clear at the top. And despite a somewhat mediocre opening 45 minutes, Arsenal bounced back in the second half to seize that opportunity – and also equaled the Club record for away wins in the Premier League.
Serge Gnabry put Arsenal on the scoreboard just before the hour mark – and became the Club's second-youngest goal scorer in league competition. Four minutes later Aaron Ramsey added to his team-leading goal tally by knocking in his eighth goal in 10 appearances. That's double his previous best output for a season.
After the game, Arsène Wenger was asked what he thought of the Welshman's newly found goalscoring prowess. "Honestly I could not predict that," he said. "The only thing I can say is that he was always in good positions in the box and because he has improved his technique he doesn't rush his decisions."
The boss also handed praise to Gnabry , saying the 18-year-old's performance justified his faith in the player. He also said, "He has the talent but the personality on the pitch as well. He doesn't look timid, he looks to play with belief and of course talent."
Gnabry called grabbing his first senior goal "a dream come true," and talked about how having fellow Germans like Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil around has been so important to his development. "It helps when you've got players from the same country speaking the same language. Especially for me as a young player, they talk to me a lot and I can learn a lot from them."
But again, the big takeaway from the win the league table. After six games Arsenal are in as good of a league position as we have been in for years. We have also experienced a tremendous run of good form – even if you include the opening day loss to Aston Villa. In fact, Wenger noted that over the last 21 games, his side have only lost once.
Which of course immediately launches notions of winning the title from all corners. But Wenger was quick to try to quash that kind of talk.
"I think in our job the most important thing is to have a good balance between ambition and humility," he said. "Ambition because of course we want to win but humility as well because we know we have only played six games and to speak today about the title is absolutely ridiculous."
But the manager was willing to talk about Europe. No, he's not predicting that he will raise Ol' Elephant Ears, but he did say that he is firmly focused on making a run for it. "It's something I miss and I will try to fight very hard to fill my CV with that."
And that brings us to Tuesday's game against Napoli, where we witnessed something spectacular. After bamboozling the visitors with a barrage of pin-point passing, Mesut Ozil's strike in the eighth minute showed off his mastery of ball control and his unbelievable technique. And the 10 seconds of build-up play from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey were sublime. It is a goal you have to watch again. And again. And again.
To top it off, the goal was Ozil's first in an Arsenal shirt.
And he wasn't done. Seven minutes later Ozil set up Olivier Giroud's sixth goal of the season. The display that Arsenal put on in the opening 15 minutes was… perfect. It was a dominating performance against a club that has been tearing it up in Serie A.
The manager called it "one of the best halves we have played for a long time." Wojciech Szczesny, who picked up his first clean sheet since the win over Spurs, added "I think for the first half an hour… I don't remember playing like that for a long time, not just this season. I was like one of the fans behind the goal, just watching the game, and I couldn't believe what was going on."
He then quipped, "We must have a couple of decent players or something!"
Challenging Szczesny for "understatement on the year" was Ramsey, who after relaying how pleased the team was for Ozil getting his first goal said, "I think he's settled in pretty well."
According to Opta, Ozil has more assists in the Champions League than any other player over the last three years. And since joining Arsenal he has set up five goals.
Giroud, the recipient of that most recent assist, said "It is really simple to find him on the pitch and we have a really good understanding on the pitch … he always does the right thing in the right moment." Mikel Arteta added, "I think he has lifted not only us but you can see the people are excited again to come and watch us and it makes a big difference."
But this "transformation" is not just Ozil. Mathieu Flamini pointed out another difference in the squad – something that the pundits have accused Arsenal of lacking for years. "I think everyone knew Arsenal have a lot of qualities," said Flamini. "But this year we are showing we have the fighting spirit, everyone is helping each other and it makes the difference because of course in a season you have some good periods and some difficult periods."
That spirit will be required this weekend when Arsenal return to the Hawthorns less than two weeks after knocking West Brom out of the Capitol One Cup on penalties. After a rocky start to their season, The Baggies have turned things around will be looking for some vengeance. They are riding high after their 2-1 win at Old Trafford last weekend and we've already seen just how tough they can be. To make it a bit more tricky, the injury bug struck again with Bacary Sagna out after tweaking his hamstring.
Sunday's game kicks off at 11am ET on NBCSN in the United States and Sportsnet World in Canada. After that, it's another international break and Arsenal won't play until October 19 against Norwich. So be sure to get your Arsenal fix this weekend.
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