So we leave Premier League behind this week as the Champions League looms, but we leave it from a very nice position perched on the toppiest top.
It’s interesting to look at the table and see that we’ve conceded more than the other teams in the top four, but we’ve also outscored them in a big way. It all seems very Arsene Wenger, or something. Reminiscent of his best teams. High scoring but also conceding just a bit too many to make life comfortable. The last 10 minutes at Swansea were a bit clenchy, you know yourself, but the big issue we had last season was the lack of goals.
There was that spell, perhaps around this time of the year, when we struggled to even create chances, let alone score goals, and the run towards the end of the season was achieved with a series of extremely tight results. Scoring early, not being able to do so again, hanging on, browning trousers and all that, so it’s great to see that we’re finding a more positive balance this season.
Much of that, of course, is down to the form of Aaron Ramsey. I know how people love to prove other people wrong, I think it makes them feel better or something, but hopefully now the TOLD YOU merchants can give it a rest every time he does something good. I’ve always thought and said there was a good player in there but this idea that each goal or assist has to be used as a stick to beat other fans with is tedious now.
Some people didn’t rate him, so what? It’s one thing to address the idiots whose abuse of him on Twitter was utterly vile, but then people who resort to that kind of thing are hardly worth dealing with anyway. If you want to spend your day scrapping with bottom feeders, go ahead. Life’s too short. But just because people had doubts about him doesn’t mean it’s necessary to poke them with a stick constantly.
The reality is that with a good run of games in his favourite position he’s become more confident and with that his performances have become increasingly effective. Even so, I don’t think even Arsene Wenger, or the staunchest Ramsey fan, would have expected anything like the form we’re seeing this season. It’s not so much a step forward as the kind of leap Neil Armstrong would have difficulty describing.
11 goals in 5 seasons before now (taking into account the time he missed due to that low-browed clumping window-licking buffoon Shawcross), compared to 8 already this season and 3 assists into the bargain. The goalscoring thing reminds me a bit of Cesc who took a couple of seasons to really find his range but when he started they just kept coming. Hopefully that’s true of Aaron but it really is a demonstration of what confidence can do for a player’s game.
It’s also why criticism of Jack Wilshere is so frustrating. This is a young guy who has missed the best part of two full seasons through injury and is now trying to rebuild his game. Like Ramsey he’s being asked, at times, to play in a position that’s not completely suited to him and not 100% comfortable to him. For his game to flourish and develop he has to trust his own body and fitness.
He needs to get a run of games under his belt and, at the moment, he’s doing exactly that. In time, like Ramsey, his confidence will grow and we’ll see more from him, but until then he’s working hard on his game and his fitness and there really should be more understanding of that. If anything, Ramsey should be an example to Jack. The trajectories aren’t quite the same, but seeing Aaron come through a difficult time with injury should show him that it’s completely doable, especially when you have the quality we know he has.
Anyway, my point is that the form of Ramsey is something that really should be enjoyed by every Arsenal fan. Not used as something to cause strife or fights on the Internet. Having the most in-form midfielder in the Premier League (at least) in our side, making vast improvements on his game, is a good thing and only weird people look to make something confrontational out of it.
Further reading: Wilshere calls Ramsey ‘not normal’ (in a good way).
Tomorrow we have the visit of Napoli in the Champions League, perhaps the most difficult opponent in the group. They lie second in Serie A, are yet to lose a game, and with Rafa Benitez at the helm they have a tactician who knows Arsenal well and how Arsene Wenger likes his teams to play.
Our boss has admitted summer interest in Gonzalo Higuain who, as we know, ended up in Naples when a move to London seemed a dead cert at times:
We were working on two or three targets and he was one of them. It didn’t come off in the end, that doesn’t take anything away from his quality. Napoli took advantage of that at the right moment, it’s more about timing as well. In the end Real Madrid sold two great players, one of them went to Napoli, one went to Arsenal so it’s 1-1 on that front.
If you had to choose between one and the other, I think I’d still go with Ozil, but there’s no doubt we could also use a player of Higuain’s quality. I think he’s someone we’re going to have to watch very carefully tomorrow night. If he doesn’t score, no doubt there’ll be the usual stuff about how he’s crap and he was a bullet dodged, but as good as I feel about things at Arsenal right now, I think it’d be an amazing thing if he was a bullet we had in our gun.
Still, nothing we can do about it now, no point crying over spilt milk and, let’s not forget, we’ve got Nicklas the Viking should we need him.