The 2007/ 2008 season remains the closest Arsenal have come to winning the Premier League since 2004. The Gunners led through the majority of the campaign and looked comfortable striding over pitches up and down the country but finished four points off eventual champions Manchester United. Eduardo da Silva was fast becoming the deadliest striker in the country, putting the ball away practically every time he faced the net – his goals against Everton and West Ham kept Wenger’s men at the top on both sides of the New Year period.
The injury to Eduardo clearly hindered Arsenal, who fell to fourth through a series of draws, but the Gunners’ ascendency to the peak of Premier League table was not only down to the prolific Croatian. At the beginning of that season, Alexander Hleb, Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas had laid a bet with each other seeing who could reach the 10 goal mark from midfield first, what resulted was a master class of performances from arguably the Premier League’s most beautiful midfield. While Gilberto Silva or Mathieu Flamini (forming his own solid partnership with Fabregas), prowled the line in front of the back four, Arsenal’s three other midfielders conducted an orchestra of beautiful music.
Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas formed a sweeping line of conductors. In the aftermath of the Eduardo 2008 season, Hleb and Flamini parted ways with Arsenal leaving a creative midfield broken, an orchestra missing a key player – Hleb.
So now? The lunar cycle (or what has felt like one) could have lapsed and despite the Fabregas saga, pre season indicated that in the absence of the Spaniard, Arsenal still have a selective mix of creative midfielders to cause damage. Rosicky has been a standout performer filling the void left by the captain, playing in the hole behind the striker, his natural and by far best position. Arsene Wenger looks to have moved the Czech playmaker to the centre, albeit temporarily, but if the French tactician can find a balance to play Fabregas, Rosicky and Arshavin together, Arsenal are capable of winning trophies.
Supporting the above trio is the option of whether to ploy Theo Walcott on the right or through the centre as a front man. Saturday’s electric showing against Blackpool indicated signs of the latter being a serious possibility. Shifting Walcott up front and Arshavin slightly further back into the midfield could be another of the examination results from the weekend’s game. A key fact to consider is the squad are all older and the players are hitting their peak ages as footballers. The Arsenal players have the ability to move around the pitch comfortably – Arshavin and Rosicky can play all across the midfield.
The Belarusian Hleb may have left Arsenal but Russian captain Andrei Arshavin is more than capable of reforming a creative midfield, Saturday’s explosion against Blackpool was evident, and for the majority, without Fabregas. The Arsenal orchestra may be ready to conduct its greatest symphony.