Now into the third week of the Premier League season, one could argue that Arsenal have weathered a significant storm. The barrage of Blackburn Rovers attacks aside, the Gunners’ win on Saturday bolstered what has been their best start to a season in three years.
More could have been taken at Anfield against 10-man opposition, but facing Liverpool and Blackburn away so early in the season and coming away dignified with three points is far from unacceptable. The next stern test is to come in early October when Arsene Wenger’s men travel to SW6 to face Chelsea. Getting games such as Liverpool and Blackburn out of the way early can be beneficial. Saturday’s hard-fought victory against the Rovers showcased a steelier Arsenal but the beauty cannot be stripped from a free-flowing machine and the danger remains that Arsenal will rely on attractive football when times call on them to graft rather than craft.
Robin van Persie has re-iterated many times that he can have a prolific season in front of goal providing he stays injury free, but unfortunately, his hopes were dashed 30 minutes into his season as a twisted ankle forced him off the field at Ewood Park and the Dutchman will be sidelined for a month. Replacing van Persie proved tricky as Nicklas Bendtner did not do enough to earn respect from the fans. Wenger has brought in Marouane Chamakh for such emergencies but the Moroccan will require an adjustment period to find his feet in English football.
Theo Walcott’s form continues to prove fruitful as his net bursting shot has put him top joint goal scorer with Andy Carroll, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba, impressive considering the amount of condemnation the young England winger has received – regardless of how much he proves for club or country critics will always hover. The opening goal from Arsenal’s No 14, reminiscent of Ronaldo’s toe poke finish in the 2002 World Cup semi-final against Turkey, looked to be the mark of a adept forward. Walcott’s time in North London has seen him utilised on the right wing, there has been talk of Walcott being moved up front as his finishing looks much improved, after the last few performances and now van Persie’s injury, perhaps Arsenal could utilise Walcott’s speed and finishing up front partnering Chamakh.
The annual tidal waves of international breaks that usually hinder Arsenal’s progress are still to be overcome. This week the much-hated (and much criticised by Arsene Wenger) internationals are to be played. Last season’s November international break saw van Persie suffer a injury keeping him out for five months while on duty with the Netherlands, resulting in Arsenal struggling to maintain momentum with the rest of the Premier League challengers. The Dutchman’s impact on return was immediate after a stunning cameo at White Hart Lane – this writer can only hope that the following week and coming internationals do not result in more work for the Arsenal physio team.