Arsenal: Özil's Brought More Than Quality, Brings Confidence To Entire Club
"With every pass there needs to be a message or thought behind it…"
- Dennis Bergkamp
It was fun again at the Grove on Saturday for the Norwich game. The transformation in the club, the players, and the fans through one signing from Real Madrid and a Welshman in the form of his life is astounding, considering how toxic the atmosphere was after the first game of the season against Aston Villa.
It’s as simple or as complicated as that.
Of course you can mention the re-signing of Flamini and the fact that we have needed a decent ball-winning water carrier since, er , Flamini, as well as the fact that Kos and The BFG are now starting to look like a centre half pairing that come May 2014 could be talked about in revered terms saved only for true Arsenal legends.
Throw in Olivier Giroud doing sterling work up front, providing crucial early season goals and becoming far more of a physical presence – certainly compared to his first few months last season - it would be somewhat unfair to say that our position at the top of the League (Top of The League!?!) has relied solely on Rambo and the Golden Umlaut that is Mesut Ozil, footballing genius.
Not only does our record signing bring with him superb movement on and off the ball, vision, anticipation, slide-rule passing, an incisive football intelligence and thought - and goals - he has also given every player in the squad, and every fan in the ground an intangible boost.
Well, did anyone notice the body language of the entire eleven on the field after Norwich scored in the 70th minute? I made a point of trying to look at them individually in the 30 seconds or so from the ball hitting the net to our kick off. And do you know what?
Not one of them flinched, not one of them shrank, not one of them looked for help from a teammate and I bet not one of them thought ‘he we go again’. They steeled themselves for the task ahead, knowing that we had to go once more at a resurgent Norwich and crush them by stepping up our game. And that’s exactly what they did with the message they sent out.
Even the crowd - elements of which last season would have immediately gone into panic mode at the very least, or been openly critical at worst - seemed to believe this wasn’t another fragile team that didn’t have to balls to hold onto a lead.
We’ll come to the goals in a moment – but, for me, that little insight into the character of the current first team was as revealing as anything I’ve seen over the last eight years.
This is a team that now knows it is a good side.
This is a team that has that touch of arrogance that all top sides must, something that we haven’t shown for a very long time. Put simply this is a team that now knows how to win, and more importantly expects to win.
As for the goals. Well, I counted six one touch passes for Wilshere’s goal. The technique, quick thinking, improvisation, football intelligence and sublime finish led even Arsene Wenger to say it was one of the best goals he’d seen during his tenure. It was as glorious as it was delightful and I was glad to say I was there to witness it in the flesh.
The highest compliment I can pay is that having watched the majority of Dennis Bergkamps’ games for Arsenal – home and away – I can say without fear of contradiction that it was a goal he would have been proud to play a part it. For an Arsenal fan purring over such things there is simply no finer praise.
The second was satisfying not only as it was the Golden Umlaut who scored it – with a header of all things, but also because Giroud had crossed it in. When your centre forward is providing assists you can look at it two ways – one: why’s he doing that? He should be scoring not creating or two (and the one I prefer): the notion that if the leader of your forward line is creating chances for others to score from then it shows the team is in harmony and is playing for each other.
For our third goal, Rambo turned into Stanley Matthews – or at least Glenn Helder for a moment: actually scrap that, apart from absolutely – and I mean absolutely skinning Stuart Pearce on his Highbury debut back in 1995 - he didn’t do anything else of note in his Arsenal career.
As for the best Welshman in North London – or should that be Europe? – if there was a poll for Footballer of the Year held now he would win it hands down – and let’s face it if Scott Parker can win it (for what exactly?) then by that criteria they might as well give the trophy to young Aaron now.
To dummy two defenders on a mazy dribble in the area is one thing, for the same player to then finish with a goal is another thing entirely. No wonder we all went bonkers when that went in. I haven’t been so happy at the Grove since, er, the Napoli game.
With the fourth our young Welshman provided a nice cut back from a delicate Rosicky cross for the Golden Umlaut to score his second. Thereby sending the 60,000 Gooners present into a delirium that sent a lot of pals of mine eagerly in search of copious amounts of alcohol on the Holloway Road at the final whistle.
I couldn’t stay drinking too long as I went to the Sportswriting Festival at Lords to hear such football royalty as Gabriel Marcotti, Phillipe Auclair, James Montague and Jonathon Wilson talk brilliantly about all things football late into the night. I even nodded sagely when Marcotti said he didn’t think Arsenal would win the league (Man City as Champions was the consensus from them) as I’m still really fearful about Giroud getting injured leaving Bendnter as our sole forward.
Talking of our Great Dane I thought he looked less like Pigsy from cult 70s series Monkey on Saturday than he’s done for a while, and is now gradually morphing into what a Gap Year student resembles after spending too long on the Khao San Road – all that was missing seemed to be his rucksack and copy of Lonely Planet clutching an address for a reasonably priced hostel with a bar that sells Sang Thip.
Of course it can go badly wrong – it’s Arsenal we are talking about – but if we are still top come approximately 9.30ish on Monday 23rd December – the evening we play Chelsea at The Grove, after a run of Man City away, Everton home coming after playing Liverpool in North London and United at Old Trafford in successive weeks in early November then I will finally start to believe that we might be in with a title shot.
Then and only then.
But for now I’m just enjoying watching my club show the world we’ve got our mojo back, once again playing intelligent, expansive football which is also overwhelmingly fun to watch.
I for one am bl**** delighted.
I bet Dennis Bergkamp is too.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29
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