For the past few seasons it’s been all about one midfielder in particular at the Emirates. With rumours of a move to Barcelona never going away and this year struggling through injury, Samir Nasri has been stepping up in the absence of Cesc Fabregas.
Without doubt, Arsenal have the making of the best attacking midfield in the Premier League. On their day, they are the best midfield in the Premier League. Chelsea’s midfield looks very ordinary without Frank Lampard, Manchester United’s lacks creativity without Antonio Valencia, Manchester City’s is defensive-minded and Tottenham have recently lost Rafael van der Vaart to injury.
Arsenal’s midfield is all about attacking flair, although reliant on Alex Song to protect the back four. He himself is moulding into a Paul Ince and venturing forward more often than perhaps he should.
In his last two games, either side of helping Russia win the 2018 World Cup bid, Andrey Arshavin looks like he’s getting back to his best after what had been a slow and wasteful start to the season. The Russian playmaker is getting into the box and firing shots in, unlucky not to have registered on the scoresheet yesterday. He’s also creating opportunities for his team mates; credited with 1 assist in each of his last 4 Premier League games. Perhaps the Leningrad-born Arshavin feels at home in the sub-0 conditions of late.
Another creative midfielder amongst the Arsenal ranks in Cesc Fabregas’ absence is Jack Wilshere. A rare young Englishman to come through the ranks at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, he’s hotly tipped for a bright future should he continue to play regularly at the Emirates. But there’s one man who’s taken Arsenal to the next level this season, and to the top of the Premier League where they currently stand.
Samir Nasri upped his tally to 8 Premier League goals so far this season with his brace against Fulham yesterday; the same number he scored in both his previous seasons combined.
Great things were expected of the £12,500,000 signing from Marseille when he arrived in the summer of 2008, and made an immediate impact as he scored the only goal of the game on his debut in a victory on the opening day of the 2008/9 season against West Brom. His quick pace over a short length and his close control have been key strengths to his game, now in his third season at Arsenal. He was quiet last season, registering just 2 goals and 4 assists in the league.
This season, Samir Nasri has started whisperings as a potential candidate for world player of the year. Perhaps a little far fetched at this point, but if he maintains his current form there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in with a shout. Although he only has 1 assist to his name, that coming in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Manchester City, a game that got everyone talking about the 23 year old Frenchman, he is very much a creative part of their midfield from the right wing. Involved in a lot of Arsenal’s chances, Nasri showed how effective his quick feet were once again yesterday as some wonderful footwork and tidy finishing from him gave Arsenal 3 points in a 2-1 victory over Fulham. A victory that I backed after 70 minutes when at 1-1.
I still have doubts over Arsenal’s title credentials. Yes, they’re top of the league despite being without 3 crucial players in Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen and the recently returning Robin van Persie. Defensively they still aren’t strong. The goal they conceded yesterday was a little harsh with both central defenders clashing heads and the referee continuing play. But they were somewhat fortunate to hold onto their lead when Fulham put a lot of pressure on their goal. Or perhaps we should give Arsenal’s defence credit for only conceding 1 goal against a Fulham side that played Diomansy Kamara as a lone striker yesterday? It’s 4 games in a row in the league without a clean sheet for the Gunners, whom are playing successfully under their score more than the opposition belief.
We’ll see how serious Arsenal’s title challenge is over the next month when play Manchester United, Stoke City, Chelsea, Birmingham City and Manchester City before their FA Cup third round match with Leeds in the new year.
Arsenal are currently 7/2 third favourites to win this seasons Premier League.