ARSENAL IN TOP FORM – BUT WILL IT LAST?
Arsenal prove they can fight for the league title
After Arsenal’s goalless draw with Middlesbrough at the Emirates last weekend the inevitable questions were raised about the north London side’s title credentials.
That frustrating result led many to suggest the Gunners would once again flatter to deceive this season and when Jermain Defoe made it 1-1 after 62 minutes at Sunderland yesterday the naysayers were once again out in full force. But a mere 14 minutes later Arsenal were celebrating a fourth goal and proving that there is steel and determination in this side.
This rapid response to disappointment has not been a trait often associated with Arsene Wenger’s side in recent years. Too often they have capitulated when things have not been going their way.
However, at the Stadium of Light there were plenty of reasons for Arsenal fans to be cheerful.
Alexis Sanchez is excelling in his role as a striker, taking to the challenge much in the same way Thierry Henry thrived when moved from a wide position into the centre by Wenger all those years ago.
There is strength on the bench with Olivier Giroud making an instant impact, while Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finally look threatening after years of frustration.
But it is perhaps the spine of this Arsenal side that will please the fans the most.
In Shkodran Mustafi, Wenger has found a reliable and accomplished partner for Laurent Koscielny, while Petr Cech will always produce saves that will win Arsenal important vital points throughout the season.
Then, in the heart of midfield, Arsenal have protection for their previously fragile defence in Mohamed Elneny, Francois Coquelin and Granit Xhaka – who missed the Sunderland game through suspension.
Gone is the soft centre seen at the start of the season against Liverpool, now Arsenal have the steel needed to allow their attacking players to flourish.
On paper rock-bottom Sunderland – who look destined for relegation this season – may not have appeared the ultimate litmus test but it was an examination that all-too often Arsenal would have failed.
Wenger knew it too, judging by his comments after the game. He said: “At 1-1 you can lose the game but it was how we respond. Do we panic, give up, feel sorry for ourselves? We responded well and in the end it was a comfortable win.”
There will be bigger tests ahead, but Arsenal players and fans have reasons to feel optimistic.
RAPID RESPONSE: Olivier Giroud scored twice after Arsenal had been pegged back by lowly Sunderland