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Lorton: Arsenal shoots for the stars (Sept. 27)

Isaac Lorton | Friday, September 27, 2013

 

Arsenal is gunning for the top.

For those of you who do not care about soccer, you should. For those of you who care about soccer, you should pay attention. For those of you who follow the English Premier League, you should take a seat.

Because the Arsenal Gunners will win the English Premier League.

Yes, you heard it here: after five games of the season, I am predicting Arsenal will return to the top of the tables and will put an end to its silverware drought.

Now, I know what you are saying (or trying to say through fits of self-righteous laughter and exaggerated eye rolls). The Gunners have not won the title since 2004. In recent years, they have been like a B-list actor – always trying to recreate that one shining moment of a career. Arsenal is the Ben Affleck of the EPL. They hang around the top teams but are not quite good enough to break through to get that Oscar nod (I understand that Affleck has won an Oscar, but not as an actor).

Yes, they are hanging around third or fourth or fifth place every year, but they do not have what it takes anymore to be the top team. Yes, they are rich, but what does all of that money have to show for it? Yes, they have won before, but quit living in the past.

And to all of that, I say, you’re wrong. Something is different with this Arsenal club.

Arsenal currently sits atop the EPL with a 4-0-1 record. It is early in the season and the team has yet to play Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea, but Arsenal did have a solid 1-0 win over a hot Tottenham Hotspur Club.

Right now, the Gunners are playing as a team. Since the 2003-2004 season, Arsenal has not seemed to have the depth or chemistry of the top team in England. Granted, in the 2004 season, they had Thierry Henry, but there was a whole team aspect to each and every game. The Gunners have had their share of difference makers, like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, but something didn’t click. Fabregas left for his home-country, Spain, to play with Barcelona, and van Persie did not re-sign and left for Manchester United, believing Arsenal was not doing enough to get more marquee players to make a championship run.

Maybe Arsenal didn’t do enough, but maybe marquee players weren’t what the squad needed. Maybe it needed team players instead, and Arsenal has gone out and gotten them.

Through a combination of young guns and veterans, the Gunners have come out of the gates with intent at the top.

After RVP’s departure, they picked up assist-master Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and goal-minded midfielder Lukas Podolski from Bayern Munich, and Olivier Giroud stepped into the role of primary striker. Arsenal has played youngsters, like 20-year-olds Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thomas Eisfeld, in the midfield, and 17-year-old Chuba Akpom up top. Eisfeld scored the sole goal and Akpom put home one of the winning penalty kicks Wednesday against West Brom, as Arsenal advanced in the Capital One Cup.

The young guys are grounded by veteran players, like defenders Per Mertesacker and captain Thomas Vermaelen, forward Theo Walcott, and midfielder and vice-captain Mikel Arteta.          

Overall, it looks as if a team is out on the field with everyone contributing, rather than one or two guys doing the work.

And despite recent short-term injuries to Podolski, Arteta and midfielder Jack Wilshere, the Gunners are holding it together and finding ways to win. In previous years, key players going down like this would have caused Arsenal to slide in the table, but others are stepping up.

Take, for example, midfielder Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey had been written off by many as a mediocre player, but he has seven goals in eight appearances with Arsenal so far this season.

It is this grittiness, determination and perseverance which will put Arsenal back on top of the English Premier League and put an end to its silverware drought.

I am no longer looking at the past; I am looking at right now and at the future because Arsenal has established itself as a contender.

 

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.