17 August 2013, The Emirates Stadium, London. Arsenal have just been handed a 3-1 drubbing by Aston Villa on the opening day of the English Premier League. The fans booed their own team off the pitch and chants of “sack Wenger” were being heard all over the world.
Wenger’s reluctance to spend big during transfer windows has been the major talking point over many years. The press and fans alike were writing off Arsenal as they failed to sign some big-name players like Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney. Up until the final day of the transfer window, the Gunners had only signed Yana Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini on free transfers.
But Wenger pulled one out the hat…eventually, by signing German international Mezut Ozil, from Real Madrid for £42.5 million. No doubt helped by the Madrid giants’ signing of Gareth Bale!
But since that opening day defeat to Villa, the Gunners have marched to six consecutive victories in all competitions, starting with a 3-1 victory at Craven Cottage against Fulham. The following week saw the North Londoners triumph over their fierce neighbours, Spurs, 1-0. Since that North London derby win, the Gunners have notched up victories over Sunderland, Marsaille and twice against Fenerbache in the Champions League. The victory over Marsaille on Wednesday was their 10th straight away victory.
Things might actually be coming together for the Gunners, despite rumours from striker, Olivier Giroud, that the squad is still too thin. The capture of Ozil has been seen as the right one, with the attacking midfielder turning in two excellent performances for his new club.
Arsenal’s run of form has been helped by the fact that Aaron Ramsey has scored six goals in seven appearances from midfield thus far, along with Giroud’s five goals. Lukas Podolski has netted twice before being injured and Theo Walcott netted his first goal of the season during the 2-1 victory over Marseille in the south of France.
Arsenal still have the likes of Santi Carzola and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain to return from injury, which will bolster the attacking options for Wenger.
There still remains a question mark over the Gunners’ defence thoigh. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have been the preferred choice for the centre of defence, with Kierran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna filling the fullback berths. Sagna has had to fill in at centre back after Kosciely was sent off against Villa and Thomas Vermaelen being injured. So Wenger will still need to be active during the next transfer window in January, in order to strengthen his defense.
With six victories in seven starts, the pressure seems to be easing on Wenger as his team started with a victory in the so-called group of death in the Champions League and are currently second in the English Premier League. But Arsenal fans will know for sure where their team stands in terms of success by the end of December. They face Liverpool and Manchester United in November and Chelsea, Manchester City and Napoli loom in December.