Arsenal made it nine wins from their last 10 games at the weekend after an impressive 4-1 victory over bottom of the table Sunderland and it represented the sign of maturity that shows that this Arsenal team may be equipped to win the Premier League title for the first time since 2003/04.
Olivier Giroud came on as a substitute in the 69th minute and returned to playing action in style with two goals to secure an emphatic win over David Moyes’ lowly ranked side. And it is Giroud’s attitude which sums up the difference in this Arsenal team compared to yesteryear. Speaking after the win at the weekend the French striker spoke of his delight.
“I hope to come back and work hard at training. But I’m happy as long as we win.
“We have a very good team cohesion. I’m not questioning myself too much about my place. I’m focused on the team.” Quote via Irish Examiner.
Commonly strikers are known to be the most selfish players on the pitch, it is their job to get goals but this highlights the ethos of hard work in this impressive Arsenal side. A side that, after missing their best chance in over a decade to claim a league title last year, are now solely focused on capturing the elusive title and to do this it is no longer a side of individuals and a team that works hard for each other and themselves and this can be most notably seen through the rejuvenated Theo Walcott.
Walcott never hit the dizzy successful heights he was supposed to when he came onto the scene 10 years ago but a change of attitude during the summer from the 27-year-old has paid dividends after a remarkable start to the season.
Arsene Wenger tied Walcott down to a £140,000 a week contract in a time where Arsenal were selling many of their top stars to the likes of Manchester City and other big spenders but the contract negotiations were very much made with the ball in Walcott’s court.
At the time the former Southampton player was desperate to play as a striker and that was very much in the forefront of the negotations but fast forward a year in a campaign where Walcott struggled with injuries and form, lost his starting place and missed out on a place in the England squad for Euro 2016.
A reality check was needed for the Arsenal player and his own selfish desires to play up front have been met with a change of heart and a desire to work for the team.
“I want to make my position on the right — that’s where I know where I am now. I’ve told the manager that I want to be known for playing on the right again, although I can play up front,” Walcott stated during the summer.
“I want to know where I want to play. The manager has said I can play up front. It depends on what game it is. I know I can do a job up front as well as on the right.” Quote via Bleacher Report.
Along with hiring a personal trainer to improve his core strength and an improved work rate that has led to Walcott tracking back and defending have helped Walcott impress this season and 5 goals and 2 assists in 9 games is a return worthy of plaudits.
Having this ‘new’ Theo Walcott is effectively a summer signing in itself with Arsenal now having a versatile winger playing for the team which they didn’t a year ago.
And it is not just Walcott who has come into his own, as brilliant as Alexis Sanchez has been for the club since his arrival in 2014 it has been marred by inconsistency, games that exhibited the Chilean’s sheer class were often followed by quiet performances the week after but since Arsene Wenger has now decided on Sanchez’ best position he has become more consistent in the early stages of the season.
Now playing centre-forward, Sanchez has scored six goals in his nine Premier League appearances and has also added three assists too being one of the standout players in England so far this season. Arsene Wenger now seems to have his starting XI exactly where he wants it with a team that is strong from the very back to the front.
Long have Arsenal struggled to find the winning formula and for years their fans have been crying for Wenger to match Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City in their spending but much like his current crop of players on the field, he was patient in building his side.
The addition of Granit Xhaka during the summer have given the side the grit they need in that holding midfield role and their defence is a mixture of youth and experience with Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscienly looking particularly impressive this season and an attack that boasts the talents of the three players mentioned above and the world class talent that is Mesut Ozil.
With 28 games to go there is still plenty of time for Arsenal to live up to their reputation of choking mid-season but with 23 points from 30 games and sitting atop the table maybe they have finally cracked the winning formula.