COMMENTARY | Eight matches into the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season, Arsenal sit atop of the standings. While that statement alone is fairly surprising to most soccer fans around the world, the Arsenal players do not appear to be surprised one bit.
In recent years, the Gunners started off their campaigns slowly, forcing themselves to qualify for a Champions League spot on the final match of the season. Last season after eight Premier League matches, the Gunners were in ninth place (dropping to 10th place after their 15th match), and two seasons ago, Arsenal was in 10th place after their first eight matches of the season.
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey reiterated the importance of a fast start by the team when he told Arsenal.com, "That's one of the biggest things we've improved on is the start of the season. We've struggled in the last few years and had to play catch-up. Now we've started very strongly, we're top of the league and that's where we want to stay."
Part of the team's fast start can be attributed to the signing of Mesut Özil. Current Arsenal vice-captain, Mikel Arteta, praised the team's decision to sign Özil, telling Arsenal.com, "I think it was a great message from the Club (to sign Özil) because everybody was expecting a top, top player - probably a striker more than a No 10 - but at the end we got an amazing player."
Arteta went on to give credit to Özil saying, "I think he has lifted not only us but you can see the people are excited again to come and watch us and it makes a big difference."
Another reason for Arsenal's flying start is the outstanding play of midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international has arguably been the best player in the Premier League so far, scoring five goals and adding three assists in the team's eight matches. According to Whoscored.com, the three highest-rated Premier League players of the season are all Arsenal players (Ramsey, Özil, and striker Olivier Giroud).
The Gunners have always possessed talent under manager Arsene Wenger; however, it now appears that the team has something in which previous Arsenal teams have lacked: belief. One can see this belief and confidence oozing out of the players during this season's matches.
For Arsenal to stay atop the standings for the entire season, and win their first Premier League trophy since the 2003-2004 season, it will come down to the team's defensive play. The Gunners have 18 Premier League goals so far, second only to high-powered Manchester City.
During the team's 4-1 win versus Norwich this past Saturday, Arsenal showed their class with four exceptional goals. The first goal, scored by Jack Wilshere, was one of the greatest team goals you will ever see on a pitch (if you haven't seen it yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu6B0M_iU6g). Some may say that the Gunners looked very Barcelona-esque on Saturday; however, Arsenal was just being Arsenal. There may not be a team in England whose style of play is more attractive than the Gunners.
Yes, it is still very early on in the season, and while Arsenal has won six out of their first eight Premier League matches, the Gunners are yet to play other contending teams (Chelsea, Liverpool, and the two Manchester clubs). However, Arsenal are winning these matches without three very important players: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, and Theo Walcott.
If the Gunners stay healthy, they are without a doubt one of the top contenders to win the Barclays Premier League this season. Arsenal will soon have their chance to prove they belong at the top of the standings, when they play both Liverpool and Manchester United in two out of their next three Premier League matches.
Christopher Moore has been following Arsenal Football Club for over 10 years.
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