28 September 2013

Arsenal 2-1 Swansea: Ramsey. Again. Yawn.

This is getting a bit ridiculous, to be honest. Ramsey has scored yet again (eight goals on fourteen total shots) added an assist, and again led the team in tackles (7). He turned in a rather pedestrian 80% pass accuracy, so I'm sure that the Piers Morgans of the world will point out that they don't understand what people see in him. Everyone's entitled to having their opinions, of course, but not every opinion is entitled to being
had. However, tempting as it is to gush yet again over Ramsey's form, let's not neglect the man of the hour, Serge Gnabry, player of 271 minutes of competitive football in the last seven days, and, more importantly, scorer of his first Prem League goal.

In a gutsy performance that follows closely on the heels of an uncertain one against West Brom, highlighted by his PK being saved, the 18-year old German turned in a stellar all-around performance. In fact, were it not for some poor finishing from some more-seasoned teammates (who shall remain nameless), we might have seen Gnabry turn in an assist or two as well, such was the quality of his play today. It's of course too early to anoint him with anything, but he has announced his intentions and should become something special in due time. Without stoking the fire any further, at 18 years, 76 days old, he's now the second-youngest player to score a Prem goal for Arsenal, behind Cesc Fabregas, who scored at 17 years, 113 days. The goal was smartly taken after some clever passing around the edge of Swansea's box, with Gnabry slotting home coolly to the far post, out of reach of the sprawling Vorm. Just as impressive as the shot itself is Gnabry's jump back to both stay onside and to square up for the shot. You can see a gif here, thanks to arsenalist.com.

On a day that saw Spurs draw with Chelsea, Man U lose at home to West Brom, and Man City lose away to Aston Villa, it was all the more vital that we take all three points. We now sit alone in first place, two points above Spurs, four points clear of Chelsea, and five above Man City. In a situation that is bound to change, Man U languish in 12th place behind newly promoted Cardiff and Hull City. While there are still questions for us to answer, especially regarding squad depth and rotation, we offer a rosy picture of stability and intent compared to our rivals. Additionally, we should see the issue of squad depth actually improve with the impending returns to fitness of Santi Cazorla and Tomáš Rosický next week, and of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, both scheduled to return on or around 19 October. We're on a run of form that has seen us win nine games in a row, including all six away-matches on the season. It's therefore a bit astonishing to think that, in spite of our apparent thinness and injuries, we're looking to get even stronger.

It's still early days, of course, and a lot can happen between now and 11 May. We can and should celebrate this win and our position the table without getting presumptuous about what these mean for the long haul. As hard as it is to resist unbridled optimism, let's remember that we've played just six of 38 matches, face a tricky league-cup visit from Chelsea, and are only one match into the Champions League group phase. As vital as today's win was, then, it was similarly important to see the growth of another young player who can slot in and contribute. Gnabry may be only eighteen, but he looks to be the real deal. The squad as a whole, with its mix of youth and experience, is starting to look much the same, real enough to be touted as contenders for the Prem title or other silverware.

Heady days, indeed, but headaches could still come up. October sees us host Napoli to start and Dortmund to finish, matches that could prove our quality or expose our flaws. Rather than looking too far ahead, though, let's savor another solid victory for what it is: three points, three points that none of our rivals can match on this day. Yes, Liverpool visits Sunderland on Sunday and could climb to second with a win, but they, like everyone else, are trying to keep up with us. That's a nice change of pace, and one I hope we can sustain over the long run.

That's all for now. You can check my player-ratings here. If you have a minute before you go, I hope you'll consider casting a vote for Woolwich 1886 in the Football Blogging Awards' Best New Blog category. You can click here to vote through twitter or here to receive an email ballot. Whether you vote or not, thank you for your visit, and I invite you to weigh in in the comments section below. Thanks!