Arsenal cruised to a comprehensive victory over Wigan Athletic with Robin van Persie scoring his first hat-trick of the season. It was a cohesive team performance which strengthened the belief of the Gunners that they can win the Premiership title this season. At the same time last season, Arsenal were struggling to cope with the injury to Van Persie and his absence meant that there was too much pressure on captain Cesc Fabregas.
Van Persie is back to his best after scoring six goals in the last three matches and the Gunners are looking strong with him in the team. They have a settled team combination with Engand Internationals Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere establishing their places in the first team which is something not many would have expected at the start of the season.
Arsene Wenger is on the market for a defender due to the long term injury to Thomas Vermaelen who has still not recovered from an Achilles injury sustained by him in August. Johan Djourou has been immense for the Gunners and has made a strong case to continue to start games alongside Vermaelen in the future.
With less than half the season to go, the Gunners are still fighting for the title on all four fronts and as Wenger said, they need to keep their best players fit to win titles this season. In this slideshow are the five most important players for Arsenal FC.
5. Johan Djourou
The Swiss International was expected to be the fourth choice defender for Arsenal who would play lesser number of games than the others. Also, he was only returning from a long term injury at the start of the season and it was not known when he would be back to his best form. Djourou has dispelled doubts concerning his quality as he has produced consistent performances this season.
Though he started the season as the fourth choice centre back, he has played in many Premiership games this season and has surely moved ahead of Sebastien Squillaci in the pecking order. Djourou and Koscielny have both been excellent in the recent past and both of them are very important this season.
There is every chance that Wenger might not sign a quality centre back in January which means that Djourou will have a key role this season. When the Swiss International has played, the Gunners have looked solid and they have acquired more clean sheets with him in the team than without him.
4. Cesc Fabregas
The captain is arguably Arsenal’s most creative player and can create goals out of nothing. His vision and creativity is extremely important to the Gunners and he can pick out the runs of the striker which helps him supply killer passes like the one to Van Persie for his second goal. The Spaniard is Arsenal’s leader in midfield and dominates and controls the play from the area.
He has developed a superb understanding with Alex Song and Jack Wilshere and at times, swaps positions with any one of the duo which creates more problems for the midfielders. Arsenal have quick wide players and Fabregas’ through-balls to them helps the Gunners to create more opportunities through them as well.
Fabregas also has the knack of scoring vital goals like the one against Chelsea and gets into good positions. He shares a telepathic relationship with Dutch striker Van Persie and both of them are at their best when the influential Arsenal captain plays behind his deputy.
3. Robin van Persie
The Dutch striker scored his first hat-trick in a long time and has looked extremely sharp in recent games, which is a huge boost to the Gunners. The quality of the forward is undeniable but he is prone to injuries and the Gunners will hope that he can stay fit for the rest of the season. Though Marouane Chamakh has performed admirably in his first season in England, Robin van Persie is the best striker that Arsenal have and they need him to play in the big games.
The Dutchman is also a leader at the club and youngsters look up to him for inspiration. He is also excellent in creating opportunities for others which makes him a very dangerous player. In close games against tough opponents, they might not get many opportunities to score and Van Persie being a lethal finisher is a very important player in these situations.
Van Persie has missed a large chunk of the season due to an ankle injury but has still scored eight goals this season which is very respectable considering he has played very less number of minutes. Also, other attackers benefit from the presence of the flying Dutchman because of his creativity which is vital to the team.
2. Alex Song
Alexandre Song has developed rapidly from being a fringe player to one of the most important player to the Gunners in a span of around 18 months. Though he plays deep as a holding midfielder, he has developed excellent attacking qualities and has provided many moments of attacking brilliance this season. He has scored very vital goals like the ones against Manchester City and Chelsea and has also provided an excellent shield for the defence.
Song developed into a quality defensive midfielder last season but this season has seen him progress further and he has improved his passing, technique and vision. His partnership with Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere has been excellent and the trio have been able to create opportunities for the likes of Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri.
Though Song’s role is primarily as a defensive midfielder, he has developed the instinct to join in with the attacks at the right time which provides Arsenal more threat in attack. The Gunners do not have a proper replacement for Song who provides steel in midfield which is why it is vital that Wenger provides him enough rest over the course of the season as possible.
1. Samir Nasri
The French midfielder was touted to be the next “Zidane” due to his impressive performances as a teenager for Olympic Marseille and has always possessed immense talent. However he has been inconsistent in the past which is why he has been unable to fulfil his potential before this season. He was dropped for the World Cup in South Africa and since then, he has been outstanding for the Gunners showing why the manager made a cardinal sin by excluding him for the important tournament.
Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie have both spent a lot of time on the sidelines this season and one of the main reasons why Arsenal still remain in contention on all four fronts is the superb form of Samir Nasri who has scored a total of 14 goals this seasons which is higher than what he managed in the two seasons before this one ( 7 goals in 2008-09 and 5 goals in 2009-10 ). He has scored some brilliant solo goals while many others have been scored due to his intelligent movement and his composure in front of goal.
Nasri’s versatility has also meant that he has played in various positions this seasons and provides a lot of flexibility to the team. Since the departure of Robert Pires, Arsenal have not had too many goal-scoring wingers but Nasri can certainly score a number of goals and he has the capability to produce it on a regular basis.