Arsenal got back to winning ways in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win over erstwhile bogey side Bolton Wanderers but this fleeting success will only go a small way towards assuaging the doubt that has crept into the minds of the Emirates faithful with regards their long-serving manager Arsene Wenger.
Football Burp looks at three Gunners who impressed this weekend, three Gunners who need to up their game and one Gunner who could go either way…
Robin van Persie – An obvious selection given the two well-taken goals which took Arsenal’s joint second best ever Dutchman to the one hundred goal mark. While we shall refrain from exaggerating Wenger’s comparison of van Persie’s role with that of Lionel Messi’s for Barcelona, he at the very least mentioned them in the same breath and you wonder how much of that is down to the player’s reluctance to discuss an extended contract. In any case, van Persie’s 2011 record thus far of 32 goals in 35 appearances for club and country certainly merits comparison with anyone out there.
Alex Song – Cute late goal aside, the 24 year-old Cameroonian demonstrated that he has more to his game than your average defensive midfielder with a through-ball to Theo Walcott that a certain Cesc Fabregas would have been proud of. While Song is perhaps not as pugnacious as the likes of Gilberto Silva and Mathieu Flamini, he is still adept at breaking up opposition attacks while his close control and range of passing make him an effective contributor to his own side’s forages. It remains to be seen if he can remain consistent across a whole season but, especially in the absence of Jack Wilshere, he is first choice now and as such a certain level is demanded from him.
Mikel Arteta – Reports that the Spaniard hadn’t been quite the same since suffering a ruptured cruciate knee ligament in 2009 were always wide of the mark, given that he returned roughly a year later and proceeded to look as impressive as ever for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. While he had a sub-par 2010-11 season for Everton, he is starting to look more and more like his old self with each passing appearance for his new club, taking players on once more and keeping possession ticking over very nicely indeed from midfield. Comparisons to Fabregas are unfortunately inevitable but, so far, Arteta is certainly holding his own.
Honourable mention – Wojciech Szczesny consolidated his status as the answer to Arsenal’s goalkeeping problems with an excellent flying save from Bolton’s Darren Pratley. Kieran Gibbs also continued his promising recent form.
Theo Walcott – At 22, Walcott is still some way off his prime but his latest spurned opportunity, a one-on-one with Jussi Jaaskelainen in which he had enough time to read the match day programme cover to cover, casts further doubt over whether he is worth the time and, with a new contract in the offing, money. The young forward’s pace makes him a useful weapon at times – occasionally a devastating weapon – but his decision-making shows no signs of improving, while his susceptibility to injuries and apparent disinclination to play out wide are further blots on his copybook. Still, his 13 goals and 8 assists last season represented a better return than that of Samir Nasri, so he must be doing something right.
Aaron Ramsey – Another young player with supreme talent, the Welshman deserves to be cut a little more slack than Walcott given that he is by two years his junior. A tendency to dilly dally on the ball needs to be worked on and while his overall contribution was satisfactory on this occasion – he was after all involved in all three goals as well as Bolton’s red card – one suspects that there is more natural talent lurking within than is currently being shown. Probably wouldn’t be a regular at the moment were it not for injuries but the responsibility can only help his long-term progression.
Gervinho – Lively and willing to try things but bad decision-making in the final third again proved to be his downfall. It’s early days for the 24 year-old Ivorian but he has to show more than he did on Saturday if he’s to cement his place in Wenger’s front three.
Per Mertesacker – A much-needed calm presence in the Gunners’ back four but lacks pace and perhaps not as dominant in the air as had been hoped. However, the German reads the game well so, while he lost out to Kevin Davies in a few aerial challenges, he was able to deal with the second ball well.
Do you agree with our selections? Have your say in the comments section below…