The month of December has always been a very crucial period in the English Premier League. With a busy schedule building up to the midway-point of the season, this month has often provided a strong indication of how both halves of the league-table may come to look at the end of the season.
Being the most-experienced manager in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger must be well aware of that. And it should give him good reason to be quietly overjoyed with the performance of his young Arsenal side in the current campaign. A third of the season has whizzed by as we step into December and its Arsenal leading the race for the Premiership title.
Yet not many could have foreseen such a thing happening at the start of the season. Not after the 1-3 loss to Aston Villa at the Emirates stadium on opening-day. Critics then argued that it would be a very difficult campaign for the Gunners, predicting the club to go steadily down the path of slow decline on which it seemed to be for the past few seasons.
There was growing unrest amongst the Arsenal faithful as well. Fans were getting impatient to see their team win trophies again, something they had not managed since 2005. To add to their dismay, Arsene Wenger failed to make any major summer signings after a long-drawn £40 million bid for striker Luis Suarez was firmly declined by Liverpool. Wenger also failed in his attempts at landing Wayne Rooney from Manchester United and Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid who ultimately preferred to join Rafael Benitez at Napoil.
Wenger found himself under severe pressure and needed to make additions to his squad simply to bolster the aspirations of the team and its fans, who agonizingly watched their neighbours Tottenham splurge over a £100 on new players during the summer transfer window. The Frenchman has never been one to splash the cash, although he always maintained he was ready to do it for the right player.
That right player as it turned was Mesut Ozil. The Real Madrid playmaker was made available by the Spanish club in order to generate a substantial part of the funds they needed to complete the impending world-record transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur.
It proved to be the perfect opportunity that Wenger was waiting for. He decided to smash the club’s transfer record with a £42.4 million offer to bring home the coveted midfielder on the deadline day of the transfer window.
The Gunners reaped instant benefits from the influx of Mesut Ozil into their starting line-up. Ozil had been La Liga’s top assist-man for the past two seasons and he got on to business straightaway providing two assists on his debut at Sunderland. Since then the German international has bagged four more assists in the league besides having a crucial hand in numerous other goals and has also hit the back of the net on two occasions. His arrival will definitely be termed as the turning point in Arsenal’s fortunes if they go on to win any silverware this season.
But overshadowing Ozil’s stellar performances, Aaron Ramsey has undoubtedly been the best player in an Arsenal shirt this season. With eight goals and four assists thus far, Ramsey has been in sparkling form and his confidence levels have sky-rocketed in the past three months.
The 21-year old Welshman has had a tough couple of seasons struggling with his form and confidence since returning from his lengthy absence due to a broken ankle injury. But this term he is a rejuvenated player who is enjoying his time out in the field and that has helped him to bring his potential to the fore.
The sensational accomplishments of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are however, only a testimony to the coaching acumen of Arsene Wenger. The massively experienced Frenchman knew that the £40 million-odd he paid for the playmaker was absolutely worth it as he expected Ozil to fit into Arsenal system as well as he did.
In Ramsey’s case, he showed unwavering faith to the player by giving him a lot of game-time, although his decisions often bewildered the fans and critics alike. Now he is simply reaping the benefits of that patient nurturing with Ramsey seemingly knocking in goals for fun these days.
Stability within a football club is of utmost importance according to Wenger. With the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City all showing inconsistent form this season under new management, Wenger may have hinted at a perfectly good reason as to why Arsenal has emerged as the top contenders for the Premier League title.
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