A good start, but can Arsenal go on with it?
Steven Gerrard fights with Abou Diaby during Liverpool's defeat to Arsenal (Image: AFP)
Football, like so many things in life, is relative. On the same day Robin van Persie tucked home a hat-trick for Manchester United, two new stars were making names for themselves in Arsenal colours.
Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat of a dreadful Liverpool will give Gunners fans plenty of hope they can provide a genuine title challenge this season.
Lukas Podolski scored his first Arsenal goal with aplomb but it was the display of new Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla which stole the show.
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger pointed out after the match that Cazorla was never going to be the type of player who took six months to settle into English football.
At the rate he’s going, Cazorla will soon have the English game by the scruff of the neck after the Spanish international tormented the Liverpool defence, setting up Podolski’s goal before scoring himself past a woefully out of form Pepe Reina.
There is already talk of Cazorla having a Dennis Bergkamp-like influence on the team and with his cerebral approach to the game it’s not hard to understand the comparison.
But it’s silverware that Gunners fans crave – they haven’t won a major trophy since the 2005 FA Cup – and it will take ending that long drought for Cazorla to etch himself into Arsenal history alongside a player of Bergkamp’s stature.
Cazorla will be relieved to have got off the mark against Liverpool, as will Podolski, and now all that’s left is for French newcomer Oliver Giroud to open his account for the season.
A far more direct player than either Cazorla or Podolski, Giroud was brought in as the sort of target man Nicklas Bendnter failed to turn out to be – one who actually scores goals.
But the longer the Frenchman goes without getting on the scoresheet, the more pressure he’ll find himself under.
It was at the other end some pundits expected Arsenal to struggle most, not least after the Gunners sold defensive-minded midfielder Alex Song to Barcelona over the summer.
Yet three clean sheets in a row in Arsenal’s first three league fixtures suggests keeping teams out might not be such a problem, although it must be said the Gunners are yet to face a top side.
The promotion of Belgian centre-back Thomas Vermaelen to the captaincy role left vacant by van Persie has instilled more leadership at the back, while Vermaelen’s defensive partner Per Mertesacker and the quietly effective Abou Diaby in midfield have also chimed in with some solid defensive displays.
Indeed, Arsenal fans can feel quietly confident that after a pre-season of conjecture their team is coming together quite nicely.
The UEFA Champions League could throw a spanner in the works – Arsenal have been drawn against Schalke, Olympiacos and Giroud’s former team Montpellier, with the final set to take place at Wembley – but to date it’s been a case of so far, so good for the Gunners as they kick off their Premier League campaign.
The question now is whether Arsenal can transform a decent start into some genuine early-season momentum.
With crucial fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea to come at the end of the month, they’re in prime position to do precisely that.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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