Four games in. Two wins, two draws. Eight goals scored, one — one — goal conceded. The latest game a 6-1 annihilation of a team that gave the best two teams in England a run for their money, scoring twice and holding leads on both occasions.
From a results point of view our boys have started well this season. The same could be said from a performance point of view.
Leaving aside the goalkeeper’s clanger — a blemish on our defensive record that was more frustrating than forgivable — we have rarely been troubled at the back. Going forward we have improved in a short space of time: from no goals to no goals to two goals to six goals.
But take a look at glance at some of the names on our team sheet from Saturday: Jenkinson. Mertesacker. Gibbs. Oxlade-Chamberlain. Coquelin. Gervinho. These are not the sort of players that would glam up a Barcelona or Manchester City.
We are not a team that looks great on paper. But yet, at this early stage of the season, we are playing well and getting positive results.
To me that says we are functioning well as a team and getting the most out of our star players.
Our new system, featuring two designated holding midfielders, is utilising Santi Cazorla to his fullest. He is able to move wherever he wants and it is showing. His intelligent movement has proved impossible to stop and has been directly involved in nearly every goal we have scored.
A player like Kieran Gibbs is coming to life because he is interacting well with and trusting the man in front of him, Lukas Podolski. Per Mertesacker’s calmness and positional sense is making life easier for an inexperienced Carl Jenkinson. There are little relationships that are forming all over the pitch and they are lifting the performances of the individuals above what we have seen before.
For example, Wenger’s decision to play Gervinho as a central striker was not only inspired because it highlighted the Ivorian’s knack for a clever off-the-ball run but because it allowed Podolski to stay in his favoured spot on the left. By sticking to the German’s strengths, which in turn brought the best out of a marauding Gibbs, it allowed the entire forward unit to function more effectively.
In a league with clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea — teams with so much star power it is almost ridiculous — the only way we challenge at the top is by ensuring the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
It’s encouraging at this early stage to see that we might be capable of doing just that.