In this monthly series, Hatta explores the best 3 Arsenal players and their impact on the team.
Unlike that popular song by Green Day, I don’t want to be woken up at the end of September as it’s been a productive month for Arsenal. 6 wins on the trot (4 in the league) has put some optimism back into the Gunners fanbase. The performances haven’t always backed up the results as it’s still a work in progress by Unai Emery and the team.
Adding some order to that chaos were 3 players who have played the biggest roles in Arsenal’s success in September.
Cech had an extremely rocky start to the season. The new manager’s reputation and highlights from pre-season suggested that he will implement a high pressing strategy which requires the keep to be good at his feet as a distributor and unorthodox playmaker.
Many doubted that Cech would start the season as our No. 1 with big money signing, Bernd Leno, coming in with a reputation as a new-age sweeper keeper who was great with his feet. Cech is old school. His strengths are based around commanding the box and stopping shots and crosses – not playing the ball out with his feet. It comes as no surprise as his best days were at Chelsea, a team which, despite the carousel of managers through the years, have shown a decent defensive solidity and a penchant for a low block. Mourinho’s first stint there laid the foundations for their defensive strength.
Which is why it came as a major shock to many that he started the games against Manchester City and Chelsea. He struggled to be the first point of build-up, albeit against some of the best teams in the league. It could have been so easy to have been deflated by the whole experience but Cech kept his head up and continued pushing on.
The opposition were not as good in September and that allowed Cech to be under less pressure on the ball. He still had some nervy moments with the ball at his feet but for the most part, he kept us in the game with crucial saves. The Arsenal defence and midfield are still struggling for shape and organization and it was only through the gloves of Cech that we got those wins in the league. Cech’s best performance was against Everton has he made countless saves to ensure Arsenal got their first clean sheet of the season.
Cech has proven through his career that he’s a consummate professional and this season may just be one of the best examples yet. He’s in the twilight of his playing career, tasked with something out of his comfort zone but he turns up at work every day looking to apply himself fully. It may not be perfect but that’s not on him.
At the end of last season, I thought he had at least 1 good year left in him at the top level. I’m glad he’s spending that year at Arsenal, contributing to keeping goals out and showing a fantastic attitude in adapting to new situations. A world class role model for any professional in any field.
Lacazette has had an indifferent start to his Arsenal career last season but seemed to have found his groove towards the end. This year, in Aubameyang, he’s had to contend with another elite striker, vying for his spot in the team. It seemed that his place was under threat when Aubameyang started the first couple of games in August but he showed his value by coming on to great effect in both the Manchester City and Chelsea games.
He provides a focal point for the team by holding the ball up diligently, aggressively harrying opposition defenders, linking up play with the attacking players and scoring goals. Everything you want in a modern centre forward. Emery saw this too and in September, he moved Aubameyang wide to allow Lacazette’s all round play to flourish.
Lacazette has scored 2 goals and registered 2 assists in September alone. One of his best performances came in the game against Cardiff where he laid off the ball for Aubameyang with an instinctive back heel for the assist and won the game with a powerful strike into the top corner from an acute angle.
It is testament to Lacazette’s quality that he’s usurped the club’s record signing to lead the attack and that he’s thrived despite his supporting cast of Ozil, Ramsey and Aubameyang struggling to find any form of fluency. He’s been carrying the attack and one can only imagine how devastating he will be with a more fluent midfield behind him.
Eyebrows were raised when Sokratis was purchased from Borussia Dortmund for a transfer fee of just below £18m. It’s not a small fee for a defender who just turned 30. The move also seemed like a lazy decision by Sven Mislintat, the Head of Recruitment who previously led Dortmund’s scouting department. Fans were expecting the next hidden gem, the next Kagawa. Instead, Sven called on his old club for a favour and Arsenal got a player who was marginalized in his last season at club that was struggling for consistency.
Upon his arrival, Sokratis spoke about his contribution as a senior player and leader but we saw very little of that in his first couple of games. The team looked disorganized and it would be fair to say that he was still learning about his teammates and was acclimatizing to the manager’s instructions.
Sokratis started the season looking average but his performances started improving from the game against Newcastle. He showed a good reading of the game and covered well for a Mustafi’s lapses in concentration. Sokratis also has had to curb his instinct to charge in for a tackle as he’s assumed a bit more of a role as an organizer alongside his defensive partner.
Some of that leadership was evident too when he berated Mustafi for his mistake in the game against Everton.
It’s been a shame that he got injured and missed the Watford game. Possibly, that was Emery playing it safe as we’ve got a long season ahead with only so many centre backs. I would like to see him paired with Holding, who seems a more competent defender than Mustafi, and is comfortable on the ball too. Arsenal need a leader in defence and Sokratis looks to be growing into that role.
Honorable mention: Lucas Torreira
The Uruguayan terrier would have made the list if he played more. The new signing has been slowly embedded into the team with substitute appearances but has shone in most of the matches he played in. He has since dislodged Guendouzi to form a solid partnership with Xhaka. Watch this space as I have a feeling he’ll be appearing on this list for many months to come.