With us in the middle of the most boring time in football – a pointless international break filled with glorified friendlies, it is perhaps a chance to reflect on the start of the season, and see how the new boys have bedded in.
To many peoples frustration, Petr Cech start began the season as first choice keeper.
Unai Emery’s philosophy is that new players have to force their way in, to prove that they are better than the incumbent first team players. This led to Cech starting the season as number 1.
Leno’s opening came when Cech limped off injured against Watford in the league. Prior to that he had only played in the Europa League and League Cup – where he conceded goals but did not have much to do.
Against Watford he looked a little shaky, coming off the bench. However he made some smart stops and distribution was excellent.
Fulham was a vastly improved performance, with some sharp saves. He could have done little with their goal.
It will take a while for him to get used to the physical side of the Premier League – with the bumping and barging at corners. His shot stopping and distribution are certainly up to standard.
With Cech set to miss the next 3 or 4 games, Leno will have plenty of time to establish himself as first choice.
The experienced Swiss right back has not had much of a chance this season.
Beyond a substitute appearance at left back versus Manchester City, his 3 starts have been limited to the Europa League and League Cup.
His influence on the pitch may well be happening at the training ground, however.
Lichtsteiner has bought some leadership to the playing squad, and you have to feel that he has bought his winners mentality to the training ground.
We have also seen improvements in Hector Bellerin as the season has gone on. The presence of Lichtsteiner must surely be helping to push the Spaniards performances to the next level.
It would not overly surprise me if Lichtsteiner’s one-year deal was extended by a further 12 months.
Greek centre back Sokratis (I can not be bothered to Google his surname) has split opinion.
Some have labelled him clumsy, slow and uncultured, whilst others have praised him for being aggressive, and focusing on defending and clearing the ball.
I fall into the later camp.
We focus too much on ball playing centre backs. “Rolls Royce defenders” like Rio Ferdinand. Players like the now retired Englishman who looked classy but could also defend are few and fair between.
Sokratis is a defender. He defends. That is what he is paid for.
What he creates is a rock at the back that others can play around. A reliable defender that will let Arsenal go out and get a ball playing partner, knowing they have a solid option next to him.
He is more Vidic than Ferdinand, and is exactly what Arsenal have needed for a decade.
Uruguayan central midfielder Lucas Torreira has been a revolution since he broke into the team. He is exactly the player we have been missing for some years.
Like Sokratis, he understands his role within a balanced XI. He is there to defend, to shield the back 4, to provide them cover. His influence on the entire team is obvious to all.
Torreira not only defends, however. He can also play. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, he has given the side another passing option alongside Xhaka.
The sign of a top player is they make those around them look better, Torreira has done this with Xhaka. It is a partnership that we can look forward to developing as the years role on.
It is incredible to think that Torreira is just 22-years old. He will deveop into one of the best central midfields in the world.
Whilst Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool went big on Fred, Jorginho, Fabinho and Kieta, Arsenal secured Torreira for just £22m – we clearly got the best player.
Onwards and upwards for the lad!
The greatest compliment you can give Matteo Guendouzi is that people are now wondering why we did not cash in on Aaron Ramsey in the summer.
Football is easy in hindsight, and no one could have guessed when we signed the 19-year old Sideshow Bob impersonator from the French Division 2 for just £7million that he would be pushing senior team mates down the pecking order.
The fear for the club over the summer with Ramsey is that we only had 2 senior midfielders – Xhaka and Elneny. Torreira was a new signing and Guendouzi was coming in to be on the fringes of the first team squad. He was pencilled in for the Europa League and League Cup.
Due to players returning from the World Cup, Guendouzi got some game time. And he has proved the old age correct. If you are good enough, you are old enough.
People already actually forget that he is just 19. He is younger than Mason Mount, who was called up for the England squad after some impressive displays in the Championship.
He has not been perfect this season. He is a little bit slow on the ball when passing, and doesn’t easily make space for himself to receive the ball off the defenders. But he is 19-years old, and will improve.
Guendouzi has moved ahead of Elneny in the pecking order and is first choice back up for Xhaka and Torreira. His performances are going to save Arsenal a lot of money when it comes to Ramsey leaving.
The Frenchman will have a bad patch. All young players do. But with the squad depth around him, Emery will be able to take him out when he is performing poorly.
This lad has a bright future.
In summary, the first full transfer window for Sven Mislintat has been a success. He has added some experienced leaders to the squad, and signed some very talented young players.
He seems to have bought pro-active planning to Arsenal’s transfers for the first time in years.