By Michael Clements
I'll tell you what, now's not a bad time to be an Arsenal fan. Top of the league, some solid World class players in the ranks and perhaps even more intriguing is the potential we've got waiting in the wings.
As we continue our epic FA Cup unbeaten run to surge into the 4th round, it's the players you might least expect that are firing on all cylinders.
While Sunderland looked bright at moments, Wenger's decision to shake up the starting lineup proved successful as the Black Cats were downed 3-1 at the Emirates. We saw the likes of Gibbs, Gabriel, Chambers, Chamberlain and Iwobi start for The Arsenal and the impressive Joel Campbell given yet another nod by the boss.
It was Campbell who stole the show for me, adding creativity, energy and that much needed spark that made the difference for Arsenal on the day. What's funny, is when he made a few cameos a season or two ago, my main concern with the lad is that he seemed a little lazy. Recently he has been anything but that, and often seems to be one of the most active boys on the pitch. He netted a nice goal from a Walcott assist and thankfully opted not to fumble around for his dummy (pacifier) and instead showed his appreciation to the Arsenal faithful for their recent support of him.
While it's nice to see a player come into the team and be successful, you can't help but think this might be a little different, and that Joel Campbell might be making a legitimate claim for a solid starting spot. Perhaps his biggest competition at the moment, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been quite disappointing. Clearly the Ox needs a little confidence as nothing seems to be going his way. The 22 year old Englishman has found it hard to stake his claim as a starter, but it's certainly not for lack of effort, and maybe that's what's so worrying - has he got what it takes to make that final push and be the player we all thought he could be? I certainly hope so, as he checks all the other boxes we generally look for in an Arsenal player. Classy fella, lightening pace etc., but I can't help but be concerned he's heading down that road of no return with his recent mediocre form. I commend the boss for continuing to give him minutes, but fairly soon he's going to run out of patience.
A player I continue to be impressed by is Hector Bellarin. The 20 year old Spaniard is shaping up to be one of the brightest young stars we've seen at this club in a long time. He had two assists in the FA Cup 3rd round match and looked convincing at both ends of the pitch. A truly stunning find by Wenger and, while it's a shame that Debuchy lost out, it's going to be an exciting few years ahead for both Bellarin and Arsenal fans.
Iwobi deserves a mention, as he looked to be something more than just a bench warmer who makes 90th minute cameos. He's a big dude and seems not only intelligent, but very creative on the ball. We all know he's not going to push the mighty Giroud out of the squad, but another solid prospect for sure.
The reserve players coming through recently is quite exciting - it was only a year or so ago we were discussing how our youth/reserve setup was faltering and we had nothing to build on. It seems we've made a couple of discoveries lately and let's not forget Reine-Adelaide.... the future doesn't look so gloomy anymore, but of course a couple of signings this month wouldn't do any damage.
Come On You Gunners!