Gary Neville: Arsenal must keep their unfashionable five fit and firing for title bid
Gary Neville names the players Arsenal can't afford to lose - and it's not who you might think.
Last Updated: 06/10/13 11:27am
FLAMINI AND THE BACK FOUR
Arsenal's forward players have caught the eye for much of the season, but Gary is keen to focus on their defensive improvements and the free signing of Mathieu Flamini.
"I've always thought Arsenal had character, particularly over the last few years coming back from what looked like difficult positions and qualifying for the Champions League.
"This season they have Mathieu Flamini and probably the strongest back four they've had for a while. I think when you dig beneath Arsenal's squad and you lose a couple of those players it gets a lot weaker. Those five are the key players to keep fit over the next few weeks."
Arsenal's striker Olivier Giroud is another player that his been in fine form this season with six goals in all competitions, but with Nicklas Bendtner the only back-up striker on the bench, Gary says Arsene Wenger must be nervous about Giroud picking up an injury.
"I think the two centre-backs staying fit, the two full-backs, Flamini and Giroud staying fit are as important as what you would call the 'stars' of the team - your Jack Wilshere's, Ozil's and Ramsey's, because I always think Arsenal have got a lot of players they can replace them with - Tomas Rosicky can come back in, Theo Walcott isn't fit at the moment and will come back. I think it would be easier than replacing Giroud at the moment.
"They obviously tried to get Luis Suarez in the transfer window and it didn't happen and I would think Arsene Wenger would be nervous about losing Giroud. I still think that those players that are not as fashionable are the ones that need to stay fit at this moment in time to continue the run of form they are in."
Arsenal have been the most clinical team in Premier League this season - scoring with 21% of their chances and much of that has been down to the resurgence of Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who has scored eight goals in 12 appearances. Gary says the 22-year-old has been outstanding.
"He's been absolutely brilliant - again, you have to talk about a response of character. Manchester United wanted to sign him a few years back and at the time it was between Arsenal and Manchester United - he chose to go to Arsenal, but he was a player that was liked at Old Trafford as well.
"That injury set him back though and affected his confidence, but now it shows what belief Arsene Wenger had in him and what belief Aaron Ramsey had in Wenger; it shows what stability can provide and now he's thriving. It's a good story for everyone in football - sticking with young players, believing in them when times are tough because you'll get there in the end. Ramsey has been the outstanding player in the Premier League this season."
Many thought it would be the Gunners' £42million summer signing Mesut Ozil that would steal the show this season and the German put in a sparkling performance in Arsenal's 2-0 Champions League win over Napoli this week. Gary thinks the best is yet to come from 'The Wizard of Oz'...
"He's been good and I think we'll see more from him [especially after Tuesday night's Champions League performance] but the best is yet to come. I think he's a fantastic player and the best player to sign to the Premier League in summer and there was a lot of money being spent - he's a genuine world-class player.
"At moment in the Premier League he's been slightly overshadowed by Ramsey and Olivier Giroud who are obviously having a really good run of form. He's bedding in to a good period for Arsenal who are playing well. When we see the best of him it's going to be something special."
Do you agree with Gary? Which player can't Arsenal live without? Ozil? Ramsey? Giroud? Flamini? Or somebody else? Let us know your views in the comments box below...