New signings give Arsenal a boost but Aaron Ramsey proves he's key
Arsenal's 5-1 win over Everton at the weekend was the second time this season they have put five goals past the Toffees, and on both occasions the victories provided more than three points for the Gunners.
Back in October, Arsenal travelled to Goodison Park and, because of injuries and other absences, it was one of the first times Arsene Wenger had been able to field a front three of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and new signing Alexandre Lacazette. On that day, they ended up winning 5-2 with all three scoring and both the Chilean and German provided assists.
It was seen as the start of something new. Lacazette was then the club's record signing and it was hoped that the combination between these three attacking players would be as effective time and time again. Sadly, that proved not to the case, and that win at Everton was probably the best performance Arsenal fans saw from that trio.
Since then, Sanchez has departed to Manchester United, replaced by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Wenger's decision to break the transfer record again saw him field new boy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when Sam Allardyce's team came to town last Saturday. The changes paid dividends as the two former Borussia Dortmund men combined for the goal of the game, while Mkhitaryan marked his second game for the club with a hat trick of assists.
Understandably, there's encouragement over what was a very accomplished performance and the impact of the new signings was unquestionable. They added quality and experience, and it's no coincidence that Arsenal played with more zip with these two in the team.
Aubameyang's pace gives the side the kind of option they haven't had for a long time and there was an example of that in first half when he effortlessly kept ahead of Everton defenders who were busting a gut to catch up but simply couldn't. Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, gives them speed of thought. His decision making, coupled with his technical precision, was evident in his third assist when his perfect pass allowed Aaron Ramsey to complete his hat trick.
After just one game it's too early to declare definitively that Arsenal have found a new attacking dynamic, but with Ozil's new deal providing continuity to go with the new additions, the signs are certainly promising.
As too was the performance of Ramsey who scored three times in a game for the first time in his career. Afterwards, Wenger insisted the Wales international was capable of netting 10-15 a season. Having let three attackers leave in January who scored 60 percent of the team's goals last season, Arsenal will certainly need more goals from other areas of the team.
It also brings into focus Ramsey's contractual situation -- there's a big decision to be made about his future. Unlike Jack Wilshere, whose deal runs out in June, the 27-year-old has another year on his deal, and his display against Everton showed what he can bring to the team.
With real quality added to the side in the transfer market, and the fact that Ozil has decided to stay, it should make it easier to convince Ramsey to sign a new contract. In spite of losing Sanchez, Arsenal are showing genuine ambition again and keeping him should be one of the club's priorities.
Midfield is still an area that requires considerable attention come the summer. It was steadfastly ignored during the January window, but the Gunners have real problems in there and it feels like there's a significant piece of the puzzle missing. They badly require a true holding player in that area of the pitch, not least because you could see how the current crop, especially Ramsey, Wilshere and Granit Xhaka, could benefit from playing alongside someone like that.
Yet what's crucial is that the team keep their best players to ensure the overall quality of the squad increases. Ramsey may frustrate some, but he has genuine quality on the ball, his movement is superb, his finishing is mature now, and those who get annoyed because he is so forward thinking ignore the fact that he's playing to the instructions of a manager who wants him to do just that.
That Arsenal don't have the solidity they should behind him is not Ramsey's issue, it's on Wenger and the squad he has built. The Welshman showed what he can bring when he's surrounded by better attacking players, so imagine how far he could go if they augmented the midfield too.
As much as Ozil's re-signing was important for the club, so too is that of Ramsey. If Arsenal have any sense they should make sure this happens sooner rather than later, because there will be no shortage of suitors for him otherwise.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.