Friday, 18 October 2013 00:00
Reuters: With a squad that was derided for being short on quality by frustrated fans in pre-season, Arsenal, who host Norwich City on Saturday, have surprised many by surging to the top of the Premier League table.
The foundation on which their strong start has been built is their burgeoning midfield ranks, recently boosted by the arrival of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and Mathieu Flamini, who rejoined the club after leaving AC Milan at the end of his contract.
These two have joined Aaron Ramsey, who is fulfilling the promise he showed before breaking his leg in 2010, classy playmaker Santi Cazorla, Englandâ€™s Jack Wilshere and Czech Tomas Rosicky in battling for limited starting places.
After losing their opening league match 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, Arsenal were revitalised by the signing of Ozil on deadline day, and are unbeaten in the 11 matches they have played since.
Arsenal are top on goals scored from Liverpool, who travel to Newcastle United (1145) on Saturday, a fixture they won 6-0 last season.
Manchester United are six points adrift of the leaders having lost three of their opening seven matches but a win over Sunderland before the international break handed manager David Moyes breathing space.
They now have the perfect opportunity to build momentum with four successive home games in different competitions, starting at home to Southampton on Saturday (1400).
While strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will hope to continue the goalscoring form they showed on the international break for England and the Netherlands, it is at the back where United have looked vulnerable this season.
After conceding nine goals in the league, they face a tricky task in shutting out Southampton who have stunned many by rising to fourth, two points off the lead, after three victories in a row.
Chelsea, in third, host Cardiff City, Everton entertain Hull City (both 1400) and Manchester City travel to West Ham United (1630) on Saturday.
Stoke City host West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City play bottom side Sunderland.
Tottenham Hotspur (1500) in sixth will try to rebound from their disappointing 3-0 defeat by West Ham, away at Aston Villa on Sunday. Crystal Palace host Fulham on Monday (1900).