Confidence is everything in football, and its abundance at Arsenal accounts for the rise of Arsene Wenger's side, and Aaron Ramsey in particular, to the top ranking as team and player of the season so far.
Once again Ramsey was the outstanding influence as Arsenal produced their most impressive performance yet to see off the potential challenge of Liverpool and move five points clear at the top of the Premier League. After Santi Cazorla had put them ahead in the first half, Ramsey scored with a spectacular volley in the 59th minute to seal the points against a Liverpool side for whom Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were uncharacteristically less than lethal in front of goal. Ramsey's goal, his 10th of the season, showed how far he has come in the past year or three.
In November 2010 the young Welshman was just returning to fitness from the broken leg he sustained against Stoke seven months earlier, and was subsequently sent on loan to Nottingham Forest and then to his first club Cardiff City. After returning to Arsenal, Ramsey struggled to convince a significant section of Arsenal's support that he was worthy of the faith shown in him by Wenger, and admitted that his own confidence was low.
But this season Ramsey has been a revelation, scoring freely, assisting others and pretty well running the show from his favoured position in the centre of midfield. That Ramsey's running is one of his most impressive qualities should come as no surprise. He covered 11?kilometres on Saturday, proving that he has come of age as a box-to-box player par excellence. "I've always had a good engine. I did cross country at school and enjoyed the 800 metres as well," Ramsey revealed in Arsenal's match day programme. He also spoke about his renewed confidence, especially in front of goal.
"You make more right decisions when you play with confidence. I've always got in good goalscoring positions but I was a bit rash in front of goal. I wasn't as confident in my finishing which is why I didn't take as many of those chances. But I've got more composure and feel more relaxed in front of goal, and I'm making them count." Wenger warmed to the theme of confidence, having seen his side bounce back from defeat by Chelsea in the Capital One Cup last Tuesday. It was their second successive home defeat, following the loss against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, but Wenger was heartened by the way his players came back strongly to see off a Liverpool side who would have gone top if they had won at the Emirates.
"You could see at the start that we were a bit nervous and a bit too cautious, but we knew that we had put Dortmund and Chelsea on the front foot. You could feel that from the start the players didn't want to do that. "After that, when we scored the first goal, we controlled the game. These big games are decided by one or two positions that are not completely there, and today in every single position we had players who could turn out top performances."
Wenger admitted that he did not expect to be doing so well in November after their opening day defeat to Aston Villa when some fans were calling for his head. "After the Aston Villa game, if I had told you that [Arsenal would be five points clear] I would have to run away because you would have killed me! It shows you that it can change quickly, but that should also alert us that it can go the other way. We need to keep good focus, and continue to develop our team, and there's room for improvement.
"At the moment, 10 games played, you can say 25 per cent of the season, you see the first tendencies and trends, but it's still not settled. By the end of November you will have a clearer idea. The players believe of course, and every win makes you stronger." Brendan Rodgers acknowledged that his side were second best.
"The best team won, that's the honest appraisal of the game," he said. "I thought we were always in the game because we create chances, and if we could have taken those chances then the scoreline might have been totally different. They [Arsenal] are winning the race. These 10 games we've all played, people talk about it being early, but you don't get them back. The great thing is there's lots of time left to gain those points back, but at this moment in time they are high in confidence, playing well and they will be pleased with the win."