Arsenal Youngsters Can Save Their Season

Arsenal kids

Two weeks ago, Arsenal were sat in 15th, hovering just four points above the relegation zone. A 2-1 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park had made it seven games without a win in the league for the Gunners and time appeared to be running out for Mikel Arteta.

The North London side seemed unable to score. This came from a lack of chances for the Arsenal front-men, who were being starved of opportunities. As a result, the decision to outcast the creative option of Mesut Ozil was coming under increased scrutiny. These creative struggles, along with numerous acts of idiocy and petulance resulting in self-inflicted red cards and individual errors, contributed to Arsenal’s worst start to a Premier League campaign ever.

However, since the defeat to Everton, the Gunners have recorded three straight wins. A win over London rivals Chelsea has appeared to breed confidence into the squad who are slowly climbing their way back up the table. It seems as if Arteta’s side have turned a corner and have laid the foundations to kick on in the second half of the season.

The change? Trusting the kids.

Can the Arsenal Youngsters Save the Club’s Season?

Led by the Young Revelation Bukayo Saka

Arteta has not had the easiest start to his first full season in charge of Arsenal. However, after a busy and crucial week for the Gunners, they appear to have left any murmurs of relegation behind them as they start to look up the table rather than behind them. A Boxing day gift at home to Chelsea has been followed up by back-to-back clean sheets and another two wins for Arsenal.

This comes after the seemingly overpaid and uncommitted senior members of the squad being shown up by the exciting young talents the fans have been crying out to see given chances. Standout performances from the Hale End graduate Bukayo Saka have been the only shining light this season for the Gunners. However, the inclusion of another in Emile Smith Rowe¬†and the return of Brazilian starlet Gabriel Martinelli has added a new dynamic to Arsenal’s game.

Saka, who appears to get better every game, has scored twice and claimed an assist in these three victories. Smith Rowe has provided a creative spark in the previously dull Arsenal attack. In undertaking the number ten role, he has helped shape a more dangerous and fluid front-line. The Gunners have created more chances and become more prolific as a result.

For example, the previously out-of-form Alexandre Lacazette has been able to notch five goals in his last four games. Not only does the youngster create chances but he also offers things defensively in terms of ball recoveries and retaining possession. As well as this, Martinelli’s energy has transformed the Arsenal press and has encouraged others around him. He poses another goal threat – and has been sorely missed this season so far.

The introduction of youth has instilled a fearlessness in the Arsenal side. A season which appeared done and dusted after 14 games has a glimpse of hope with this uplift in form.

Arsenal No Longer Over-Reliant on Aubameyang

In recent times, it has appeared that if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang does not score, then Arsenal will not. They have been over-reliant on the Gabonese forward’s goals and form, which has led them to suffer this season. The club captain and talisman has been struggling and has only scored three league goals this campaign.

However, despite his absence in the win over Chelsea, Arsenal managed three goals in a league game for the first time since the opening weekend. This comes as a result of a midfield creative presence. The addition of Smith Rowe and the movement of Saka onto the right-hand side has enabled Arsenal to shift from a left-sided focus on attacks. Prior, Arsenal relied on the duo of Kieran Tierney and Aubameyang down the left. This made them predictable and extremely easy to defend against.

The deployment of a natural number ten, for the first time since Ozil’s omission last season, has made Arsenal much more balanced. It has taken the full attacking responsibility off of Aubameyang. Simultaneously, it has enabled Saka to flourish and has been met by an uplift in form for Lacazette.

Arsenal Youngsters Providing Renewed Confidence

In previous games, it looked as if the weight of the world was on these Arsenal players, especially the front men. Every chance was rushed or fluffed as a result of pressure. With Arsenal creating next to nothing, every half-chance was fueled with the knowledge that you may not get another one all game.

Yet, in the last three games, through creating more and being more dominant, confidence has crept in and they look more composed. Examples of such could be seen with Lacazette’s cool finish at the Amex. He found himself in space in the box and rather than rushing his chance, composed himself with a few touches before tucking it away in the corner. Even in their win over West Bromwich Albion the composure from Smith Rowe to take his time and square the ball to Saka for an open net with the second goal was something Arsenal fans have not had the pleasure in viewing many times this season.

Defensive Stability and the Improvements of Senior Players

Away from their attacking improvements, Arteta will also take pleasure in the Gunners’ defensive performances. Back-to-back clean sheets for the first time all season suggests Arsenal have turned a corner. Despite a late flurry from Brighton & Hove Albion, Arsenal looked relaxed in the final few minutes at the Amex. They also limited West Brom to only three shots on target. The new partnership of Rob Holding and Pablo Mari have also looked composed on the ball, and the Gunners have impressed with the way they have been able to play out from the back.

Another who has impressed is Granit Xhaka. After his sending off against Burnley, it looked as if the already struggling midfielder was heading for the exit door. A record of naivety and petulance was made only worse as he cost his side the game again. However, since returning to the side, he has been an assured and calming presence in the Arsenal midfield. He has dictated play and been influential in helping the team play out from the back. Importantly, he has also kept himself out of trouble. The Swiss international stuck a free-kick into the top corner against Chelsea too – showing a complete change of form and character. Arteta appears to have put a lot of trust into Xhaka since his arrival. The Spaniard will be happy to see some of this faith be restored. Long may it continue.

What Can Arsenal Youngsters Achieve This Season?

After the start they had, Arsenal fans were to be worried about relegation over anything else this season. Yet, after recent results, there is a bit of optimism around the red half of North London again. It appears the blueprint has been set for Arsenal to salvage their season and for Arteta to keep his job. Also, in an unpredictable season, it is not impossible for Arsenal to rescue something from this campaign.

Arsenal are now just six points off of the top four, something which seems almost impossible given their position in the league. However, with Thomas Partey and Gabriel set to return to the side this month, and the whispers of deals to be done in the window, Arsenal could, after all, find themselves back competing for a European place.

The Gunners still have their FA Cup to retain, and they are in the knockout stages of the Europa League – both of which could provide them with European pathways for next season.

If Arteta persists with playing the Arsenal youngsters and they can string a few more of these results together, Gunners fans will hope the second half of the season will be much different to the first.