For the first time since the days of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil linking up in Arsene Wenger’s later years, there is a real likability to Arsenal. There is a sense that something – something positive – is happening. That the process some accused of not even existing is well on course for ultimate success. The performance against Manchester City epitomised that. Yes, it was another loss – their 10th in a row against the Citizens, but this one felt different. It wasn’t the usual 20 minute storm of City goals to end the game before it had even begun. Dare it be said that the Gunners even deserved to come away with one, perhaps even three, points.
Had it not been for a calamitous five minutes – in which Riyad Mahrez equalised from the spot and Gabriel Magalhães was handed two yellow cards – it would not be obscene to suggest that we’d be heaving far more praise on the hosts. But in a way, that sums Arteta’s side up. This is a side yet to reach the ruthless professionalism and maturity that Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea often show. That, however, is the next step. Arteta has built the groundwork. Now it is time to iron out even the smallest of creases.
Foundations Have Been Set for Arsenal Success; Now Mikel Arteta Must Seek Perfection
Attacking Quartet Hold the Key to Present and Future Success
As each week goes by, it feels more and more likely that we’ll be talking about Arsenal’s current attacking quartet with a hint of jealousy in a few years’ time. They hold the key to unlocking a newer trophy cabinet, full of honours potentially won at a time when fans won’t need stories from those older to know the feeling of winning. That attacking quartet, of course, is Gabriel Martinelli, 20, Martin Odegaard, 23, Emile Smith Rowe, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 20.
To think that Arsenal have gone from a fairly toothless side, with an ageing duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, to the always-improving pressing machine of the aforementioned, energetic and springy frontline is a sign of the process Arteta has set in motion at the Emirates.
Arguably the greatest part about this new fab four, too, is their bravery. So often, we’ve seen sides enter their shell against the robotic winning machine of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, before coming away with a defeat heavy enough to cast doubt on their defensive tactics. Arsenal, however, did the opposite. They took the game to City; they boxed them in. Arteta’s side pressed some of the best ball playing defenders and midfielders into panicked mistakes. And, it very nearly paid off. In fact, but for the costly five-minute spell of calamity, it would have paid off.
Defensive Improvement Also Deserves Praise
Many will find it hard to believe that we are discussing a side off the back of a 2-1 loss, but in comparison to what we’ve become accustomed to seeing at the Emirates, the loss is an afterthought when considering the performance.
Many will rightly wax lyrical about Arsenal’s forward line, but, defensively, they deserve plenty of praise for their turnaround, too. This Arsenal side is a far cry from the defensive chaos seen in recent years.
This is a side with a consistent back four – and one that should stick together for years to come given their ages. Aaron Ramsdale, 23, Gabriel, 24, Takehiro Tomiyasu, 23, Ben White, 24, and Kieran Tierney, 24, hold all of the attributes to provide the foundations for Arteta’s attacking plan. At the halfway mark, only Ederson of runaway leaders Manchester City has more clean sheets than Ramsdale. And it’s that reliability that has allowed Arsenal to finally express themselves going forward, both on and off the ball.
If Arteta can eradicate the mistakes we saw against Manchester City in a five-minute spell that threw away the three points, we could be looking at a side ready to take a seat at English football’s top table once more.
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