The narrative that Arsenal have beaten ‘nobody good’ has quickly ran off after their second victory in nine days over a top six opponent as they beat Liverpool at the Emirates on Sunday. It’s lead many people to question what is behind the Gunners turn of form this year and I believe there are a number of factors which have led to their success.
Our Brazilian Number 9
Arsenal last season weren’t tipped or expected to challenge for the top four like they ended up doing when they narrowly missed out. It was very clear for all to see that the squad was lacking in key areas and especially in squad depth as well. Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang’s January departure to Barcelona left the Gunners with an out of form Alex Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah. It was clear the Gunners needed a striker and that’s what they went out and bought in Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City. The striker who never seemed to find himself playing in the City side consistently enough or in his correct position is the one who Mikel Arteta trusted with delivering for Arsenal’s striker problems.
Jesus has had eight goal contributions in his first nine Premier League matches for the Gunners and looks the exact breath of fresh air that the Gunners needed in the number nine position. His movement, footwork and all-round flair in the game makes him unpredictable and a nightmare when he’s in his current form for opposition players to deal with. As well as this, his finishing has been remarkable and all round build up play with how he drops deeper sometimes to create an opportunity. Only Haaland has more goal contributions in the Premier League this season than Jesus which shows the massive asset he has become to the football club in just a matter of months.
Summer Signings Proving Key
Other than Jesus, Mikel Arteta also bought in a number of other players such as Zinchenko, Vieira and Marquinhos into the first team squad. Even though only one of these players has been a regular in the Premier League starting eleven the other two have shone in the Europa League helping Arteta to rest the regulars on a Thursday night. Zinchenko has slotted in perfectly with Xhaka on the left-hand side with both of them regularly rotating in attack and defence. Granit has played spells at left back before and it gives him the ability to drop in to cover the Ukrainian when he pushes into the midfield where he plays for his country.
Marquinhos scored his first ever goal for Arsenal in the two one away win in Zurich on the opening matchday while Vieira shone through as an excellent playmaker in the three nil over Bodo/Glimt. The Portuguese international has showed excellent technical ability and if there was an injury to occur in the number ten role then he would be someone who can handle himself in the Premier League. Signings such as these for the Gunners has all been forced around not having the issues that were faced at the end of last year when players were overplayed and got injured due to the paper-thin squad.
William Saliba. Now, I have been excited about him ever since he signed for the football club back in 2020 but started to question what the plan was with him after two and a half seasons of him being out on loan when we were struggling in that position. However, the football club have got it completely right with this one. After watching him at Marseille closely last year I could tell he would come back to Arsenal and be a good squad player at the very least but his form has been outstanding since his return. He won young player of the year in France last time out and I knew he would come back and compete for a place but he’s now made himself one of the first names on the team sheet.
He’s come in and showed everyone why Arsenal took the risk on a 19-year-old player paying £30 million for him which now looks like an absolute bargain. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to state that in the Premier League so far this season that William Saliba has been by far the best centre back in the league. He’s managed to get a couple of goals and an assist too as well doing his job defensively really well.
He’s been a revelation to the Gunners at the back and Arteta has found a way to get Ben White involved in his role at right back as well meaning that in a system which doesn’t play three centre backs that Mikel Arteta has found a way to get them all in. Ben White’s performances have gone under the radar and in the last two matches has kept Diaz and Son quiet while playing a position that he had never played before just a few months ago. He’s looking amazing in that defence and is yet another factor for this Arsenal success.
A Young Side Always Learning
This is still a very young Arsenal side which is the second youngest in the Premier League on average only behind Southampton. Eighteen of the Gunners twenty-eight goals in all competitions this season have been scored by players twenty-one or younger. Not just on the pitch but off it as well, the whole football club is constantly learning because Arsenal also have a young manager in Mikel Arteta. People have to remember that this is only Mikel’s third full season in charge of this club and with the mess that he inherited he’s doing an unbelievable job. It’s taken time and we all knew it would but now there is a team and a manager that have connected with these fans like I have never seen in my lifetime at this football club.
Arsenal had forty-six touches in the Liverpool box on Sunday which is more than they had in the last five Premier League meetings against the Reds. Only one opponent has had more touches in Liverpool’s box in a league match under Jurgen Klopp and that was Manchester City in November 2019 with two more than the Gunners managed. The energy, passion and desire from these players is just electric and we can blow teams away with our starts in matches. Look at Sunday, for example, ahead after a brilliantly worked goal inside the first minute.
The slow starting Gunners who used to have to go a goal behind before waking up and attempting to recover it have gone and now, we can put sides immediately on the back foot from the first minute. I can truly say that I haven’t seen this club so well connected ever and upon leaving the North London Derby the weekend before last, I will admit that I had a tear in my eye at how together all the fans and players were. It’s the days we have been wanting and the fact that we got out of the tough times over the last few years makes this success even better.
What Stops Arsenal Now?
The World Cup strikes as a potential problem for the Gunners as we saw last season that Mikel Arteta’s side were tough to stop when they got on a roll and the World Cup could come as a huge disruption to their charge up the league table. However, I believe by the time it gets to November the 12th that Arsenal will be in a comfortable position having lost a couple more games so the break will come at a good time to regroup and refocus. Last season, as well as Arsenal played on their good runs of form, they also struggled to bounce back quickly which will be interesting to see again this year. However, they bounced back strong against Brentford after losing to Manchester United so hopefully if they do lose a game the squad are mentally stronger and more prepared for the challenge.
It’s certainly exciting times to be an Arsenal fan currently and after the last few years of banter and pain which has come our way, alone yourself to get carried away. That’s what football is all about.