The good times have returned to Arsenal after a period of disappointment and frustration in North London. Ever since Mikel Arteta took over in 2019, there has been a change at the club and particularly at the beginning of this season, the Gunners have shown what they are all about.
At the time of writing, Arsenal sit top of the Premier League table with six wins and one defeat while also playing an entertaining style of play with several young players flourishing on the biggest stage. But what are the key influences in Arsenal potentially finishing in the higher echelons of the Premier League this season?
Last season was one of highs and lows at the Emirates Stadium. It got off to the worst possible start as their first three games ended in defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City – leaving the Gunners bottom of the table. However, from then on, Arsenal began to pick up points and surprisingly, they put themselves in contention for a Champions League place, a competition they haven’t competed in since 2017. Bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur eventually beat the Gunners to the final Champions League slot but it was still a season of success bearing in mind the poor start they made.
Arsenal stood out with the shrewd signings they made in the summer and a host of positions needed strengthening; they certainly did that. Alexandre Lacazette returned to Lyon on a free transfer after the Gunners opted to not extend his contract, but the addition of Gabriel Jesus has proved to be one of the signings of the summer so far. The Brazilian joined for a fee of £45m from Manchester City and at the time of writing, Jesus has three goals and three assists to his name in six appearances in the Premier League.
William Saliba has formed an excellent partnership with Gabriel in defence following two loan spells in France with Marseille and Nice. Saliba’s great form has meant Ben White has been shifted to the right back role and the 24-year-old has been keeping Takehiro Tomiyasu out of the side. Oleksandr Zinchenko followed Jesus from Manchester City and the Ukrainian has shone after joining for a reported fee of £32m. Young talents Fábio Vieira and Marquinhos joined from Porto and São Paulo respectively and they will hope to be shining at the Emirates Stadium for years to come.
In previous seasons, the Gunners have relied on goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but in the latter stages of his spell with the club, his goal-scoring numbers dropped off considerably. Now, Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka in particular are all contributing to the goals instead of one player spearheading the attack. The main reason why Arteta’s side didn’t secure Champions League football last season was the lack of experience in the squad and that came back to bite them in the closing stages of the campaign.
Despite it still being a very young squad, Zinchenko and Jesus will bring that winning mentality with them after winning several pieces of silverware with Manchester City. The key area that could have been improved on in the summer transfer window was the midfield positions with the likes of Thomas Partey on the sidelines with injuries on a regular basis. The Gunners failed in a deadline day move for Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz but this could mean other players, such as Viera, could get more regular first-team football than he anticipated.
Their opening day win over Crystal Palace showed character and what the Gunners can produce, especially as the Gunners lost 3-0 at Selhurst Park near the end of last season. A comfortable 3-0 win over Bournemouth followed before a battling display at home to Fulham which resulted in another win. A few days later, Arsenal made it four consecutive wins with a victory over Aston Villa but their unbeaten start to the season came to an end as Manchester United put three past them at Old Trafford. That defeat to the Red Devils showed that there is still work to do for Arteta but there are many positive signs at this stage of the season.
In the last few seasons, teams coming to the Emirates Stadium have not feared Arsenal and were confident of getting a result. Now, no team wants to face their lethal attack and robust defence – something that has not been said in recent years. The main goal this season will be to secure Champions League football after narrowly missing out on Europe’s elite competition last season. Winning the Europa League secures a spot in next season’s Champions League so that may be the easiest route with the vast amount of competition in the Premier League. But how do you think Arsenal have become a force to be reckoned with?