How Arsenal is performing so well this season
Mikel Arteta's appointment as Arsenal's head coach drew ridicule from all quarters. After a topsy-turvy three years at the helm, Arteta finally seems to be delivering on his promise, with Arsenal finally looking like they are back at their best.
Arsenal's path back to the top was excruciating. More than once, it looked as if Arteta was out of his depth, especially during November-December 2020 and the start of the 2021/22 season. As rivals mercilessly bantered Arsenal and their fans wanted Arteta out, the club's owners stood firm. They realised that making any knee-jerk decisions would set them back years, as it would mean starting all over again.
Sure enough, trusting the process is reaping the fruits for Arsenal this season.
Arsenal's owners have long been accused of not caring about the club. Since the failure of the European Super League, they have been much more open in backing the squad financially. This is a far cry from the peak of Arsenal's banter era when they hijacked random players from hotel rooms on deadline days.
Supported by Arteta and the transfer team's data-driven micromanagement, Arsenal have made some top signings in the last few seasons. Gabriel Martinelli, who signed for just six million pounds in 2019, is one of the Premier League's best wingers this season. After three loan spells in France, William Saliba is showing his worth at the heart of Arsenal's defence. Oleksandr Zinchenko, surplus at Manchester City, has already grown into a buccaneering leader in their team.
The likes of Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, and Takehiro Tomiyasu have become integral behind Arsenal's successes. Thomas Partey has been a resounding success. His anchoring of the Arsenal midfield, acting as the defensive shield with the perfect blend of silk, has made Arsenal fearsome since his arrival.
A lot of credit goes to Arteta's tactics as well. Learning his trade as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City, he has truly shown his technical nous this season. Much of this can be attributed to the works of last season. Having no European football gave Arteta and his players time to work in various tactical setups, both in attack and defence.
The results are stark. Arsenal are defensively one of the strongest sides now, while some of their attacking football has been reminiscent of Wenger's Arsenal – patiently building attacks up with intricate passes before tearing defences down.
Arteta's man-management has only gotten better with time. The way he handled the Ozil and Aubameyang sagas established his authority over the players. He also showed he has what it takes to turn players' fortunes around.
Just look at Granit Xhaka. Stripped of captaincy and booed by his own supporters when Arteta took charge, Xhaka has transformed himself into a midfield general for the Gunners. Over time, he instilled hunger, passion, and team spirit in the players. Not only did it bring a competitive edge, but also helped the players to connect with the fans – two things which they desperately lacked since their Invincibles season.
Arteta also placed his faith in the youngsters, banking on the talents of Bukayo Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard (third youngest captain in the Premier League now), Eddie Nketiah, and Emile Smith-Rowe. That faith has paid off empathically this season. He also helped revive their stagnating academy, leading an aggressive drive to sign the brightest young talents.
Arsenal might not win the Premier League this season. Their squad is just too thin to sustain a 38-game title charge. Even so, the foundation is there for sustained future success.
For now, one thing is absolutely certain – Arsenal's banter era is officially over.
Inqiad is a passionate Bucks fan and Giannis stan. Contact him at [email protected]