by @GP1886 (twitter)
As of the time I’m writing this, Arsenal sit 6th in the Premier League on 17 points, equal with Man United and 3 points behind West Ham who sit 5th and 4th respectively. Imagine saying 7 games ago that we’d be unbeaten for 7 games in the league. Seems like everything has flipped on its head since then, with a few bumps here and there, but this new look Arsenal are starting to take shape.
No doubt about it, this game was big. Our run up to this game had been impressive, although the teams we played are teams you’d expect us to beat comfortably on paper. Saturday, however, proved to most of us the level that this Arsenal team are playing at right now isn’t an anomaly of any sort. This is a huge victory, away from home to a possible rival for a European spot, and a statement win above all, because it tells us exactly what we should expect for the rest of the season.
Our season had been a bit here and there. Some good performances; mixed in with some terrible ones, so it was hard to gauge what THE Arsenal looked like this season. What’s the average performance from this team? What should we expect over the course of the season? Are games like Tottenham and Villa anomalous performances or are they a constant throughout the season? I think after the Leicester game, we’re finally beginning to get an answer, and it’s one that spells out a very good season for the Gunners if true, especially as teams like Tottenham and Man United are currently in disarray, it’s vital that as a team we capitalised and showed serious promise for the weeks to come.
I was sceptical about this game initially, our away tests so far this season with the new, young starting 11 haven’t told us much. A resolute performance vs Burnley at Turf Moor coupled with a poor showing at the Amex following the win against Tottenham meant that I didn’t know what to expect with this Arsenal side at a tough away ground. Away games aren’t like home games, you don’t have the crowd spurring you on to give you that extra 10%, in fact you have the exact opposite. Mentality and atmosphere is everything in football, and considering the age of our squad I feared that this could be too much for them to cope with.
But after 20 minutes any worries I had were put to bed. 2-0 up and from then on we managed the game perfectly, some may say Leicester dominated us, but we perfectly took the sting out of them early in the second half and cut Leicester out of the game entirely by the 60th minute. That’s exactly how you should manage big away games. These are 6 pointers, taking points off your rivals whilst gaining points on them, and sometimes it’s not pretty, but as an aspiring top 4 team not everything has to be liquid; if we want to take that next step we have to be dirty and we have to like it.
Of course, we rode our luck at some points in the game but what stood out to me, and what makes me so sure that we will have a great season, top 4 or not, was that there was never a clear and obvious moment where I felt like Leicester were going to score. Our defensive security this season means that even if we do concede various shots, they’re rarely of a high enough quality to worry us, and that the midfield pairing can always push up without fearing the worst. The team is well drilled, it’s refreshing, and it puts us in a good place to seriously build as a team in the next few years.
We’ve shown great flexibility so far. We know when to press high and then drop off when necessary to conserve energy. Whilst I do think there are a lot of standout individuals in this team, Man of the Match Ramsdale being one of them, it does truly feel like, for the first time in a long time, the structure and the balance of the team itself is winning us games, and not just one or two players. Everything feels balanced, and that’s where Arteta deserves credit, he has built this side very well, we know what to expect every week now, we know what role each player is going to play and we know that the way we place, when done right, will win us a lot of football matches.