Granit Xhaka has been through it with Arsenal fans. He was signed from rigid system in Germany where he thrived under an extremely tactical manager and he was put into a dying squad of players. He had a rough time, he made some errors, he was held up as the poster child of everything that was wrong with Arsenal. It was unfair, but felt right at the time.
Fast-forward to the Mikel Arteta era. He’s the first name on the team sheet, he performs wherever he’s played, he leads, and now he’s had a software update and it seems like he’s decided that he’d quite like to be a devastating #8.
Everything that is right this season is reflected in the new Granit Xhaka. His beautifully floated cross to Gabriel Jesus kind of summed up the explosion that has happened in this Arsenal team. We are unpredictable, the football is fast and incisive, the aggresion has moved up a gear, the character of the squad is there for all to see, and there’s a feeling of winnertivity and inevitability that things are going to be secure at the back and productive up front.
- 3rd most goals
- 3rd highest attempts at goal per game
- 4th most on target
- 2nd least attempts conceded per game
- Most points in the league
Beating Brentford at their place with no drama was absolutely sensational. I don’t want to be hearing ‘it’s just the Bees.’ That’s a team that creates to top 6 levels, they have put up the second most big chances in the league (hate the stat unless it works for me), they had scored one more goal than us until today, and their striker has just been called up for England because he is a top, top player.
It didn’t matter.
Arsenal put them in their place. They matched the rough and tumble. They didn’t allow them a moment on the ball. Our boys didn’t get phased by the brilliant atmosphere. It was a pure no drama afternoon, you could call it a nice day for a kick about.
Did I love that Mikel Arteta flexed out at the end by debuting a kid that is 15 and a half? You’re damn right I did. That’s part a message to the board about players. But also, it speaks to Ethan Nwaneri and his immense talent. Imagine how he feels right now?
There were too many great performances all over the pitch to touch on every single one. So here is a snackable list of things I loved.
Ben White gets dropped by Southgate and puts out another commanding performance, he’s a brilliant right back, he’s not giving up his place to Tomiyasu. What a talent. He looks every inch the £50m player.
William Saliba, a colossal defensive presence, continued to drive his performances up to new levels. Nothing got past him, he matched a team of bullies for physicality, he outplayed them with superior reading of the game, and he played balls through the lines like they were guided by GPS. Have we got the best young defender in the world here? I think we have. Get him to sign da ting RIGHT NOW.
Bukayo Saka is still feeling his way back into the season, but the man is 2nd in the assists chart with 4 already. Imagine being 21 years old dropping Gs and As like he is and you’re not even seen as being near the top of your level? Scary mary indeed.
Gabi Jesus is the best summer signing we could have made in that #9 position. Yes, even better than Haaland would have been. He’s a leader, he works relentlessly, he’s unpredictable, he sticks up for the boys, and he is LETHAL. 4 goals, 3 assists, 8 games. What more can you ask for? I love him.
Think about this, we were missing Zinchenko and captain Odegaard… and we made mince meat of Brentford. Kieran Tierney did a great job, getting back to his best form, contributing importantly up top and at the back. Fabio Vieira slips into the starting 11 with the frame of a 16-year-old boy, doesn’t get bullied, fits the style, and steps out to bang home from outside the box. Outrageous carry-on.
So another 13 shots, we hit the target 7 times, and we scored 3 goals. That is a powerful afternoon. Thomas Frank called us title-contenders. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, but we’re certainly well on the way to building a side capable of achieving that.
… and get this, we STILL have the youngest starting 11 in the Premier League. Top of the league after 7 games, with kids, that is incredible.
When we’re winning it is important to temper your expectations. That inexperience will still rear its ugly head. United was inexperience. Simple as that. We’re going to have that again this season. Arteta isn’t always going to make great decisions, it’s quite weird to me to see so many players breaking down when we’ve had 12 days out of the Premier League. Saliba played with a knock, Zinchenko broke down, and we lost our captain. You also had centre back Gabi complaining about muscle issues during the game. That’s a lot of young men that are generally quite robust having problems and it doesn’t go unnoticed that we’ve lost Shad Forsythe. We have to shape up there, that is far too many injuries in a month that we’ve played three games. We have to manage NINE in October. We’re going to be in big trouble if we have to fill out bench with kids too young to legally change with the men due to child protection laws.
But go back to the positives. We exited this phase of the season top of the league, playing the best football in Europe, with almost no major issues. The fans are onside online and in the stadium. There are no doubts over the manager. We’re united behind this project and we can see the club is on a rocket ship to a moon made out of major trophies.
This squad isn’t even bedded in yet, the football is going to get better, and we’re 100% adding talent to it in January. I’m buzzing. Enjoy this moment. Take it in. The season is long, it’ll be emotional, but it’s so much more fun when the hope is justified.
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