The consequences of losing the Manchester City just before a two-week break could have been horrendous. We’d have sat on 17 points, level with Liverpool, 4 points behind City, actually properly behind Spurs.
But it wasn’t to be. Arteta did an outstanding job nullifying the threat of a team that’s been teaching us painful lessons for the last 7 years.
We’re level points at the top of the league. We’ve played United, City, and Spurs. No easy run of games. We haven’t played all the worst teams in the League like Spurs. Arsenal hasn’t even found 5th gear yet, there’s plenty more to come from the football.
We’re bedding in a new #6, a new #1, a new left-sided #8. We lost Thomas Partey, Jurrien Timber, and Gabriel Jesus. This run of games could have been a lot worse – and no one would have accepted the excuses.
Are we favourites for the league? I don’t think so. Manchester City is still the best equipped to fight on 4 fronts, they have the experience of winning, and no one finishes league campaigns like them. Arsenal wouldn’t be safe if they had a 10-point head start. City gets stronger as everyone else gets weaker. Alex Ferguson sides were a little bit like that. That comes down to experience more than anything. I know people don’t want to accept that youth is detrimental in title-races, but it is. There’s no difference in the office space, you don’t see many CFOs with 2 years experience under their belts. Across all sports, players and teams tend to peak about 28-29 years old. Arsenal is a long way off that number, but we’re further ahead than any young team in the whole of Europe. Topping City will be hard, accept it.
That said, there are some things that might work for us. No team has ever won the league 4 seasons in a row. Pep Guardiola pointed towards that fact after the game. I don’t know whether it was gamesmanship, but he seemed to be alluding to fatigue and the toughness of Premier League. He knows they can’t keep this pace up forever, a crash comes, we’re just not sure when. The Premier League SURELY can’t allow itself to be dominated by one team? Money is the excuse in every other league – we don’t have that luxury in England. Everyone is rich. Someone has to pick up the levels and make a run this season.
Arsenal are the second-best coached team in the league these days. I don’t really see anyone else coming close to the league title this season. Liverpool looks good going forward, but it’s not the rock and roll football of 3 years ago. Eddie Howe is doing a good job at Newcastle United, but they don’t have the feel of league winners, and some of that early-season power they had last season has worn off. United? No chance. Chelsea? They’ll get better, but that’s the most expensive ‘trust the process’ team ever built. Aston Villa under Don Unai? He’s smashing the calendar year tables, but we all know how that movie ends.
If the Premier League wants to see a change of guard, it has to be Arsenal.
Our strength is the system Arteta has built. We can play a multitude of styles, we shapeshift in games, and he’s instilled a bravery that maybe wasn’t there in the past. Watching Arsenal play hard after going 1-0 up was terrifying by also something new. Gone are the days of wetting the bed with panic football. Arsenal injected venom into City and watched their game slowly die without putting a hand on us.
Our biggest weakness is the things Arteta was criticised most for this season: We don’t rotate and our fans complain when we do.
Arteta hasn’t been able to quit Bukayo Saka, the warning signs have been there, the niggly injuries, asking to be subbed off, then capping it all off going to an average team in France to play an away game. What was the point in re-upping Reiss Nelson if there was no desire to play him?
We’ve lost Martinelli, Partey, and Trossard to soft tissue injuries. Saliba is also carrying a problem. We’re not going to survive the season if there isn’t some meaningful rotation early in the season. I don’t want to see big names in the FA Cup. I don’t want to see first-teamers in the Champions League team if we’ve qualified. I want to see fringe players given games against weaker sides.
Our seasons collapse when rotation is forced on us because of injury. If Arteta doesn’t calm down the training and his insistence on activating against the idea that ‘world class’ means you play all the games, we’ll forever be having our Rob Holding SAVE ME moments.
Keeping as many of our best players on the pitch for as long as possible, I feel, is the best chance we have of getting to a 90+ point season.
Ok, that’s all I’ve got today! x