Mikel Arteta’s plan to use Manchester City’s weapons against them seems to be working perfectly. Since adding Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus to his squad, Arsenal have become a lot stronger than they’ve been in the last several years.
The former City players are playing a key role in motivating the team not just on the pitch of play but in the dressing room as well. Add other shrewd recruitments to the mix, the resurgence of players like Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Gabriel Martinelli, all led by a man who had his entry into coaching as an understudy to Pep Guardiola. The result has been a new-look Arsenal ready to take the league by storm.
After serving under Pep Guardiola as an assistant manager and learning the ropes under his compatriot, Arteta is proving to be a good student as he is building an Arsenal team capable of winning the Premier League. One man who thinks so is his former manager at the club Arsene Wenger.
Speaking in a recent interview, the Frenchman extolled the team’s virtues, expressing hope for a title challenge.
“I would say they are moving in the right direction. I honestly think there is no weak position in the team... they are young, promising players and they have bought well this year,” said Wenger
“There is no completely dominating team this season and Arsenal has a chance with the potential that is there.
“We used to be in the top four and why not again? You cannot even rule out the fact that they can fight for the title and hopefully they can do it.”
For anyone thinking gunning for the title is farfetched, a glance at the league table, even if it’s still early days, shows that Arsenal mean business.The Gunners have won six of their first seven games, mostly comfortably. The team only came unstuck once so far losing 3-1 to a resurgent Manchester United at old Trafford.
But even in the loss, it was a game where the team gave a good account of itself, matching United strength for strength. It took two sublime passes to open up the defence leading to quick goals from counter-attacks that settled the encounter.
The away team was by no means outclassed in the game or rolled over by United. It was one game where the team played well yet ended up on the losing side. On any other day it could go either way. The manner in which the team responded in the next game sent a clear message. Few teams in the league are able to dispatch Thomas Frank’s Brentford with such ease.
A 3-0 comprehensive victory at the Community Stadium to return to the top of the table after Man City temporarily took charge served to reassure the club’s faithful.
The London side currently ranks third in both most goals scored with 17 from seven games and least goals conceded with just 7. Only Manchester City and Tottenham have scored more.
The big question though is whether Arteta’s team can keep this momentum going for the long haul. A lot can happen in the course of the season. From injuries to key players, loss of form, etc. The team also needs to have a collective mental strength that will enable it to go through difficult times and still grind out results.
At a certain point in the campaign, grinding out 1-0 wins can become as important as 3-0 or 5-0 wins. Does Arsenal have the squad depth, quality and mental toughness required to navigate through such periods successfully? Can Arteta outwit both Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in the fight for the title?
That looks very unlikely given the experience possessed by the opposition. Despite the impressive early start, it will be surprising if the Gunners hold on to their top spot even to the midpoint of the season. Finishing in the top four may be a realistic goal. But lifting the title in the face of the current opposition is highly unlikely.
However, Leicester City set a precedence in 2016 that can provide inspiration for any other team.