From hell to heaven, from the worst start to a season for decades to 45 minutes of North London Derby nirvana, the start to the 2021/22 season has been nothing if not a roller coaster ride for Arsenal fans.
With an international break giving pause for reflection, we asked football.london’sArsenal correspondent Chris Wheatley to give us his assessment of The Gunners’ season so far – and then you have your own opportunity to tell us how you think Mikel Arteta and his men have fared.
Topics range from Arteta’s start to the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, the big summer spend, the biggest surprise so far and what Arsenal are currently missing.
You can read Chris Wheatley’s assessment below.
How has the season gone so far?
The start of the season was Arsenal’s worst since the 1950s after three consecutive defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City. Since then, things have improved and part of that is due to the fact that Arsenal have had several players return from injury and illness.
Victories against Burnley and Norwich coupled with an impressive win against Tottenham have catapulted the Gunners up the Premier League table, although the recent 0-0 stalemate at Brighton has sent a timely reminder that Arsenal are still a team in transition.
Verdict on the new signings?
Arsenal spent £150million on six players this summer – the most of any team in Europe.
Ben White arrived for £50m and whilst he struggled against Ivan Toney in the opening game of the season, the England international has gradually settled into life at the club alongside centre back partner Gabriel Magalhaes.
The protracted transfer of Martin Odegaard happened towards the end of the transfer window after Real Madrid signalled their acceptance to let the Norway captain leave for the right price. His terrific free-kick against Burnley reminded everyone of the quality that he possesses from set-pieces, whilst he also adds creativity in the final third which Arsenal were missing last season.
Aaron Ramsdale’s signing was met with mostly negative feedback from Arsenal fans when football.london revealed that the deal was close, but that negativity has quickly dissipated. The England international has displaced Bernd Leno as the club’s no.1 goalkeeper, keeping clean sheets and building a close connection with the supporters in the process.
Similarly, Takehiro Tomiyasu came in on transfer deadline day and has cemented the right-back spot as his own and endeared himself to the fanbase with a series of accomplished performances in defence.
Albert Sambi Lokonga is considered one of the most exciting prospects in Belgium football and Nuno Tavares has added depth in a position where Kieran Tierney is the only senior option.
How has the manager performed so far?
Arteta came into the job with no top-flight managerial experience but went on to win the FA Cup and Community Shield in his first season. What followed was a tough period in November/December 2020 which almost saw the Spaniard lose his job.
Challenges are part and parcel of every job but it’s fair to say Arteta has had plenty to deal with since becoming Arsenal manager. The Mesut Ozil situation certainly didn’t help Arsenal’s poor run of results and having to keep unhappy players in and around the first-team dressing room was a huge obstacle to the Gunners’ success.
However, bringing in six new players this summer and weeding out bad influences on the dressing room finally sees Arteta possessing a squad with increased morale and more capacity to succeed on the pitch.
There have been tactical indiscretions that many fans will rightly question, an example of which is last season’s Europa League semi-final against Villarreal when Granit Xhaka started at left-back instead of a defensive option.
It should be said that there have been plenty of positives too, including Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and giving chances to Hale End academy products – something that would have been inspired by former manager Arsene Wenger.
Biggest surprise so far?
Ramsdale being brought into the team so quickly is certainly a surprise. It was no secret that his signing was made in order to compete with Bernd Leno for the no.1 spot, but he usurped him much faster than expected and cemented the position for the foreseeable.
What are the team missing?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains a reliable outlet for goals upfront but it’s clear that the Gunners need to sign another forward player in the upcoming transfer window, made even more important by the likely departures of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah this summer.
Do you think they’ll do better, worse or about the same as pre-season predictions?
Arsenal should realistically be looking at securing a spot in the top six this season and Arteta will quietly be hoping his team can finish even higher. It will of course depend on keeping players fully fit which remains the biggest factor in maintaining a consistency in results this season.
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think …
Source by Football London