Three Things We Learned from Bournemouth 0 – 3 Arsenal
The 2022-2023 Premier League season is off and running and its already thrown out a few surprises. After beating Bournemouth on Saturday, Arsenal are one of those ‘surprises’ as they head into the fourth match of the season being the only team in the league to win all 3 of its opening matches.
It was as dominating a performance we’ve seen from an Arsenal team in some time. Its also the first time since the 2004-2005 season that Arsenal have opened the season with 3 wins. Its an impressive start to a long campaign.
So, let’s look back at what we took away from this latest Arsenal win.
Perfecting the 2-3-5 in attack
A week or so ago, pundits were lauding Pep’s use of two inverted fullbacks alongside the 6. It was some sort of ingenious move they said. The same pundits ignored the fact that only a few weeks earlier in the Emirates cup, Arsenal had employed a similar tactic.
Who started that tactic is irrelevant, the fact is Arsenal are using and they are getting better at it. Two players exemplify its effectiveness for this team.
First is new signing Olexsandr Zinchenko. During the match on Saturday, in the US Lee Dixon was asked to define the position the Ukrainian international was taking up. Lee couldn’t as at the time, Zinchenko was coming all the way across the field to play on right of Partey, not his customary left. Dixon would go on to jokingly comment that George Graham would’ve killed him for that.
Zinchenko’s average position was (according to Whoscored.com) just slightly behind the left-sided 8 – Granit Xhaka. In some cases, Zinchenko has operated more centrally with Xhaka assuming a wide position behind Martinelli.
And it is the same Xhaka that is also benefiting from the move to the 2-3-5. For so many season, Xhaka has been maligned. There is a small portion of rather vocal fans that blame him for Arsenal falling out of the Champions League places (ignoring the fact that there were 10 other players on the pitch.) That same Xhaka looks like a player reborn.
Its not so much that but it is perhaps that finally there is a structure in place that allows the best attributes of his play to come to play. And its beginning to pay off, with the Swiss international becoming an instrumental part of Arsenal’s attack. He’s already had one goal and plenty of opportunities for others.
Finally, Arsenal themselves as a squad are benefiting from. The move has put more players arriving in the box to meet the chances being created. It has forced opposition defenses to sit deeper to account for the threat the numbers create affording Arsenal the space to move the ball to unlock the low block.
There are still stiffer challenges ahead but so far, this new attacking move looks to have made Arsenal more of a significant attacking threat than they were a season ago.
Trusting the Process is Paying Off
If you are an aficionado of the NBA you already know that the idea of “Trust the Process” was born (sort of) by the Philadelphia 76ers who for the longest while gamed the system (in others tanked the league) to get the best draft picks to build a squad. Through all that pain the front office implored fans to be patient and trust the process.
The result has been a competitive team, that is making the playoffs and sees itself with a shot at the NBA title.
When the idea of trusting the process came over to England and Arsenal, it was looked at by many as a joke phrase. Who’s got time for patience, we’ve been patient and we want to win now. Problem for Arsenal and some fans who already accepted it, nothing Arsenal could do would make them win now. They needed a complete rebuild.
Fast forward to now and the patience the club has had is being rewarded with the best looking Arsenal side we’ve had in years. They are young, they are hungry and they play for the badge. Collectively it is a team built all with the same profile in hopes that like the 76ers it will become a regularly competitive side.
Arteta has talked about recently missing some fire power and that they still want to bring in quality players to round out the squad. Its that vision from him and Edu that are building the best Arsenal squad we’ve had for some time.
Patience is hard as a fan but it’s finally paying off and boy are we enjoying it.
Not Getting Carried Away
There is in the English media, a desire to crown champions 3 matches into the season, last year, Tottenham were sitting top of the table and were the talk of punditry. They tried this weekend to do the same to Arsenal but the manger was having none of it.
“It’s just three games, it doesn’t mean anything, ‘I am very happy. It’s really difficult to come here and win 3-0. Credit to the boys. I’m really pleased but at the same time we have to look at ourselves and there are many areas where we can get better.”
We’re all happy. Its been so long since we’ve had this kind of joy around the club we support but its not time to get carried away. There are still plenty of banana peels to overcome and pitfalls to traverse.
In understanding Arteta’s passion for this club and these players its good that he is keeping himself grounded and reminding others to do the same.
Last year’s title winners after three matches suffered and barely scraped to top 4 (if not for our faltering) This year’s version could suffer a similar fate.
Still though, it doesn’t hurt to dream and this squad has us doing that again. I mean its not like every team won their first 3 games of the season.