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Five Things We’ve Learned About Arsenal So Far This Season


Going into the International break, Arsenal miraculously find themselves sitting in third place, just a point behind last year’s champions, and having only lost once. This is even more incredible when you consider that they have yet to put together an “impressive” ninety minutes, generally grinding out results that often look unlikely. Despite the flattering position, there is definitely room for improvement on the pitch. Equally, however, the opening weeks have taught us some important things about the club, and this article shall explore five of them.

Defensive Issues remain the same

The modern Arsenal would be unrecognisable if it didn’t go hand in hand with defensive inability. In Arsene Wenger’s last season, the problems were evident, and despite three transfer windows since and three new players, they persist. Defending from David Luiz and Sokratis has been nothing short of comical at times, as Sokratis especially appears ill-at-ease with the ball at his feet.

Of Arsenal’s defenders, it is actually the much-maligned Shkodran Mustafi who has impressed most, keeping three clean sheets in his three starts, albeit in cup matches. The return of Rob Holding from injury, as well as the summer arrival of William Saliba should help to shore up Arsenal’s backline in the future. More pleasingly, the additions of Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney imminently will provide Unai Emery with fullbacks who suit his preferred style and may allow his midfield selections to be more adventurous.

Emery is yet to decide on his best midfield

Unai Emery has been accused, largely fairly, of being too defensive with his midfield selections. This was most apparent at Old Trafford, where it consisted of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. The selection tends to invite unwarranted pressure onto Arsenal’s already fragile defence, and his decision to try and use Torreira as a box-to-box midfielder remains bemusing. Having performed so well in a double-pivot next to Granit Xhaka for large parts of last season, he was surely expected to return there. Arsenal’s midfield ranks possess all the qualities to become fantastic, even discounting the mysteriously missing Mesut Ozil, and we have seen glimpses of it in the Europa League. In the Premier League, however, Emery seems unsure of his best options.

Aubameyang is genuinely world-class.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this season is perhaps the only reason that Arsenal sit as high as third at the time of writing. Feeding off very limited service as a result of midfield selection, he is often asked to make something out of nothing (See for example his second goal against Burnley). Despite this, he has managed to notch up seven league goals, gaining Arsenal eight of their fifteen points in the process. He has been a prolific scorer throughout his career but had developed a reputation as a “poacher”.

The start of this season has demonstrated that he offers far more to the side than that, and he is surely the second-best striker in the league, behind Sergio Aguero. Off the pitch as well, he remains a class act. He plays a key role in squad harmony, demonstrated by his decision to give Nicolas Pepe a penalty to open his Arsenal account. He left Borussia Dortmund under a cloud of being a “problem player” yet at Arsenal he has been nothing short of World Class on and off the pitch.

The kids are alright

One thing that Emery does seem certain about this season is his desire to play the youth players in Arsenal’s squad. Previously, I had expected it to be predominantly in the Europa League, but these players have been handed starts in the Premier League as well. Nor have they looked out of place. Joe Willock and Matteo Guendouzi have been Arsenal’s best midfielders, whilst Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have all impressed in their brief stints in the side. Saka, in particular, has made huge strides forward and looks fearless on the ball. All in all, it is safe to say that the club may already have future stars in their ranks, which is always a huge bonus for any fan-base.

The Premier League remains the toughest league in the world

In case anyone didn’t already know, the Premier League fully deserves its reputation as the toughest league in the world. Already we have seen shocks galore, with both Manchester United and Tottenham being beaten by teams tipped for relegation. It should come as no surprise then, that players from other leagues struggle to adapt immediately, as Nicolas Pepe has proven. Being asked to work effectively alone on the right-hand side, he has not endured a great start to his Arsenal career. He has shown glimpses of the supreme talent he possesses, and it would, of course, be stupid to write him off already. I fully expect him to come good.

The same logic must of course also be applied to Kieran Tierney, who will need to be given time to adapt to the rigours of English football. At 24 and 22 respectively, they have plenty of time to succeed at the club, and both signings undoubtedly improve the starting lineup going forward.

Overall, although the style of football which has seen us get to third place is likely unsustainable, there have undoubtedly been positives to take from the opening games of the season. Once the fit-again defenders, along with forward Alexandre Lacazette, are added into the mix Arsenal look like they will have a solid foundation to really push on to cement a top-four spot and sustain a cup run. Add into this the promising youth players already knocking on the door of the first team, and it is clear that there are many reasons to hope this squad can be successful this season.



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