And Then Came Arsenal | Krishna Nagarajan
The Premier League season is a little more than halfway through, and it’s safe to say that nobody saw this coming. When oil-money-heavy Manchester City finished last year’s season with an eye-watering 93 points, everyone knew what would happen. City, led by Sheikh Mansour and his 21 billion dollars, would buy Erling Haaland and sweep the league. Maybe, just maybe, Liverpool would provide a bit of competition for the Manchester giants. But really, we were all expecting City to push 100 points this season. Surely, nobody was going to get in their way. And then came Arsenal.
After 18 long years, we could finally see Arsenal lift the Premier League trophy. Emphasis on could. A Premier League season is 38 games long, and Arsenal has only played 24. But so far, 57 points in 24 games is incredibly promising. There is a growing belief in the squad and among the fan base; Arsenal has blossomed into something special.
Last year, Mikel Arteta’s team was filled with massive question marks. At the start of the season, the Gunners lost three straight games and #artetaout and #arsenalrelegation were trending hashtags on Twitter. However, the team turned things around at the beginning of the new year. Things began to look up for the team, and Champions League Football was on the horizon.
Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. The team collapsed toward the end of the year, and what began to look like a turning point was a devastating outcome for Arteta’s squad. A lack of Champions League Football and another year of the Europa League was going to be a mark of a young squad with promise but no true firepower to get the Gunners to where they once were under the reign of Arsene Wenger. Or so we all thought.
Fast-forward to the summer. Arsenal signed talented Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko for a combined 76 million pounds, a relatively large sum in the moment but, looking back, one that has drastically changed the squad and seems like a steal in some respects given the massive impact they have made since joining the club. When the season began, everybody was excited but fans (including myself) weren’t entirely sure what to expect. Was there a possibility that we would get back to the Champions League for the first time since 2017? Or would a promising summer transfer window lead to yet another disappointing season?
However, here we are. 24 games in at the top of the table with a game in hand. Arteta’s masterplan, led by an ingenious midfield pairing with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka with creative magician Martin Odegaard in front of them and Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli on the wings, Arteta has masterfully crafted a team that has played incredibly well throughout the season. A defensive duo of Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba has been a strong pairing that has allowed the team to stay defensively sound, conceding the 2nd-fewest goals for any team in the league this season. While we are only a little more than halfway through, the future is promising. And Arsenal may slowly be rising back to the top.