The recent upturn in Arsenal’s results has given Mikel Arteta some tasty food for thought. The goals are flowing, and – coupled with sturdy defensive performances by our B-string Holding-Mari defensive axis – the Gunners have managed to string together some meaningful and convincing wins against tricky opposition.
Much of this success has been attributed to a renewed vigour and desire on the pitch, due in no small part to the inclusion of key youngsters in the opening line-up. Bukayo Saka, who has been nominated as the PFA’s 2020 Young Player of the Season, seems to have taken the responsibility for Arsenal’s attacking threat squarely on his young shoulders, and his impetus has been the catalyst for much of our recent success.
Much of his effectiveness is, however, down to the inclusion of another Hale End youngster – a player alongside whom Saka has risen through the Arsenal ranks: playmaker Emile Smith-Rowe. Having already made an impact together in Arsenal’s record-equalling Europa Group Stage campaign (winning all 6 games) – Arteta made the bold (but necessary) decision to give Arsenal’s talented duo a chance to do the same on the biggest stage of all: The English Premier League. And they didn’t disappoint.
The high-energy, seize-the-moment approach of the Saka-ESR pairing was matched pace-for-pace by the whizz-bang Brazilian, Martinelli, fresh from a long-term injury. His tireless pressing and lust for goals made the youngsters’ creative attacking threat that much more dangerous.
These three seemed to rejuvenate Alexandre Lacazette, who thrived in this new, up-tempo Arsenal line-up; he proved more than able to link-up in smart, effective one-two combos, and his hair-trigger goal-scoring abilities were awakened from their season-long slumber. Sidemen Tierney and Bellerin also succumbed to this infectious strain of can-do-itis – both delivering career-best performances; the young Scotsman in particular has been in sparkling form, and his drive, intensity and leadership have led to strong shouts for his right to don the Captain’s armband.
This boost to Arsenal’s table position couldn’t have come at a better time: flirting with relegation is not a position with which recent Arsenal is familiar – and calls for Arteta’s head on a stick would seriously have set the Gunners back in their quest for a post-Wengerian revival.
The timing was perfect from another perspective too, though: with serious financial constraints, finding a solution to Arsenal’s lack of creativity outside of London Colney in the January window, during a pandemic, was always going to prove a difficult task. Talk of signing target Emiliano Buendia from Championship side Norwich has all but fizzled out – ostensibly because of his steep £40m price tag. This may disappoint many Arsenal fans, hoping for a Premier League-ready solution in the casino lottery that is the January window, as the Argentinian is proven and fans continue to access sites here, which remains a popular choice for online entertainment, as more lockdowns have been enforced across the UK.
Lyon playmaker Houssem Auoar was the top saga of last summer’s transfer window – a deal as good as done was apparently scuppered by his agent brother’s greed. Plans to come back for him this January seem to have been placed on hold. A bullet dodged, perhaps, for Arsenal, since Auoar has publicly preferred destinations in Spain to London’s N5.
Outcast Mesut Ozil is rumoured to be in advanced talks with an MLS franchise, and is also linked with a move to Fenerbahce. Whether he will do the right thing and leave during the January window, allowing Arsenal to see some return on the massive investment made in the maligned German remains to be seen.
Emile Smith-Rowe looks to have climbed to the top of the list of potential suitors for Arsenal’s hallowed No. 10 shirt, a shirt that will finally be vacated come May (or hopefully sooner).
I was eleven-and-a-half. My family had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa. All the kids on my street supported United or Liverpool, because of their Southern African goalkeeper connections: Bailey for United and Grobbelaar for ‘Pool. Problem was: I didn’t like the colour red – so when FA Cup Final day came around in 1979, I supported the team in yellow, even though their name sounded like “Asshole”. At the final whistle, I had bragging rights and a team that had won my heart.
Then I discovered that the Gunners also wore red. Luckily, I remained loyal, and the Arsenal has kicked my heart around ever since… (apart from a few lost years in the ’90s and early ’00s, when I was busy doing grownup things as a composer in Hollywood).
Abandoned invinciblog.com to launch this site with 1 Nil Down 2 One Up blogfather Dave Seager – and we have used this platform to help launch the writing careers of a number of amazing Arsenal bloggers.