I believe we will finish 4th. There I said it. In truth, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t, unless of course, we leapfrog one or more of the current top 3. A domestic cup success would certainly help to soften the blow too.
Arsenal supporters love to bemoan our bad luck but right now, the stars appear to be aligning and things are going our way. Whilst the fixtures of our top 4 rivals are being postponed left, right and centre, we’ve fulfilled most of ours to date and got the points on board too. Impressively. Having finally being struck by postponement against Wolves, many fans believe it could disrupt our recent momentum. However, it may be a blessing in disguise given the short recovery period we were facing after playing Norwich on Boxing Day.
At the beginning of the season, my minimum expectation was a top 6 finish. Without the distraction of European football, I believed or perhaps simply hoped that our reduced fixture schedule would give us an advantage over our rivals and enable us to seriously challenge for a Champions League place.
What I didn’t anticipate is the connection between our young players and supporters. A bond that continues to grow stronger every game that passes. Fans will naturally always be fond of players who have been developed within their clubs youth academy but prior to his arrival, I don’t think anyone predicted the love affair that has developed between those on the terraces and Aaron Ramsdale.
Earlier in the campaign, during our 10 game unbeaten run, I believe it’s fair to say that Aaron’s brilliance masked some very average team performances. Those displays and his passionate personality have quickly endeared him to the Arsenal faithful. His character has been infectious and helped some of the other players to charm supporters too.
It isn’t only Ramsdale who has made a good impression since his arrival in the summer. Tomiyasu’s consistently strong performances are quickly earning him a reputation as one of the best right backs in the league. Rather impressive when you consider some sections of our fan base were dubbing him Chu Young Park 2.0 and suggesting he was only signed for commercial purposes.
Another player that was written off and whose permanent signature was greeted with disapproval from some quarters was that of Odegaard. My opinion was that his relatively modest transfer fee was a bargain in today’s market. More so after he’d already had an adaption period during his loan spell. Over the last few weeks, Martin’s influence has steadily grown. Interestingly, coinciding with Aubameyang’s absence.
It’s not only Odegaard’s guile that I’ve been impressed with but his surprisingly high work rate for an attack minded player. Already the captain of Norway, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the list of potential future captain candidates. Particularly if he’s able to start dictating play against stronger opponents, which has to be the next challenge for him.
Whilst on the subject of players who have stepped up during Aubameyang’s omission from the side, Martinelli has rediscovered his form after seemingly struggling initially after returning from injury. Many supporters felt he should have replaced the former captain in the side much earlier. However, with the level of sharpness he’s currently showing, it’s hard to disagree that he’s returned to the side at the right moment.
It’s evident from their performances, that despite some supporters being critical of Mikel’s treatment of Aubameyang, the rest of the playing squad back their manager’s punishment of their team mate. Although it should have happened earlier, leaving the Gabon international out of the side appears to have given the team a far greater unity and fluidity. The shape of the side looks more balanced too. Over the last five games, we have become a joy to watch after frequently looking very laboured, even in victory earlier in the season.
Although we’ve played some real poor sides of late, the reality is that we’re beating them comfortably and that’s all we can ask from our team. We’d all be disappointed if that wasn’t the case. Whilst I believe we will finish in the top 4 and can acknowledge that it’s an important step in our progression, I don’t see that as anything to get excited about just yet. After all, it’s only a few seasons ago that we took it for granted.
Despite recognising the overhaul that’s taken place, the manner in which many supporters discuss Arteta’s tenure to date, you would think he’s transformed us from perennial relegation strugglers into Champions League contenders. Mikel is undoubtedly doing an impressive job at present and deserves the plaudits but for the time being, I’ll remain calm as it’s seemingly been forgotten that we finished 5th, a point off 4th and two off 3rd, the season prior to his arrival.
Whilst Manchester City offer a very different test to our recent fixtures, the future of our club is certainly an exciting one. Gabriel and White have formed a very promising central defensive partnership, Lokonga and Tavares have shown glimpses of their potential and then of course, we have the talents of Saka and Smith Rowe aside from those I’ve already mentioned.
Our supporters frequently get carried away one way or the other, be it with positivity or negativity. I’ve been reading that should we beat City, we are title contenders but for the moment, I’m just enjoying seeing us winning without overthinking it. It’s very easy to get over analytical and lose the enjoyment of simply watching your team win….
Passionate Gooner born in 1984. I often get called negative but personally, I prefer the term honest and honesty is something that I pride myself on. I joined the Gunners Town team after penning several ‘Dear Arsene Wenger’ letters on my Facebook profile, several years ago, and sharing them in Arsenal supporter groups. These were met with praise and the encouragement to start writing my own blog, from fellow Arsenal supporters, who felt my words summed up their own feelings perfectly. So here I am…..