Saturday, October 30, 2021

Leicester 0 - Arsenal 2

It's been several weeks since I wrote anything about Arsenal. Recall, the Gunners lost the first three games of the season, and it looked only a matter of time before Mikel Arteta would be sacked (as I thought he should be). Fast forward nine weeks. Arsenal have not lost a game since week 3, and the Gunners have moved from last place to fifth (as of now, before the rest of the teams have played their games this week). They have, at least, confirmed their place in the top half of the league table. Arteta has committed to playing his younger, more exciting, players, who have rewarded him with performances ranging between solid and tremendous. Ramsdale has been consistently outstanding in goal, never more so than in today's game, when he made the save of the season so far. The porous defense has been solidified as Gabriel and White seem to have made a strong partnership. The midfield has become much more dangerous, in part because Saka and Smith-Rowe have been starting every game, but also because Partey has remained healthy. Arsenal still need a strong defensive midfielder, especially with Xhaka out injured. Lokonga has been far from convincing in his performances, but he's young (22) and might yet grow into the job. And up front, Aubameyang appears rejuvenated thanks, no doubt, to the energy of the youngsters around him. Even Pepe has impressed in a couple of games this season, where he's shown a greater willingness to work back on defense, when needed. He's still far too inconsistent and his passing is, frankly, terrible.  

For the time being, Arteta seems to have saved his job. Even his harshest critics (including me) have to concede that the team are playing well - the defense is cohesive and holds its shape when under attack. There are still times when the Gunners start a game without energy (today emphatically not being one of those times), and that is on the manager. It will interesting to see what business, if any, the Gunners do in the January transfer window. Adding another promising attacker to the roster, along with a solid defensive midfielder, certainly would help the Gunners get back into European football for next year. A Champion's League place could be a step too far this season, but a Euro League place seems very much within reach. 

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