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Opinion

A strong start for Arteta's Arsenal

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Roar Rookie
7th October, 2020
5

With the transfer window now shut and Arsenal getting the elite Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid, the Premier League takes a break for the international matches that are too be played.

So, with no Arsenal match for two weeks, what better thing to do than to review our first month of the new season. Here we go.

Match rundown

Fulham 0-3 Arsenal (Premier League)
It was a relatively easy start for Arsenal to open the new Premier League season as they barely got out of second gear in their first win. Goals from Alexandre Lacazette, new signing Gabriel and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured all three points in what was a comprehensive performance. New signing Gabriel was solid in his first outing apart from a nervous back early on, but the Gunners were barely troubled in this one.

Arsenal 2-1 West Ham (Premier League)
This was probably one of the worst performances Arsenal has had in a long time, but it just goes to show the side’s determination and willingness to fight right to the final whistle that got them the three points in this one. Goals to Alexandre Lacazette and youngster Eddie Nketiah either side of a Michail Antonio strike settled the match.

In truth West Ham can consider themselves incredibly unlucky to not at least take a point – they probably deserved all three if I’m honest. I got the sense that this is a match Arsenal would have lost a year ago, but with a newfound defensive toughness, the Gunners fought all the way and finally scored the winner with five minutes remaining. This match shone a light on the Gunners’ need for a creative midfielder, and it was a wake-up call as to how far Arsenal still had to go in terms of their development. But two wins from two? You couldn’t ask for more than that.

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Leicester 0-2 Arsenal (EFL Cup)
The first cup game of the year was another performance in which they were relatively untroubled. A Christian Fuchs own goal and another for youngster Eddie Nketiah in the 90th minute saw Arsenal advance to the next round. It was a match in which Reiss Nelson, Nicolas Pepe, Joe Willock, and Eddie Nketiah were all given their first starts for the year, but it was those who were not included that surprised me.

I did think cup matches would have been a good way to ease young gun William Saliba into the first-team fold, but he was given a place on the bench instead as Mikel Arteta wants to ease him into action.

Then there was Mesut Ozil. He is not going anywhere until his contract expires and many thought that with the type of money he’s on Arsenal should at least use him, whether it be starting or from the bench. But he wasn’t even included in the matchday squad. However, with how Arteta has turned the club around, I’m not one to start questioning him now. He knows what he is doing.

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League)
Arsenal’s first loss of the new year and you would have been foolish to think a win was coming. A positive result would have been a draw in my eyes considering where the team is in its stage of development. The first half was quite simply a masterclass from Liverpool. Their pressing was first class, and they outran, out hassled and outplayed Arsenal in every way you want to look at it.

The Gunners took an undeserved lead in the 25th minute through Alexandre Lacazette, who has had a good start to the year. However, with Liverpool’s dominance, they equalised and then took the lead in the space of six minutes thanks to Sadio Mane and Andrew Robertson. In years gone by Arsenal would have shipped in four or five in the first half, but they kept Liverpool to two goals.

The second half was a massive improvement as the Gunners did not let Liverpool have it their way and get the match on their terms. Alexandre Lacazette had a glorious chance to equalise after the much-needed introduction of Dani Ceballos provided the creativity to keep Liverpool on the back foot. Arsenal was in the game until new Liverpool signing Diogo Jota scored in the 88th minute to settle the match. A strong second-half showing against the champions gave the squad confidence going forward.

Liverpool 0-0 Arsenal (4-5 on penalties EFL Cup)
The rematch a few days later at the same venue. Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Cedric, and new signing Gabriel were all given starts as Arsenal looked to get revenge for the Premier League loss. Bernd Leno was in ridiculous form to keep the Reds at bay, as they had 16 shots to six and 57 per cent possession to 43 per cent, but once again the defensive steel was on show as the Gunners did not concede and the game went to penalties. Ainsley Maitland-Niles put social media into meltdown with his stone-cold finish in the shootout as Arsenal progressed to the next round. Another good step in the team’s growth under Arteta.

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Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield United (Premier League)
A game in which the first 45 minutes were incredibly hard to get excited about. Arsenal had most of the possession, even having it up to 75 per cent at one stage, but again it was the lack of creativity that was clear to see.

However, the introduction of Nicolas Pepe at the expense of Eddie Nketiah completely changed the game. Aubameyang was shifted centrally, with Willian and Saka interchanging between their wing positions and the No. 10 role. This could and maybe should be the way Arsenal line up going forward.

The Gunners were a different beast, and a nice sweeping move was capped off with a nice dink from Hector Bellerin, who found Bukayo Saka at the far post, who headed home to give Arsenal the lead. Three minutes later Nicolas Pepe showed why he is a serious threat, with a neat one-two with Bellerin, and Pepe dashed through on goal and calmly slotted home in the far corner. It was Henry-like, simply beautiful to watch as he doubled the lead.

A late David McGoldrick goal set up a tense finish, but again the defensive steel showed out and Arsenal made it three for four in the Premier League to go fourth.

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Key talking points

Dani Ceballos and Gabriel must start every game
Ceballos is Arsenal’s main creative threat and, with Thomas Partey now coming into the side, he could be shifted into the No. 10 role to fully utilise his talents. Gabriel is another who has had an impressive start to life in England. He has been solid as a rock, he has a great range of passing and he is as physical as they come. I love everything about him so far and he must be a mainstay in the centre of defence.

When will we see William Saliba?
Many have been asking this question all year, but it is important to remember he is only 18 years of age. Mikel Arteta has made it clear that he will not rush him into the team, instead giving him time to acclimatise to life in England. There was talk of a loan move back to the French side Saint Etienne FC, but it fell through as the paperwork was not completed on time. At the time of writing a loan move to a side in the Championship looks most likely.

Thomas Partey could be a game-changer
Over the last 24 hours, I have heard him compared to the great Patrick Vieira, which is a huge compliment. He is exactly was the midfield needed – someone who is physical, plays box to box, is great in the tackle and is good going forward too. He is great at sniffing out danger and has an eye for a pass too, and he could very well be the midfield signing all Arsenal fans have craved for years since Vieira’s departure.

So, three wins from four games in the Premier League and two from two in the EFL Cup is a great start in anyone’s eyes. Missing out on Houssem Aouar was a blow, and we will see just how big it will be the further we get into the season. However, the reality is that with the current financial climate Arsenal could perhaps not afford both, so they decided on Partey and might have another crack at Aouar in January.

A great start to the year, and with Manchester City up next in the league, hopefully we will get our first look at Thomas Partey in the famous red and white.

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