So, the feelings us fans felt after the defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers have subsided somewhat.
Many fans on social media are having a hard time dealing with Arsenal’s start to the season, particularly their most recent loss to Manchester City.
Now, understandably everyone was disappointed with the 1-0 loss to City in our last Premier League outing, and I think it was the way we lost. Yes, we could have been a bit more proactive going forward as City seemed low on confidence.
It felt like Mikel Arteta set us up first to not lose the game, but I am more than okay with that considering how much we were outplayed last time we travelled to the Etihad.
A lot of comments on social media have been aimed at Arteta being moved on and how he should have played Mesut Ozil and how nothing has changed when it comes to us playing away to the so-called ‘big six teams. But it’s important to put our start of the season into perspective and to pump the brakes on all the ‘Arteta does not know what he is doing’ nonsense. I’ll tell you why.
If you look at our first five games of the season, we have beaten Fulham away, West Ham at home, lost away to Liverpool, beaten Sheffield United and then narrowly lost to Manchester City. We currently sit fifth on the table. I am more than okay with that start. No-one in the football world gave us a shot at getting anything from the Liverpool and Manchester City games, so they are the two losses that we were ‘meant’ to have. That means we have won the games we were meant to win as well.
Here are a couple of stats that put the start of our season into perspective. In our first five games we have conceded only six goals, and that includes two away trips to Liverpool and Man City, the two top teams from last season. Add to that the fact we have the second-best defensive record in the division, behind Aston Villa, who have conceded only two goals.
You could strongly argue that in both games we lost we could have easily won a point if Alexandre Lacazette finished off one of his two golden chances at Anfield. Then there was the Manchester City game, and while we probably deserved a point, saying we deserved all three would be a stretch. I’m not saying we would have got a point, but the complexion of the games would have changed and – who knows? – we might have got a positive result.
Think about what was just said. To say that our Arsenal side was unlucky in both games to not come away with a point says something about the improvements the side has made in a short time under Arteta. In years gone by we have been blown off the park in the first 30 minutes by both Liverpool and City teams.
Do not forget either that Arteta is still dealing with basically the same squad that Unai Emery had at his disposal too, with only Gabriel and Thomas Partey as the new additions to be playing regularly in the first team. It will take a while for Mikel to get the right players he wants in his squad to play the way he wants to play.
If I had said to you before the start of the season that after five games Arsenal would have the second-best defensive record in the division and that they had played both Liverpool and Manchester City away, you would have laughed at me. That is the improvement Arteta has made with this team – tough to break down and tough to beat.
Now we have changed our playing style too. The glitz and glamour football that we have become accustomed to over the years has now nearly gone, replaced instead with a more defensively minded approach that at this stage seems to be working for us. It is good to see that we now have discipline without the ball and that players are showing the fans that they want to do the dirty side too, running without the ball and keeping a good shape defensively.
It is not going to be perfect all the time, as we have already seen this year, but be reminded that we are still very much a work in progress as a football team. But we have shown that we are no pushovers, something that could not be said only a couple of years ago.
So for anyone getting disenchanted with our start to the year, just remember what kind of shape we were in as a club before Arteta arrived: an absolute shambles. While it might not be the lightning-quick turnaround some expected, good progress is being made, and it does not happen overnight; it’s a slow process, so we might have some short-term pain for long-term gain.
By anyone’s measure we have made more than a decent start to our new season. There’s no shame in losing to Liverpool and City in the space of three weeks, and we have made gradual improvements under Arteta, especially defensively.
So pump the brakes on all the Arteta hate and ideas that we would be better with Ozil in the side, because make no mistake about it, fellow Gooners: Arsenal under Mikel are a different beast and we going in the right direction as a club.
We will be back where we want to be, at the top of English football and playing in Europe. It’s just going to take some patience from us as a fan-base.
Trust in the process, Gooners. We’re in good shape.