After three Premier League matches, Arsenal was in crisis mode, supporters were angry, again, and neutrals were enjoying another laugh. Four goals scored, eight conceded, three points from a possible nine, and a humiliating defeat against Liverpool. No matter how you looked at it, things were not well.
Since then, the transfer window has come to an end, Ox forced his move to Anfield, and this Arsenal squad looks very different. In terms of personnel, no new arrivals on deadline day, but, in a sense, they look completely rejuvenated.
Call it a favorable run of games, fortune, or call me delusional. The truth is that something has clearly changed in the squad, but is it going to be long term?
Against Bournemouth, the tension was high, and they needed to get a result. Welbz got a brace, Lacazette scored his second at the club, and the pressure was lifted, at least temporarily. Most would say it’s a match at home against Bournemouth, and in fairness, yes, they are struggling thus far, but having lost twice and in that fashion against Liverpool, this was easily a match where Arsenal could have dropped points.
Let’s leapfrog the Europa League match now, and talk about what we saw at Stamford Bridge.
Going into the match, there was still uncertainty and tension surrounding the squad. Regardless of who was available, I wasn’t entirely confident prior to kickoff. A thumping defeat against Liverpool, now a visit to Stamford Bridge. We weren’t mentally prepared for another embarrassing defeat.
I hoped for a performance to at least applaud, independent of the result. My heart said we’d win simply because we’ve been successful against them as of late, but my head said we were in for a looonnnnggg 90 minutes. I certainly did not expect what we witnessed. Holy sh*t, did that really happen?
Here was the soft Arsenal we all know, going toe-to-toe in every department with the current champions of the Premier League at Stamford Bridge. They weren’t just tactically perfect, but physically, they matched Chelsea every step of the way. Cynical fouls? Yea, they had those as well. There was a certain fire in every single one of those players in a red kit, which quite honestly hasn’t been seen for a while.
One thing I always talk about is positional discipline. Well, at Stamford Bridge, there was plenty of that. Even Aaron Ramsey stuck to his assignments, making sure to not expose Xhaka or the defenders. Let me repeat: Aaron Ramsey was superb on the day, not only going forward, but positionally as well, which allowed him to help the squad efficiently on the defensive side of the ball. He may very well have turned in his best performance in quite some time. And to top it all off, he was awarded the man of the match award. Ironically when asked about what was different, he actually mentioned the fact that the team was very disciplined in terms of positioning behind the ball. I guess that’s what happens when players stick to their assignments and get stuck into a challenge.
After the full-time whistle, there was a good feeling about Arsenal’s performance, something we hadn’t experienced since the start of the season. You could just sense the appreciation from the supporters, as well as the confidence from within the squad after their performance. Nearly all pundits and neutral supporters would have expected Arsenal to come away with another bag full of goals conceded, but to the surprise of all, that wasn’t the case.
They were now onto West Brom at the Emirates, in a fixture that Arsenal have enjoyed over the years.
Tony Pulis was in town, so you know it wouldn’t be easy, despite the history in this fixture. The fact that Pulis and Wenger don’t see eye-to-eye probably adds a bit more motivation for the track suit lovin’, hat wearin’, Welshman.
West Brom wasn’t going to lay down and give the Gunners a free pass, and to be honest, on another evening, Arsenal could have walked off the pitch with their head in their hands.
Despite Arsenal’s cleansheet, their third in as many matches since the drubbing at Anfield, the Baggies can only blame themselves, Petr Cech’s fingertips, and maybe Jay Rodriguez’s honesty. Had the Englishman fallen into the imaginary pool after Mustafi pretended to be on a slip-n-slide, Bobby Madley may not have had another choice but to put whistle to mouth, and point to the spot, sending us Arsenal supporters into a meltdown. It goes to show that when you’re an honesty footy player, you still get penalized. First, Petr Cech absolutely robbed him of a goal, and then Livermore, well, what can I say about him. A wide open goal at his mercy, and, he did what we weren’t expecting, but, I’m so appreciative that he forgot the objective was to put that round object into that big rectangle.
Anyways, that wouldn’t be the last time we had our heart in our mouth during that match. Thankfully, even our unsung hero Nacho Monreal was on top of his game, again, clearing a header off the line to keep that cleansheet intact.
I’m still not entirely sure how Arsenal managed to keep them off the scoresheet, but hey, Lacazette and his trumpet led us to three more points.
Even with some suspect moments throughout that match, especially at the back, again, the players still looked determined to get the three points. In the past, after all those chances, Arsenal would have eventually crumbled and conceded.
Instead, they’ve now won five of their last six in all competitions after losing two straight, outscoring opponents 13-3, and find themselves seventh, three points off Chelsea, and six off both deep pocketed Manchester clubs. Not bad for a club that was in crisis mode just three fixtures into the new campaign.
On paper, Arsenal has plenty of depth and talent, but it all comes down to how invested each player is into getting results. Judging from their performances since losing to Liverpool, they are on the right track. With a favorable run of fixtures coming up, if they can continue this physical and passionate approach on the pitch, they could very well find themselves in a good spot prior to taking on Manchester City and then Spu*s in November.