How High Can Arsenal Fly?

How High Can Arsenal Fly?

“North London forever
Whatever the weather
These streets are our own
And my heart will leave you never
My blood will forever
Run through the stone”

Also read: The Battle For Supremacy In London: The Race For Top 4 Promises To Be The Closest In History

The Arsenal faithful sing this beautiful chorus during every matchday at the Emirates Stadium, professing their undying love for the club, and also in some parts, reminiscing yesteryears – the Wenger era, the Invincibles season, and the days that have gone by. A time when flair, flamboyance, and silverware was commonplace in their old stadium – Highbury, all perfectly captured by Louis Dunford’s song ‘The Angel (North London Forever)’.

Arsenal supporters have often cut a frustrated figure in the last decade or so. From being the outright top dog in London to now being usurped by neighbours Chelsea both domestically and in Europe, to not being able to celebrate ‘St. Totteringham’s day’ regularly with Spurs finishing above them on multiple occasions; the downfall has been mighty.

“You have to be in Europe, you have to fight for trophies and the rest is not good enough. It’s as simple as this”, said Arteta in his first press conference for Arsenal when he took over from the remnants of a poisonous atmosphere post the Unai Emery reign in 2019. Back then it seemed like a nice little soundbite to appease the fans and to say the right things. Fast forward 3 years later, he is putting his money where his mouth is and ever so close to restoring Arsenal back to the top, just like he promised.

With a good transfer window addressing key issues, offloading underperforming big-name personalities and fringe players, putting together a team and a shared vision; Arteta has seemingly managed to do the impossible. He has united the club, the board, and most importantly, the fans. The same fans that once held placards in stadiums saying “#ArtetaOut” in parts of 2020 and 2021, are now singing and chanting their manager’s name in the stands.

The Gunners are flying in the league. Winning all their games bar one after 8 matches, they sit on top of the table. New signings Jesus and Zinchenko have fit in like a pair of gloves. Their young squad from the last 2 seasons is now a maturing team of stars. Senior players in Xhaka and Partey have pulled their socks up to add much needed consistency and experience to the spine.

“We all have a fire burning because of what happened at the end of last season”; Ramsdale’s words after the North London derby on Saturday were loud and clear. “We’re just loving the journey at the minute and long may that continue”, he added. Every Gooner can resonate with that thought. But they will well be aware of the challenges they will face.

A first loss of the season at Old Trafford sent alarm bells ringing as to whether Arsenal really could compete against the bigger sides. They had only faced relatively easier opposition until their loss to Manchester United. But Saturday’s resounding win against bitter foes Spurs has sent the red half of North London into a hopeful frenzy again.

Conte’s Spurs came into the game undefeated in the league. But Arsenal had a bigger point to prove. They were still reeling from the shock of last season when they lost out on 4th place to their most bitter rivals, especially after leading the race for so long. Pundits, and fans of all clubs raised a few eyebrows post that, and rightly so. The biggest question of all perhaps, was how Arsenal would respond to a loss. Would they crumble and sink, or would they fight back and show the sort of mentality that seemed nonexistent at the club for almost two decades?

Boy did they answer that question in style. The 3-1 humbling of Spurs was a statement. A statement that there’s something special brewing in the artillery at the famous Arsenal. But doubts will still remain until Arteta can actually galvanize his squad to go the distance and bring the UCL anthem back to the Emirates for the first time since 2017.

“For me the message is for the players, and everybody here that is connected to the club, that we are able to play at this level, against this kind of opponent”. Arteta’s words after the derby perfectly echoed the thoughts of everyone who has watched Arsenal this season. With a spine of young players in Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard, White, Saliba, Ramsdale and several other young stars who are now learning how to win big games, the signs are propitious.

But there are hurdles to be crossed. How Arsenal can handle injuries, European commitments, and a loss of form, will determine if they can do the unthinkable by not just claiming a top 4 spot, but also gunning for the ultimate prize – winning the Premier League. The squad will be tested to its limits, and the lack of cover in midfield for the injury-prone Partey will be a cause for concern at some point in the season.

Liverpool will make a visit to the Emirates this weekend, a club with problems of their own. But the Reds are opponents whom Arsenal have repeatedly failed against over the years. Since the 2015/16 season, the Gunners have beaten the Merseyside club just once in the league, a solitary victory coming in a meaningless game in the 2019/20 campaign when Liverpool had already clinched the title. They might not be the same formidable opponents this time around, but Liverpool are still the second best club in the country and have been so for a large part of the last decade, and any match against them will be the ultimate test.

Sunday’s headline fixture will paint a clearer picture as to where Arsenal really stand. But irrespective of what the result will be, the progress is clear to see. Arsenal are on the right path, and the toxicity that prevailed in the club because of the discord between the fans and the owners has temporarily seemed to have dissipated. And while ‘Tequila’ by The Champs might have been the inspiration for the fans’ new and catchy Saliba chant, they’ll be hoping for some champagne instead come the end of the season.

But more importantly, the Gunners are recognizable once again. A sense of arrogance and assurance that seemed so prevalent in the team that won 3 PL titles under Wenger, seems to be creeping back into the club. They may not be anywhere close to the stature or glory of that famous Invincibles side of 2003/04 just yet, but they are creating an identity for themselves, that is more akin to the Arsenal of old.

Related post

Manager Of The Week – Premier League Gameweek 10: Mikel Arteta

Manager Of The Week – Premier League Gameweek 10:…

Mikel Arteta’s Intelligent Team Selection   Ten out of the eleven players in Arsenal’s starting eleven were expected, but the inclusion…
Analytics Report: Premier League Match Of The Week – Matchday 10 – Arsenal vs Liverpool

Analytics Report: Premier League Match Of The Week –…

An exhilarating game transpired at the Emirates between league leaders Arsenal and Jurgen Klopp’s struggling Liverpool. The Gunners went into the…
Manager Of The Week – Premier League Gameweek 9: Mikel Arteta

Manager Of The Week – Premier League Gameweek 9:…

Despite the wide appreciation of Pep Guardiola’s exceptional Manchester City side, its Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal who are leading the Premier League…