ARSENAL are firmly in the title race but we may just come up a little short despite our incredible start.
With Mikel Arteta’s team sitting proudly top of the table after ten games, having just beaten two major rivals and won three hard-fought points away at Leeds, it is fair that there is talk of us being title contenders.
To determine whether this is true I think it is best to assess how and why Arsenal have progressed and the new qualities and attributes that have brought Arteta and his team to this point.
Here are some of the characteristics of the side that make Arsenal genuine title contenders.
The dictionary definition of the word perfectly describes Arteta’s leadership: “Exercising a compelling charm which inspires devotion in others.”
His team and the majority of the fanbase believe in the Spaniard’s vision and there is so much evidence in the words and body language of his players.
There is a new composure about the team this season, born of belief in the strategy and vision of the manager, combined with a heightened technical ability of the players, particularly when playing out from the back.
It is a team that responds brilliantly to setbacks, highlighted in the wins over Tottenham and Liverpool, as well as our six-game winning run since the defeat to Manchester United.
Much has been spoken of late about the togetherness and camaraderie of the squad that Arteta and Edu have assembled and this element has been vital to the improvements on the pitch.
Tough decisions were made on certain senior players who the manager deemed disruptive or perhaps too individualist, most notably Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The club backed Arteta, despite there being little fiscal argument in favour of the decisions. But the new group, without egos, are visibly happier and enjoying their football.
This collectiveness on the pitch has transmitted to the crowds, and we are playing our part, more so than in recent years.
It is clear Arteta has relaxed as he has grown into the role and been able to bring in players to suit his vision.
The accusations early on that he set up his teams too defensively, or not to lose, are buried in the past.
This team, which is top of a tough league, have been allowed to express themselves and have been encouraged to play with bravery.
There is a combative streak that runs through the squad that I have not seen since the early Arsene Wenger era.
The ill-discipline and rashness so evident over recent years seems largely eradicated.
No team will ever be without individual error but those are now few and far between and the defensive unit, whoever is selected, are concentrated for the whole 90 minutes.
This was so clearly evident in the latter stages against Liverpool and is also well illustrated by the near elimination of Arsenal conceding from corners.
It is also perfectly shown when the players all know their roles when Arsenal lose the ball.
Consistency is something that Arteta and his fledgling team have not founded in recent seasons, and it cost Arsenal Champions League football at the end of last season.
The younger players are now more experienced and guided by the experience of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka have shown a wonderful consistency this season.
This is wonderfully enhanced by the togetherness and understanding of the manager’s wishes described above.
With consistency of style and performance comes positive results and that in turn breeds confidence.
Not arrogance, but a self-belief within the squad born of success.
It was said of the early Wenger teams that often the opposition were beaten in the tunnel at Highbury and it feels that this team’s togetherness and indeed their physicality and stature is breeding a strong collective confidence.
The enhanced creativity displayed on the pitch is evident and linked to the licence the manager has give his team.
The signing of Gabriel Jesus has been a huge factor – his mobility has given Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard so much more to work with.
Fabio Vieira may well add to this as the season progresses, perhaps as the late Antonio Reyes offered Wenger variety and options in 2003-04.
The change to 4-3-3, with Partey as a sole No.6 has also given Xhaka a freer role to utilise his exquisite passing further up the pitch.
The first 8 C’s are all the reasons why I feel this Arsenal should and will be challenging well into 2023 but the last C, ‘clinical’, is also the one that suggests this season may be too early for Arteta’s fabulous squad to challenge Manchester City.
After nine matches the Gunners boasted the best chance conversion rate in the Premier League at 16.4 per cent.
However, stats also clearly illustrate why City are likely to be uncatchable this season.
Pep Guardiola’s team have created over 50 per cent more goalscoring opportunities than Arsenal (219 compared to 140).
When you factor in that a certain Erling Haaland is the main beneficiary of these openings it is hard to see how Arsenal surpass the champions.
All that said, being a football supporter is all about passion and belief and this team are showing us passion and giving us renewed cause to believe.
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