Arsenal’s European hopes looked bleak at the beginning of the season. Three-consecutive shutout losses in the opening-three games sank the Gunners to the bottom of the table.
Of course, Mikel Arteta’s squad then pulled off an 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions, ballooning the north London side to fifth in the Premier League. That run stopped on matchday 12 at Anfield, where Liverpool dismantled Arsenal, 4-0.
Fans never want to watch their team suffer a heavy defeat. Big losses tend to cause division amongst supporters and. Also, lopsided results potentially change the entire mood around the team. However, Arsenal’s 4-0 thorough defeat at the hands of Liverpool last weekend shouldn’t really change much for the young Gunners.
Putting the Liverpool loss in perspective of Arsenal’s European hopes
Anfield is a very tough place to play for visiting teams. In fact, it’s undoubtedly one of the hardest places to pick up three points in the entire English top flight. Despite Liverpool’s subpar home record last season, the Merseyside club haven’t lost a home match with a full stadium of fans since April of 2017. Like most other teams, Liverpool’s home record wasn’t the same without fans in the stadium due to the pandemic. This is what Arsenal dealt with against Liverpool.
Prior to the Liverpool loss, Arsenal rode a 10-match unbeaten streak in all competitions. The winning run helped guide the Gunners from bottom of the table at the end of August, up to fifth heading to Anfield. Moreover, the loss did not damage Arsenal’s immediate position on the table. The north London outfit still remain fifth in the Premier League standings.
After the loss, it was paramount to move on quickly. Anfield and an earlier game at the Etihad against Manchester City represented Arsenal’s two-toughest games this season. Furthermore, Arsenal played its home contests against Chelsea and Tottenham in the opening weeks of the season.
Apparently, the club’s most recent game against Newcastle signaled the return of games propelling Arsenal’s European hopes.
Developing the young core
Any time a team uses increasingly young players, there is a threat to consistency. One week, Arsenal rips apart Tottenham, not long after, Liverpool delivers a similar fate to the Gunners.
Most EPL fans know just how young this current crop of Arsenal players are this season. Young players tend to make mistakes, which occurred during the Liverpool loss. However, Arsenal clearly focus on the future of the club.
Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger previously explained how young players will make mistakes, but need to play to learn and progress.
“You pay for the education of young players with points,” Wenger claimed during a Q&A session in 2017.
“I play a young central defender of 20-years-old and I know he will cost me points in the season. I have to stand up for that.”
If Arteta is following his former manager’s advice, it seems to be paying dividends. Not only is Arsenal setting up one of the more promising young squads in the league, but the players already look up to the challenge of Premier League fixtures.
There is a quite clear long-term plan in place under the regime of technical director Edu and manager Mikel Arteta and fans will have to be patient as the club rebuilds.
Arsenal looked like the side that rattled off 10 games unbeaten when it handled Newcastle. Twenty-three shots to nine warranted a pair of second-half goals from Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who came over at a price that alarmed a number of Arsenal supporters, continued his fine form. His 10th appearance in the league yielded his sixth clean sheet and his seventh win this season.
Ramsdale supports a defense that came into this season remarkably unproven and expensive. Kieran Tierney remained the left-back of choice, but Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu came in for a combined $85 million in the summer. While both saw limited action due to late transfers or COVID-19 issues at the beginning of the season, the pair emerged as stalwarts on Mikel Arteta’s back line.
Arsenal’s European hopes look relatively safe when considering the upcoming schedule. Now, that is all subject to change based on form, injuries and anything else that affects results.
Saturday’s win over the Magpies put Arsenal tied with West Ham on points for fourth in the Premier League table. While Arsenal sit in fifth, the club is still three points clear of sixth-spot Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Gunners now face a stretch of games against opposition also in competition for European spots. The likes of West Ham, Everton and Wolves all face Arsenal before the calendar turns.
However, another massively important away game is first up. A trip to Old Trafford to face interim-manager Ralf Rangnick highlights midweek action in the Premier League. Manchester United may sit three spots beneath Arsenal, but a win moves the Red Devils within two of the London club.
Seemingly, there is no rest for Premier League clubs looking to break into the European spots. The top-three looks all-but locked up between Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Fans of the Gunners, and of the Premier League in general, will get a strong grasp Arsenal’s European hopes as we roll into 2022.
Author: Chris Moore