Five reasons why Arsenal should be content with their start to the Premier League season
After securing just one victory and three points from their opening three Premier League games, chants of ‘Wenger Out’ were already starting to bubble under the surface at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger had agreed a new two-year contract in north London over the summer – much to the division of opinion from supporters – but his side’s start to the season gave even more of an impression that the Frenchman was running on borrowed time, with Arsenal struggling for results.
The 4-0 demolition at the hands of Liverpool sank the Gunners to new lows but, credit where credit is due, they’ve turned fortunes around quickly since their Anfield disaster with a seven-match unbeaten run.
It is this run – which includes four games without defeat in the Premier League – that has seen Arsenal move level on points with champions Chelsea in fifth place ahead of the international break.
The Boot Room looks at five reasons why Arsenal fans can be silently happy with their side’s start.
Alexandre Lacazette has settled in well
After what seemed like years, Arsenal supporters finally got what they have been crying out for during the summer window when Arsene Wenger delved deep into his pockets to sign a top quality, proven striker.
In a transfer window that saw Manchester United and Chelsea bring in attacking re-enforcements, Arsenal acquired the signing of French international Alexandre Lacazette for a club-record fee believed to be in the region of £46.5 million, certainly lifting spirits and anticipation at the Emirates.
And the former Lyon striker hasn’t disappointed since touching down in north London, finding the net four times in his opening seven Premier League matches – all in his first three outings at home.
There was always a slight worry that he could need time to adapt to the Premier League considering he’d spent his career in Ligue 1 in France but he quickly alleviated such fears, scoring less than two minutes into his full debut against Leicester City, and he has shown his natural, potent threat in front of goal.
…and is already linking up well with Sanchez
One thing that the 26-year-old has also brought to the table since stepping out at the Emirates Stadium, perhaps unusually for a striker of his calibre, is a sense of unselfishness about his play.
Whilst he’s clinical in the opposition third he’s also established himself as something of a creative hub, and as shown against Brighton at the weekend this could bring the best out of Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean talisman – at the heart of deadline day drama after his proposed £60 million move to Manchester City fell through – has returned to action in recent weeks following an injury and after a slow start he was back near peak form against the Seagulls, and a lot of that was down to Lacazette.
The Frenchman is an incredibly intelligent player and, whilst his neat touches and intricate passes help him link-up nicely with Sanchez on the ball, his darting runs across the face of the last defender often creates a vast amount of space for his Chilean teammate to utilise and this could be a lethal recipe.
Wenger’s side bounced back from humiliation
After back-to-back defeats against Stoke City and Liverpool came within the first three matches of the new Premier League season, Arsenal supporters can be forgiven for writing their team off for the title.
The 4-0 humiliation at Anfield sent the warning signs flashing loud and clear, with the manner in which they crumbled to defeat – and the ease in which their midfield and defensive lines were scythed open by Jurgen Klopp’s side – suggesting the Gunners were miles behind the level of their top-six rivals.
Wenger took a lot of criticism following that defeat from supporters, pundits and former players alike for his team selection and set-up but he deserves credit for how his side have responded since.
Since that atrocious afternoon in late August Arsenal have gone seven games unbeaten across all competitions and four without defeat in the Premier League, a run which included an impressive draw away at champions Chelsea and a run that’s seen them keep four clean sheets on the bounce.
This is just the tonic that the club needed after their below-par start to the season, and boss Wenger will hope that the international break doesn’t disrupt their momentum when they return to action.
There is a genuine chance of European glory
There will always be people that claim that it’s ‘only’ the Europa League, and it’s certainly not the European competition that Arsenal supporters will want to see their side competing in, but as shown last season by Manchester United it’s a great chance to earn a morale-boosting piece of silverware.
The Gunners have barely had to step out of second gear in securing back-to-back wins over FC Koln and BATE Borisov, and Wenger is utilising the competition as a place to get his youngsters featuring.
It is a win-win situation as far as he’s concerned, with his second-string team more than strong enough to secure passage into the knock-out stages, his young players – such as the promising Reiss Nelson – getting first-team exposure and his first-team members able to rest up during the week.
A double header up against Serbian side Red Star Belgrade is unlikely to provide many issues and there’s no reason why Arsenal can’t emulate United last year and earn that important Champions League spot.
The rise of Nacho Monreal
For as long as can be remembered in north London, there’s been too much pressure on the shoulders of captain Laurent Koscielny to carry all of the burden of Arsenal’s defensive duties.
The Frenchman has been one of Arsenal’s best servants since his arrival from Lorient over seven years ago now but, aside from a brief partnership with Per Mertesacker, his defensive partners have struggled to maintain his level of discipline, consistency and reliability on a week-by-week basis.
Wenger’s adjustment to a 3-4-3 formation in the past nine months has highlighted at times how inconsistent some of Arsenal’s defensive options are but one man who has emerged as a surprise package this season is Nacho Monreal, who has thrived playing as a left-sided central defender.
The Spanish international has started the season in fine form and has carried on the momentum built from promising individual displays at the end of last year, adding some stability to the back-line.
He has fast emerged as a key and indispensable member of the Arsenal side, with Monreal playing a pivotal role in the recent run that’s seen the Gunners keep four consecutive top-flight clean sheets.
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