A little more than a decade ago, Arsenal did the impossible; they won the league without losing a game over the course of the season. It had not been done ever before and has not been done since, but Arsenal have not been able to get the Premier League trophy in their grasp since.
Whether it was watching stars leave while trying to pay off the debt incurred by the building of the Emirates Stadium or starting an attack consisting of Denilson, Marouane Chamakh, and Nicholas Bendtner, the Gunners have not been able to be that good!
But this could be the season that changes. With squad depth that the supporters have not seen in years and star power all over the pitch, this year seems like it could be the year where things go Arsenal’s way.
After signing world class players in Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka, and Lucas Perez, Arsenal are now no longer one or two players away from serious contention for the top spot in the league; they are and likely will be in the thick of it for the entire season.
The back line is stronger than it has been in years, especially with the World Cup-winning experience of Mustafi being added to the team. He brings more athleticism than Per Mertesacker, and is much better on the ball. Though he’s six inches shorter than the Arsenal club captain, the newest German in the Arsenal ranks has thoroughly impressed so far this season.
Along with Laurent Koscielny, the two centre backs have established themselves as what is most likely the best pairing in the league. Add the two Spaniards, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, running the flanks and defending some of the best wingers in the world with ease, and there is possibly one of the best and most technically sound back lines in Arsenal history.
A big part of Arsenal’s success in this young season is owed to the two main men in the attack, Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. Their connection is now stronger than ever, and the Chilean has proven his versatility by thriving on the left and at center forward.
In the Premier League alone, Sanchez has netted eight times, a strong tally for a man who is not necessarily known for his prolific scoring. Add Theo Walcott’s six goals in the League, and you have one of Europe’s most intimidating attacks. Walcott has become a new player this year. The pacy Englishman is working much harder off the ball than ever before; he tracks down defenders and helps out Hector Bellerin and Carl Jenkinson on the right. He also makes more incisive runs where maestro Özil can find him, and he presses opposing back lines into making mistakes. It is evident that Sanchez’s work rate is rubbing off on him.
One big sign of improvement for the Gunners is the fact that they have not been thoroughly outclassed this season. In years past, we have seen some horrendous performances from the team, such as losing 6-0 to Chelsea and 8-2 to Manchester United.
Performances like those have not happened this year at all, and that is mostly due to the fact that Arsene Wenger has plenty of hardworking midfielders and solid defenders in his ranks.
Squad depth has been a huge issue with the regularly injury prone Gunners in years past, but this year, most players are staying healthy and there is plenty of room for rotation and competition in the team.
There are four top class centre backs in the club, two players at each full back spot, and more than enough midfielders and a decent amount of strikers. The one issue is that Wenger needs to realize that Granit Xhaka is a defensive midfielder and the French manager should start him at that position. But with players like Xhaka, Coquelin, and Alexis, there is a new edge to the team that the club has not had before.
It is more violent, less prone to just roll over. Sure, that toughness and grit might give the team an extra yellow card, but fans would surely rather have a player go into the book than get thrashed because of soft performances each week.
Though the team dearly misses Santi Cazorla’s creativity in the deep parts of midfield, the future looks promising for this Arsenal team. Cazorla and his compatriot Lucas Perez are both on their way back into training, and Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker will both add a lot in terms of ability and personality to the team. The only possible issue with having so much squad depth is that youngsters may not get many chances to play in meaningful matches, but that’s what loans are for. Just ask Chelsea.
It truly does seem as though this is the best Arsenal team since the 2004/05 undefeated team, but this current squad still has a lot of growing to do until it reaches its peak. The fact that a team this solid is still on the way up should be scary for other teams in the Premier League and in Europe.
Sitting three points back from the leaders in the Premier League after 13 matches, there is still plenty of time for the north Londoners to heal up their star players and pounce on first placed Chelsea, whom Arsenal thrashed 3-0 earlier this season.
Even though the Gunners will most likely come in second in their Champions League group, the team they draw in the knockout round should be on upset alert because Arsene Wenger and his men truly mean business this time around.