What is Arsenal’s identity this season? Seeing them rise to the top of the table is a new experience for fans who were captivated a year ago.
Results are similar, but the feeling is slightly perplexing, the enjoyment not as readily accessible. Where is the high-tempo attacking abandon? Why are certain actions deliberately slowed down? What happened to the goalkeeping situation? Declan Rice is exceptional, but who else provides the best balance in midfield?
Arsenal appears to be struggling to produce their difficult second album. They have taken a puzzling new direction, and getting into it is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
And yet… here they are, leading the Premier League on merit and showcasing Mikel Arteta’s qualities during their dramatic 1-0 victory over Brentford. The team exuded high spirits and affection, celebrating a late winner by Kai Havertz and a strong performance by Aaron Ramsdale after a shaky start. Football, huh? It defies quick judgments and evokes a rollercoaster of emotions.
Assessing progress and performance in such a results-oriented business can be challenging. Brentford presented a formidable barrier for most of the game, raising questions about Arsenal’s weaknesses before Havertz’s timely goal changed the course of the match.
Perhaps this pivotal moment will help Havertz settle into his new club. “He’s an example for all of us to overcome difficulties,” commented Arteta. “If things came easy, then he wouldn’t have received the warm reception he got today.”
Overall, love was abundant at the game. However, one of the shifts at Arsenal this season is a move towards a more pragmatic approach. The focus on solidifying their defense has resulted in sacrificing some of the flair they displayed last season. The defensive partnership of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, supported by Rice, has provided a formidable presence. Arteta’s experimentation with different lineups reflects their quest to find a more cohesive style.
Arteta acknowledges the struggle to find the right balance. “I hope we can continue to improve and adapt because we lost a lot of attacking players in the first period of the league, yet the team continued to find ways to win.”
Arsenal is still working on refining their techniques, but the potential for improvement from the top spot promises intriguing times ahead.
(Top photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Michael Johnson is your soccer guru, providing extensive coverage of soccer. With a global perspective, he delivers match reports, player interviews, and insights into the beautiful game, ensuring readers stay connected to the world of soccer.