It has been 12 years since Arsenal were last crowned Premier League champions. In that time, Manchester United have won five titles, Manchester City have won their first and second titles and, most notably, last year’s winners Leicester City have suffered two relegations, won two promotions and shocked the world by winning the Premier League themselves. However, many Arsenal fans as well as neutrals will believe that it is their year.
Arsène Wenger’s side have had an impressive start to the season as they sat joint top of the league with seven wins in their opening 10 games, scoring 23 goals in the process. Nonetheless, we must remember that Arsenal always begin the season strongly, often finding themselves around the top of the table until about February, when they tend to fall away. This begs the question: why is this year any different?
In each of the last 12 seasons, Arsenal have been largely inconsistent when it comes to beating the ‘lesser’ sides in the Premier League – teams that their title rivals sweep aside with relative ease. However, with already convincing wins over Watford, Sunderland and Hull City – teams expected to be fighting to remain in the league come May – Arsenal have shown that they can get the job done against the teams who are scrapping for every point. A sign of true champions.
A point has also been made about Arsenal’s possession-based tactics, which historically have appeared to focus more on keeping the ball than scoring goals; for this, Wenger has come in for huge criticism from fans and critics alike. This season, it appears the team have shifted to a more attacking style of play, even if this does mean sacrificing the ball at times. With 23 goals scored already this season, they are well on their way to surpassing last season’s total of 65.
It is a great testament to the link up play between Alexis Sánchez, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil, who on their day can be unplayable, not forgetting about the goal scoring abilities of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck, who is set to return from injury in the New Year. Arsenal will be an attacking force to be reckoned with in the title run-in.
Another factor that has had a huge influence is Wenger’s new-found willingness to spend large amounts of money on players. Whilst many will agree with his philosophy that spending millions of pounds on a player is obscene, times have changed and spending money often does equal success in football. The acquisitions of Özil (£42.5 million), Sánchez (£31.7 million) and Granit Xhaka (£30 million) will give Gunners fans hope that they can compete with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea off the field as well as on it.
Arsenal have found the perfect balance between buying stars and integrating quality young players such as Héctor Bellerín and Alex Iwobi into the side, with an experienced and quality goalkeeper in Petr Čech at the back. This rare combination, whilst not perhaps being as good as ‘The Invincibles’ of 2004, is exactly what Arsenal need to secure their fourth Premier League crown.
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