Not So Invincible, But Are They good Enough For The EPL Title? Analyzing Arsenal’s Title Chances This Season
Written By Onyeka Daniel
Arsenal made light work of Crystal Palace at home in the round 28 of the ongoing English Premier League season, cementing their place at the top of the EPL table and also stretching their lead to 8 points. The Gunners have been on the roll all season long and this win signals their intentions to go all the way to win the EPL title for the first time since the 2003/04 season when the ‘invincible’ team coached by Arsene Wenger last won it. While this team is far from invincible, they have lost just three games with 10 games left to play and they’ve definitely shown that they’re good enough to win the EPL title with their scintillating brand of football that has blown majority of their rivals away.
Should they go on to eventually win the title, several factors would have contributed to the success. Of course, they’re not the Invincibles as rightly pointed out by Martin Keown, who said that only Saka could have made the 2003/04 Arsenal squad from this current team.
“He is, right now, the one player who would walk into the 2003-04 Invincibles team… Saka now has the world at his feet. His work ethic is infectious – so is his smile. He has the trickery of Phil Foden and the pace of Marcus Rashford all in one. It is a unique skillset and he is as tough as teak to go with it.” He said few months back. Keown was a member of Wenger’s side that went a Premier League campaign unbeaten during the 2003/04 season to win the title. But there are some parallels between this squad and the famous team under Wenger.
Mikel Arteta’s Tactical Evolution
Under the guidance of Arteta, the Gunners have undergone a tactical evolution whilst staying true to their attacking brand of football. They like to press high up the pitch when out of possession, but it is when they’re in possession of the ball that they’re a true joy to watch. Making use of the short passes and vertical switch of play to spread their opponents.
Arteta has been able to tweak the team, working with the available players and making a few additions to produce to tight knit group of players with many reference points from Bukayo Saka to Martin Odegaard to Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Thomas Partey without forgetting goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale and the defensive duo of Gabriel and William Saliba. The offensive output offered by Oleksandr Zinchenko is also another secret weapon that can be utilized to great effect. It’s somehow reminisce of a certain French coach that had one of the longest career as a coach in the EPL alongside Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.
Didn’t Miss Gabriel Jesus
When Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus sustained an injury while on international duty at the World Cup in Qatar last year, it was thought that the EPL leaders would see their title charge derailed and be overtaken by Manchester City at the top of the table but it hasn’t been the case. Several players have risen up to the occasion with Eddie Nketiah and Martinelli sharing the striker role while Leandro Trossard was also deployed as a false nine recently. Jesus’ injury can be likened to Manchester City losing a player as key as Erling Haaland to injury. In that period, Arsenal didn’t falter even if the gap at the top was somehow reduced, they still managed to stay top and at some point, it looked like they might not even need the forward after all. The Invincibles also had some great players apart from Keown, they had the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Sol Campbell, Robert Pires, Denis Bergkamp and Ashley Cole.
Penchant For Comebacks
This season, rarely have they gone behind against an opponent, but the few times that they did, they usually managed to come from behind to take something out of the match, with their match against Manchester United at the Emirates stadium a gentle reminder and without forgetting the most recent one against Bournemouth, where they went two goals down after 60 minutes before staging a comeback to win 3-2.
In fact, these types of comebacks further reiterated their mental toughness and readiness to go all out to win the EPL, another trait of the Arsenal famous squad under Wenger. For all of their excellence so far, the only Achilles heel that they have is Manchester City, who are trying to defend their title and also one of three teams to have beaten the Gunners in the EPL this season. With the two teams having to face off once again this season, this time at the Etihad stadium, Arsenal can barely afford to drop points in their other 9 games if they hope to beat the EPL defending champions to the title come May.
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Taking a look at the remaining games for the two teams, (Arsenal will face Leeds, Liverpool, West Ham, Southampton, Manchester City, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Wolves, while City will face Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester, Brighton, Arsenal, Fulham, Leeds, Everton , Chelsea and Brentford). The Cityzens seem to have the better fixture list compared to the gunners, even if they will both be facing Liverpool and Chelsea.
Manchester City’s two legged fixture against Bayern Munich in the Champions League could also prove beneficial to Arsenal, especially as the North London side no longer have to worry about any European commitment after they were knocked out of the Europa League by Sporting CP some days ago. Going out of the second tier European competition may have been a blessing in disguise and could help them focus solely on the EPL unlike their title rival who will have to face either one of Real Madrid or Chelsea in the semi-finals if they manage to get the better of Bayern.
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