“Trust the Process”: The Arsenal turnaround no one is talking about

Looking back to the end of August 2021, Arsenal were sat rock-bottom of the Premier League table going into the first international break having conceded 9 goals and not having registered any of their own. There was an outcry towards the administration to finally pull the plug on Mikel Arteta with the situation expected to deteriorate further having spent a record €150m in the summer transfer window gone by investing heavily in prospects rather than experienced internationals.

The new signings included:

Image Credit: arsenalfclatestnews.com

Even though on paper, Arsenal had a decent lineup and squad depth, their was a significant lack of experience and mainly eyeing towards the future.

Fans has had enough considering the trolls of them directed by rival fans for being in a relegation battles while others competed in Europe and for the league title and were calling for the 39 yr old ex Arsenal Midfielder to be axed. Things were not looking good with the fans protesting for Stan Kroenke, the owner of KSE(Kroenke Sports & Entertainment) to sell the club ever since the idea of Super league was being thrown around and Arsenal were rumored to be a founding member.

Everyone including significant percent of the Arsenal fans saw this as the sign of the start of the downfall of one of the biggest clubs in England and the world.

In Arteta’s defence, people were claiming it was not entirely down to the Spaniard and too many injuries of crucial players including club captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Ben White, Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes, bedding in the latest signings and getting them up to the speed of the Premier League, investing in talent rather than experience and getting rid of the “deadwood” and start the rebuilding process.

Although the fanbase was split when it came to Arteta, but it would not be long for that to change if the results and performances on the pitch didn’t improve having missed being part of a European competition for the first time in nearly 25 years and having been out of the prestigious UEFA Champions League since 2017.

But Arteta had brought silverware to the club during his tenure, winning the FA Cup in 2020 beating Chelsea in the final and winning the FA Community Shield in the pre-season of the 2020/21 season defeating Liverpool in penalties.

Post-international break, Arsenal faced Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium, which was put out to be a “6 pointer” as both teams sat at the bottom of the table and were looking for an up-turn of fortune. Arteta switched back to his regular 4-2-3-1 after recent experimenting and results.

5 of the 6 recent signings started the match which ended with a 1-0 win to Arsenal, with their captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang being the match winner. This was the beginning of the turnaround as Arsenal came out winners away to Burnley in a 1-0 close contest and cruising to victory against lower league opposition in AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup.

Arsenal were in a 3 match win streak heading into their biggest game of the season against North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur who had started the season brightly winning their first 3 games of the season but had lost their next 2 games heading into the Derby

Following their stellar performance and winning the North London derby by 3-1, which was quoted to be their “performance of the season”, fans were optimistic again but the jury was still out on Arteta. With this win, Arsenal had magically overtaken Spurs in the standings and moved to the upper half of the table, sat at 10th.

As we later found out this was the spark needed to ignite the Gunners season and was a sign for a change in form and most importantly better performances on the pitch.

Following their derby win, arsenal were suddenly unbeaten in 8 games in all competitions with the new signings heavily involved. The likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Benjamin White were proving their doubters wrong and were doing justice to their price tags.

In the upcoming fixture, Arsenal saw out a defensive masterclass at the hands of Leicester City with Arsenal shot-stopper, Aaron Ramsdale making the headlines, recording 8 saves including a save of the season contender, having saved a James Maddison free-kick. Arsenal were back to playing their free-flowing football which was highly regarded by the Arsenal faithful since the days of Arsene Wenger’s management.

Zero defeats in any competition since then have propelled them from 20th to sixth ahead of the visit of Watford, and into the last eight of the Carabao Cup, which saw them drawn at home to Sunderland.

Mikel Arteta takes charge of his 100th Arsenal match on Sunday, at home to Watford, in what has been a rollercoaster of emotions during his tenure, which has seen heights as well as record lows. The Spaniard has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes after overseeing the club’s worst ever start to a season, sitting rock-bottom in the standings at the end of August.

“It has been an incredible journey to experience everything that we have been through together in this time. My only focus here is finding and building the unity that I start to sense right now around the club because the rest is going to come. I have no doubt that the team is going to play well, compete and perform – and the rest will be a consequence”. Arteta said in press conference ahead of kick-off.

The goal contribution statistics follows as below:

Image credit: bbc.com

Breakdown of this turnaround: An Arteta Masterclass

This sudden resurgence in form can be put down to finally getting back all players back from injury and switching back to a 4-2-3-1. It has also been down to individual brilliances as well as combined team efforts. But to point out certain individuals:

Bought in from Sheffield United for a fee of around €25m, to give competition to the former no 1 Bernd leno. People including significant portion of the fanbase itself, were baffled by this decision and were quick to let the club know that this could have been money spent on a midfielder or a defender as goalkeeping spot wasn’t a priority at that point, considering the 23 yr-old has succumbed to relegation twice in a row, with Bournemouth and Newcastle United.

On his debut, he significantly impressed with this distribution, composure on the ball and shot-stopping ability in a comfortable 6-0 thrashing of West Brom in the second round of the Carabao cup. And since then he hasn’t looked back and has been a frontliner in this recent up-turn of form. In his 8 starts in the league, he has saved 24 of the 28 shots faced on target and has a record of about 30 passes per 90 and around 50 successful long passes completed.

He is already a contender for the golden glove having kept 5 clean sheets and also a contender for save of the season coming in the MOTM display against Leicester and has been recently called up to the national team and is all set to make his Three Lions debut sooner than not. It is safe to say he has made the most of his time in North London and can only get better and is yet to lose a match from starting in goal.

Signed for a combined transfer fee of about €70m over the summer, the England and Japanese internationals have made a colossal impact on this Arsenal side which was on course to have a long and gritty season. Although having played majority at the centre back position for Bologna, Tomiyasu has slotted in nicely at the right back position and has made it his own.

From winning aerial duels to swinging in crosses in the box, the 23-yr old Japanese is the complete package. His partner in crime, Benjamin White had a debut to forget against Brentford in the season opener, coming 2-0 short. But it is fair to say, he has moved on and has been one of the key players in the recent turnaround, and is doing justice to his €50m price tag.

His ball playing and dribbling ability is taken the fans by storm. When the duo has started together in the XI, they have kept 4 clean sheets in 8 matches while remaining unbeaten and are already fan favourites.

Considered to be two of the best youngsters not only in the Premier League but across the world, this duo Emile Smith Rowe(21) and Bukayo Saka (20) have been a breath of fresh air for this inconsistent Arsenal side and have shown what it means to play for the badge, considering both are products of the prestigious and world renown, Hale Academy.

Arsenal finally have someone, who can drive at defences and make them uncomfortable with their movement and tenacity and it’s fair to say, the future is bright for this duo both in club and international careers. Saka already has 13 England caps to his name, while scoring 3 goals. Having inherited the No 10 shirt this season, he has quite taken to the shirt having been worn by legends like Dennis Bergkamp, Robin Van Persie and Mesut Ozil more recently.

Smith Rowe narrowly missed out on a call up this month, having impressed scoring 5 and assisting twice in 13 matches for club. This created quite the uproar on social media calling the England manager, Gareth Southgate to include the 21 yr old in his plans, and this speaks volumes about the talent of this young sensation.

Bukayo Saka has been the more established having been a regular in the XI since the 19/20 season. Having been a injury hit start to the season, Saka has registered 2 goals and 2 assists in 11 appearances but has created the most chances with Smith Rowe close in second. Being boyhood fans of the club, it is safe to say they are here to stay and can possibly see out their career at Arsenal, which can help propel Arsenal to compete for various silverware.

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