Youth has trumped experience in transforming the fortunes of Arsenal.
What a win! After a run of seven matches without one, Arsenal pulled off something of a Christmas miracle during Saturday night’s London derby with Chelsea, recording a 3-1 victory that was as brilliant as it was unexpected. Never did we need the points as badly.
For anyone who has been paying attention to recent league performances, it will come as little surprise that the winless run came to an end courtesy of our promising young players.
Although some changes were forced, such as the omissions of David Luiz, Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes due to possible Covid-19 exposure, they proved to be serendipitous for the Gunners as a number of young players, particularly Emile Smith Rowe, made the most of their much-deserved opportunities.
In spite of the positive scoreline, Mikel Arteta changed little in relation to his side’s pattern of play. As always, attacking phases were initiated from the back and there was a heavy reliance on creating overloads in wide areas to trouble the Chelsea defence.
The biggest difference instead resided in the attitude of the team, with the commitment and exuberance of youth carrying out the manager’s instructions to great effect, epitomised by the impact of Smith Rowe.
It has been a difficult start to the season for the 20-year-old. The club failed to secure a loan move for him in the summer window and since then he has made just four senior appearances, three in the Europa League and one in the Carabao Cup. Boxing Day saw him make his first league appearance of the campaign, and he took his chance emphatically.
Thanks to his bustling energy and movement, Smith Rowe added an extra dimension to the action in the final third. There was much more dynamism in the middle which allowed our attacking talent to thrive, and his courage to drive forward and take risks in possession brought a refreshing change to our usually regimented and uninspiring style of play.
The former Huddersfield loanee fully justified his selection and has done more than enough to retain his place for Tuesday’s trip to Brighton.
Pleas from fans to trust the youth had intensified lately, with plenty growing tired and frustrated with the insipid displays of experienced figures, and it will be hard for Arteta to ignore those calls over the new few games off the back of this result.
The boss will be both relieved and heartened by what he saw on Saturday, and hopefully this win – unlike the Manchester United one – will be the catalyst for a strong second half of the season.