There is no questioning how good Arsenal looked against West Brom on Wednesday, although with so many young players in the squad for the Baggies, the gulf in experience and talent was unavoidable. But, a win is a win, and the Gunners should be thrilled, relieved, excited, and focused.
Arsenal were superb, and with the return of so many names that had not been seen in the first two matches, the squad looked an entirely different side. The hat-trick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stunning individually and collectively; those goals added by Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, and Alexandre Lacazette only put the game further to bed.
Yet it is nothing more than a great win in the second round of the Carabao Cup. On the weekend, the Gunners face the defending champions, Manchester City, where roles are set be reversed.
Pep Guardiola’s team is no joke and the amount of midfield talent he has brought to the club leaves City fraught with footballing wealth; whether or not they transfer for Cristiano Ronaldo, City will finish in the top two of the league, and that is the type of club that Arsenal will find itself against come Saturday.
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Manchester City vs Arsenal: The teacher still bests the pupil despite West Brom demolition?
It has been widely reported that Mikel Arteta has been given some time to redirect the proverbial Arsenal ship, yet he has not been given too much freedom. Reports suggest that Antonio Conte would be the number one choice at that point, one he doesn’t favor for obvious reasons, but for right now, we shall remain focused and patient with the young, Spanish manager.
I, for one, think Arteta needs more time, more transfers, and more understanding, although I am an admirer of Antonio Conte as well. With this all understood, this midweek victory is a massive relief for everyone. Yet, the team needs a strong showing against the Citizens too. Against Tottenham, City was shocked, and in the next week, City proved too good, too talented, and too frustrated from the previous outing to lose to the newly re-promoted Canaries.
What will this week bring, for either team? This is difficult to say for certain, not for City – who are perpetually playing in one way, and only sometimes are made to pay for it – but for the Arsenal.
While Aubameyang looked like a world-beater on Wednesday, City is in no way West Brom. The two teams are worlds apart, and so how the Gunners play in this Saturday match will really be more telling as to how well-placed they are heading into the first international break of the new Premier League season.
Most pundits and fans will predict that Arsenal’s winning run will come to a crashing one-game halt this weekend. It very well could. They could also shock the world as they’ve done on numerous occasions down the years, which is always within the realms of possibility in our beloved sport.
Anything can happen – and some optimism must be maintained. If Arsenal can play the style of aggressive, flowing football that they demonstrated on Wednesday, they will be a force for most clubs. The fear, of course, is that they will not be able to replicate this type of play against better outfits; the only way to find out, to test the waters, is to see it in practice.
With Martin Odegaard, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe all playing on Saturday, hopefully, there must be some confidence that the best players for Arsenal can at least compete.
The passing will have to be crisp; the shooting will have to be on point; and the defense will have to possess a bit more toughness than they did against the massive, towering figure of Romelu Lukaku. This, with help and positioning, is possible, I assure you; yet the problem will be different, in that City will just be swarming with an endless list of incredible midfield players towards the ball. It will be up to the entire team to negate this threat.
Otherwise, Arsenal will be hardly any better off in sentiment than they were before the dominance against West Bromwich Albion. They need to keep this ambition and energy. Things will only get harder from here.
As the season and schedule continues to apply ever greater amounts of pressure on each club, they will have to have belief in themselves and their boss to push through these tough times. These early season tests continue to beckon, and the Gunners must answer the call.