Arsenal had looked terrible against the likes of Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton consecutively, had barely beaten Aston Villa before that run, and were deflated prior to that by Liverpool once again this season.
To say that things have not been great for the Gunners recently would be to be phrasing it all rather lightly to be fair. Top four ambitions appeared to be fading fast in the midst of it all, but Alexandre Lacazette spoke up after the affair against the Saints, saying that the team still had belief in itself despite the adversity.
Lacazette was proven correct when Arsenal played Chelsea finally, and with the shock 4-2 win in west London by the visitors, the Gunners are not only back in the top four hunt, but actually may still have a shot in the top three hunt too. The Gunners are tied on points and behind on goal differential with Tottenham, and the two are still to meet for a makeup of a North London Derby from earlier this year. Arsenal also find themselves three points ahead of Manchester United with a match in hand – and a date with them this Saturday – and they are five points behind Chelsea, who have a match against West Ham this weekend.
Anything can happen in the Premier League, as has been witnessed by us all perennially, and this team of young Gunners are showing that hope for a Champions League berth next season should remain very much alive for any or all concerned parties. If this team plays as they did against Chelsea across the remaining matches of the campaign, they will be playing in the highest tier of European club football next season – that much can be said by this writer with reasonable certainty.
Chelsea 2-4 Arsenal: An Eddie Nketiah sort of evening, with Smith Rowe and Saka too
Arsenal have been ‘good’ this season, but it has been a team influenced sort of good. There have been individuals who have shone of course as well, of course, do not mistake me please. Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe have played fantastic football, Thomas Partey, and most of the backline ensemble have as well really, and Aaron Ramsdale has been a revelation in the net. Noticeably missing from the aforementioned list is a premier striking performance this season.
Lacazette has had a really impressive second half of the season as a No. 9, but has made his impact from that sort of false position he plays in with his assisting numbers, and not his goalscoring efforts. It has all been very Pep Guardiola-ish at times, with great fluid play that sometimes ends without a real, threatening No. 9 anywhere near the end of a ball into the box .
While Arsenal has relied on everyone else to score this season, it has long been talked about that, with proper striking options, this team would be as scary as the teams that have long sat ahead of them upon the Premier League table. For months and, in some cases, years. Nketiah had scored no goals in the league this season until Wednesday evening; his two goals put Arsenal ahead two times, and the final time for good.
It was brilliant because the goals he scored were of the kind that come from perseverance and determination. Whether the player returns to Arsenal for the years to come remains to be seen, and while he and Laca are out of contract when the season is over, his impact on this team’s future cannot be overstated at this moment. Whether he ends up next season, should the team get into the Champions League, or not, they will have much to owe to the ex-Gunner.
With this young team, things can only get better, too.
Continued on next page…