Inside Mikel Arteta’s classroom – where Arsenal pass every test
A title challenge from Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal this season wasn’t on many people’s bingo card ahead of the 2022/23 season, but the Gunners are now in a great position to win their first league title since 2004.
After last season’s capitulation, many questioned where precisely that left the Gunners in the pecking order of England’s top flight. Well, after 18 league games this season, the answer is simple. At the very top.
Heading into 2022/23, a top-four finish was the requirement for Arsenal. That would signify a step in the right direction after last season.
Even now, there are detractors of Arsenal’s surprising title charge, but there shouldn’t be. As we have seen over the last two decades, the Premier League title isn’t usually decided against the lower-ranked teams – although winning games you’re supposed to win are just as important in sustaining a title bid.
More so, the games against the so-called ‘Big Six’ are more accurate tests of a team’s title ambition. So, let’s step inside Arteta’s classroom and examine these tests.
Those tests have come in different forms for Arsenal this season. After a superb pre-season which meant absolutely nothing, the opening day clash against Crystal Palace was the first test. A 2-0 win in which the Gunners barely got out of second gear after an excellent start.
The next was Manchester United at Old Trafford. After having a Gabriel Martinelli goal incorrectly ruled out, the Gunners were the better team but were twice caught on the counter trying to chase the game. A 3-1 loss didn’t paint a fair picture.
Despite the loss, the performance was superb—a half-tick.
The first North London Derby of the season: a 3-1 win in which the Gunners were again playing superb, fluid football and got a deserved three points. Throughout history, the home side in these games usually prevails, but Arteta’s team passed another test nonetheless.
Then arrived Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to the Emirates. Thanks to a Gabriel Martinelli goal inside 60 seconds, a fast start saw the Gunners go out to an early lead. In the game, Arsenal led twice, and Liverpool pegged them back before a Bukayo Saka penalty gave the Gunners three points.
Again, the performance was superb in what was Arsenal’s biggest test of the season. They had beaten Jurgen Klopp’s Reds just once in the Premier League before that October outing.
A massive tick.
Then Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A happy hunting ground for the Gunners as of late, but never before have they produced a performance of such authority away at their London rivals. Arsenal’s 1-0 triumph flattered the hosts.
A statement win against a rival. Tick… sensing a theme here?
That brings us to the second North London Derby of the season. Much like the Chelsea game, this was considered a big test of just how far the team had come under Arteta.
Arsenal battered Spurs and won on enemy territory in the Premier League for the first since March 16, 2014, when Tomas Rosicky’s wonder strike sealed three points.
Another test… another tick.
Now comes the next test for Arteta’s young Arsenal side to sit.
Manchester United at the Emirates. Many still doubt how far this team can go, but beat a resurgent United team that currently sits level on points with Manchester City and people will start talking.
Having passed almost every test this season, the Gunners face the one team to get the better of them on Sunday.
Pass this test, and their title credentials will be truly enhanced.
The studying is already underway.