It was hoped that Mikel Arteta’s arrival at Arsenal would signal the start of a revolution at the club.
Realistically, fans came into the 2020/21 season aware that the title was always likely to be beyond them. Nevertheless, the Emirates side crave a return to the top four and the Champions League after a four-season absence from Europe’s biggest competition.
Arteta’s presence has promised the return of an exciting brand of football, the type of which made the Gunners one of England’s foremost teams for much of Arsene Wenger’s long reign.
But is the Spaniard making any progress?
Arsenal: The season so far
Arsenal finished the 2019/20 season on a high as they lifted the FA Cup. They were, therefore, part of the curtain raiser for the new campaign as they met Liverpool in the Community Shield and shocked the champions by defeating them on penalties.
It set the platform for an encouraging start to the season, with their optimism further heightened by the news that striker Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang had agreed to prolong his deal at the club.
This feel-good factor swept them into the opening weeks of the season, in encouraging fashion. Fulham were obliterated 3-0 in matchday one while victories over West Ham and Sheffield United following in the first four games.
Arsenal summer moves in
|Thomas Partey||Atletico Madrid||£45m|
|Runar Alex Runarsson||Dijon||£1.8m|
Arsenal summer moves out
|Emiliano Martinez||Aston Villa||£15.7m|
|Lucas Torreira||Atletico Madrid||Loan|
The only blot was a 3-1 loss against Liverpool on the final Monday of September – a disappointment but hardly a cause for concern.
Since the end of the transfer window, though, goals have dried up. Amid a tough series of fixtures, Arsenal have scored only one goal and have suffered three defeats, plunging them down the standings.
That victory came away to Manchester United courtesy of an Aubameyang penalty.
Following a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa before the international break, doubts have reared their heads. Was Arteta right to axe Mesut Ozil entirely from the Premier League squad? Was Aubameyang’s blistering form really just motivated by the desire to earn a bumper new contract?
As such, Arsenal find themselves in the lower half of the standings ahead of a hectic spell before Christmas. Three wins from three in an admittedly straightforward Europa League group mean that Arteta can focus on the league, and having already met many of the leading sides, this is a period in which the Gunners must profit.
Arsenal: Grade B-
It’s not been an ideal start to the season for Arsenal, but despite four defeats from eight league matches, they have set themselves up well for a difficult period before the new year.
They are set to negotiate their European group without breaking sweat, which will allow them to field their strongest XI on a regular basis in the league. This is a luxury many of their top four rivals will not have.
Expect Arteta’s side to rise up the standings in the weeks ahead, especially if Aubameyang can play himself back into top form.