It’s no secret in the football world that Arsenal Football Club is everyone’s favorite club to chastise.
Honestly, I can see why. We went from a team contending for a title every season to a team seemingly content with a top 4 EPL spot and consequent Champions League qualification year in and year out. Even then, there were always at least two of the prototypical top six teams left out of the UCL berths, so we were on the inside looking out.
Following the 2016-17 season, however, our shield that had been molded and fortified across literal decades had shattered. We went from a team that could always fall back on the Champions League berth to a team whose lack of first place-push had left them one point (and a 3 goal differential deficit) out of the top four.
Moving to 2017-2018 and considering the Alexis Sanchez transfer saga, the continuation of the “Wenger Out” movement, the eventual success of the aforementioned venture, the horrendous away performances, and the Europa League heartbreak, we’re still what we’ve been for a while: the butt of the joke.
Personally, I welcome it. If pundits and opposing fans and whoever else want to label us as non-contenders and toss Leicester or Everton ahead of us on the 2018-2019 table, feel free. I’ve woken up at 7am (from the US, sorry) to watch a certain red-threaded North London team underestimate their opponents (Swansea, Newcastle, take your pick) and blow it on the road time and time again. If the “elite” teams - as some would like to call them - want to consider us a level below them, I’m all for it.
Listen. I’m not going into the 2018-2019 season with blind optimism. I know we have our issues defensively, and that isn’t restricted to the back four. There’s always some drama around the fitness of Mesut Ozil, the placement of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, or the defensive liability of Hector Bellerin. We’re going through a major transition with a new head coach for the first time in 22 years. We don’t have the spending capacity that some teams have. I fully realize that there are negatives and drawbacks.
But here’s what I do know.
We were the second best team at home in 2017-2018, and we scored the third most goals overall. Sure, we’re going through an adjustment period with a new coach, but his style and intensity is exactly what we - and the back line in particular - have been lacking. None of our star players are being linked with moves away from the club, which is not the case around the top of the Premier League (see De Gea, David or Hazard, Eden or Salah, Mo or even Pogba, Eriksen, Kane, and Courtois). The star-powered front four of Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette is selectively overlooked simply because they wear a cannon on their chests.
We’re in the process of addressing the defensive liability issue, with the signing of Stephan Lichtsteiner, the apparently-imminent signing of Sokratis, the increasingly likely acquisition of Lucas Torreira, and the hopeful pursuit of Caglar Soyunco, Bernd Leno and who knows who else (a revisit of Fekir, maybe?).
I’m not sitting here saying that we’ll win the league or have an Invincibles-esque season, but we’re a few signings and a change in mentality away from blowing the top off of the Premier League and restoring that Arsenal pride that has faded away of late. As far as I’m concerned, If Unai Emery can instill his highly-renowned focus and concentration into this squad, we’ll be a hell of a lot closer to City at the top than Leicester in the middle.
FantasyFusionSports had primarily been an American NFL Football site prior to the publishing of this article. This is the first foray into blogging about the Premier League, and it won’t be the last.
Follow Donald Gibson on Twitter @DonaldGibsonFF