Since Arsène Wenger left in 2018, Arsenal has struggled to find any sort of identity. For years the club tried to find ways out of their tailspin. By betting on their youth, they have stumbled their way into a title challenge, but will it last?

Not many expected Arsenal to be title contenders in the preseason. They were seen as a team with interesting prospects led by an unqualified coach.

Mikel Arteta and Arsenal have, mostly, turned doubters into believers. The youth has arrived earlier than expected and turned this side into contenders. From smart transfers to a great culture, it’s hard not to like this Arsenal side. 

It’s still a little hard to suss out their chances at maintaining this form. Mostly because of Manchester City and their terminator, but they may be eyeing the Champions League more. At the same time, Arsenal is a really solid side that is clicking at the right time.

Photo: ESPN

For a club that has been in a state of chaos since Robin van Persie was sold, this is a truly positive season. Even if they don’t sustain this form, this is the best Arsenal season in close to a decade.

This season feels like a culmination of Arteta’s project. Smart transfers coupled with player development has transformed Arsenal into one of the most exciting teams in Europe.

Starting from last summer, fans can see how Arteta and the board built this side. Securing Martin Ødegaard to be their playmaker of the future has worked out brilliantly. In the same window, Arsenal were able to bring in Takehiro Tomiyasu who will certainly be a staple of this side for years to come. 

Jesus was Arsenal’s big transfer this summer and he has been a great addition, mixing Aubameyang’s scoring abilities with Lacazette’s playmaking abilities. Zinchenko gives Arteta a Swiss Army knife veteran player who can play just about anywhere. Then there’s the exciting Fábio Vieira, who has tons of potential despite not playing too much so far.

Not only have they done the best job outside of City in terms of smart transfers, but their player development has been breathtaking. It’s clear that their model should serve as a blueprint for other clubs.

So much has been said about Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe’s developments, but it still feels like they’re underrated. Saka looks set to become the winger of the future for the Prem, tearing sides apart with his mazy dribbles. While Smith Rowe is helping Arsenal’s ability to playmake, making him and Ødegaard a deadly tandem. 

Photo: Arsenal

William Saliba’s development has been incredible, as he went from bust to Ligue 1’s best defender. While his development really came through at Marseille, where he was the team’s best player and grew into the league’s top defender. Arsenal are clearly reaping the benefits as Saliba looks set to be the Prem’s most promising defender.

Arsenal’s turn around should be admired and serve as a model for other struggling giants. By betting on the youth and making smart transfers, they have pushed themselves back into contention.

It’s still so early into the season that any sort of prediction runs the risk of being mocked. There are reasons to both like and dislike Arsenal’s chances at a genuine title run.

Manchester City are way too talented to not win this title. Led by Haaland, who is destroying Europe for fun, they have, on paper, the most talented team the Prem has ever seen. It still feels as if this title is City’s to lose.

Outside of Jesus and Zinchenko, and a few others, there is a lack of veteran presence that has won at a top level. This is always an achilles heel for any young team, as there will come moments where a veteran would be useful in guiding their team. While this may harm their chances this year, a season like this can only help players’ development and build character needed for future runs.

Arsenal’s rebuild does seem to be ahead of schedule and Arteta has positioned themselves well. There are, of course, some flaws, but this side still has plenty of time to cement themselves as contenders.

The only thing that may keep City out is if they go on a deep run in the Champions League and are willing to sacrifice their chances in the Prem. In addition, Arsenal’s humbling of Liverpool has shown  that they can hang around with the big dogs. Arsenal is not a pretender in the sense of  having an easy schedule, as they have fought off tough opponents with relative ease.

Photo: David Klein/Reuters

While it’s true that they lack veteran depth, they are still elite on both sides of the ball. Arsenal possess the second best offense behind Haaland and the rest of City. At the same, they are tied for the second fewest number of goals conceded thanks to their elite defense. 

In what has been a beautiful start to the season for the London side, there is a real chance at a title challenge. Even if they eventually slow down, Arsenal fans will have plenty to be excited about in the future.

For years, even under Wenger, Arsenal was in a chaotic state, drifting around without an identity. While Arteta is no Pep, he has given his team a culture that has allowed for their resurgence. Arsenal spent years traveling the football desert, but will this season be their escape or just a mirage?


Featured image: Arsenal

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