It has been nearly two decades since Arsenal last won the Premier League, but that drought might just be coming to an end.
The resurgence of Arsenal has been one of the bigger stories around club football this season. The Gunners haven’t quite figured things out since Arsene Wenger stepped down in 2018, and haven’t finished in the top four since a second-place finish in the 2015-16 campaign.
However, the club has gotten off to a scintillating start in the early stages of the 2022-23 season, and currently are seven points clear at the top of the English Premier League table. While recent Arsenal sides have been remarkably unspectacular, this team feels different. It’s almost a return to the early Wenger days when the club was at its peak.
Arsenal has always been the culture club of the Premier League. It had that tough swagger through the late ’90s and early aughts, as fans fell in love with the beautiful football (and kits) that became synonymous with the club. Having a football icon like Thierry Henry certainly helped matters, but even past the Invincibles era, figures like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Santi Cazorla, and Mesut Ozil kept the aesthetically pleasing play rolling.
Until probably around eight months ago, that feeling around Arsenal was all but gone. There was little to no entertainment factor around the club, the stadium was quieter, and there was tension at all levels from management to players. We all remember the Granit Xhaka incident with the fans.
But nearly overnight, it seems, the red side of North London has been hit with a jolt of energy that has many hopeful that Arsenal can win its first Prem title in nearly 20 years. How did we get here?
The biggest credit for this Arsenal remontada needs to go to manager Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard had been heavily criticized by both Arsenal fans and media following a pair of eighth place finishes in his first two years at the helm.
As recent as last season, after starting with 0 points and goals scored in the first three games, fans were calling for his dismissal. Since then, Arsenal has been nothing short of sensational.
It’s been the best coached team in the league this season and that is reflected by results and performances. Arsenal dominates games with ease on and off the ball. Arteta has done a wonderful job of putting players in the right positions and conditions to thrive.
The biggest example is the improvement in Martin Odegaard and transitioning him from an attacking midfielder to a center midfielder, a role more suited to his playmaking ability. Xhaka, Bukayo Saka, and Eddie Nketiah have all seen their all-around games improve under Arteta as well.
Arteta has also implemented an elite pressing structure off the ball, which suffocates opponents and forces mistakes which lead to scoring opportunities. Now a few years into his tenure, it’s evident that Arsenal has an elite coach in its hands and credit to the higher ups for sticking with him and seeing out his project.
The energy fans bring to games is very important in football, and Arsenal is a great example of that. I mentioned earlier how the energy left the Emirates over the last few years due to the struggles of the team and the club as a whole. That energy has been restored and the Emirates has become a fortress.
The famous Clock End, which is in the south stand, has been rocking all season. Within the Clock End there has been a new group that has emerged, the “Boys in Black.” They are a young group looking to help Arsenal get that swagger back in all aspects, and so far, it seems to be working. They are the closest representation of ultras in English football and are looking to bring that ultra culture to England. Whether it will be accepted is another question.
The Young Guns
Seeing an academy or young player break through and succeed is one of the best feelings as a football fan. The one thing Arsenal has in abundance is young energetic players, especially in attack.
The success and rise of Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have been important in the change of tides in Arsenal performances. The dynamic wingers have shown a linear development and are at the forefront of Arsenal’s success. Also, the likes of Odegaard and William Saliba have had breakout seasons so far and are two of the best in their respective positions.
The success of the youth brings the feeling of sustained quality and hope for the future. All signs show these players continuing this development, which means the sky is the ceiling for this football club. The fans have a project to believe in and the young guys are one of the most important reasons for that. The Hale End is cooking something special.
The Board and Ownership
Within Arsenal, no one faced more criticism than the club’s board, and more specifically owner Stan Kroenke. The American billionaire was criticized as only caring about his American franchises, and many believed that Arsenal was just a cash cow for him.
Since the Super League incident that seems to have shifted. Arsenal has gone through some changes on the board with sporting director Edu Gaspar having a bigger role and developing a great relationship with Arteta. The club has not only spent a lot of money on players, but it has done so wisely as well. Many recall previous Gunner blunders in the form of Nicolas Pepe and Willian — that doesn’t seem to be the case so far with the club’s recent signings.
Gaspar’s relationship with Brazilian players and agents was also crucial in securing Gabriel Jesus last summer, a crucial addition that has greatly improved the already solid Arsenal attack.
The board has done well to make sure the overall vibe around Arsenal is the closest it has been to its dominant peak of 20-plus years ago.
On Boxing Day, we saw Wenger return to the ground he built for the first time since his departure. It seems that the former boss finally believes in Arsenal. Club legend Henry has been quoted many times on television to believe in Arsenal again after years of thinking the club had lost its identity.
We all grew up with Arsenal playing beautiful football and being this cool and exciting club, and after losing that identity, it has returned. The Arsenal is back.