In the summer, it would have been almost laughable to suggest that Arsenal were credible Premier League title contenders.
They had a new and unproven – in England, anyway – manager, and there was the small matter of underperforming in league and on the continent to consider.
But maybe, just maybe, Unai Emery has transformed the Gunners.
They were absolutely peerless in the second half of their 3-1 win over Leicester on Monday night, producing the sort of football that Manchester City or Barcelona in their pomp would have been proud of.
It caused a shift in the Premier League outright market too, with Mesut Ozil’s men backed in from 40/1 to 33/1 to lift an unexpected domestic trophy.
The German, who was named captain on the night, took to Twitter to speak of his pride at his team’s performance. “I think we played some sexy football tonight. Proud captain of this team and this club!” he wrote.
Sexy football is one thing, but hoisting trophies is quite another. Have Arsenal seduced us not thinking they can win the Premier League title? Here’s our look at the case for and against.
The Case For
Perfect ? ? pic.twitter.com/FDU7EuK7yE
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) 23 October 2018
What did Arsenal display against the Foxes last night? Pace, guile and creativity in abundance….it was almost like watching that Invincibles side with Henry, Bergkamp, Overmars and co.
With Mesut Ozil drifting behind Alexandre Lacazette, with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang left and Alex Iwobi, the Gunners had four players capable of opening up any defence….put them all together, and it was a quartet that was impossible to handle.
Of course, there’s much more that goes into a title-winning team than attacking prowess, but the basic principle of football is to outscore your opponent, and if Emery can keep this fab four fit – with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey waiting in the wings – then he could be on to something.
Ten wins on the spin in all competitions will have their supporters’ juices flowing, and with trips to Crystal Palace and Bournemouth to come in the next few weeks, as well as a home date with Wolves, you sense the Gunners could accumulate more Premier League points ahead of a tough December schedule.
Can you attack your way to Premier League glory? Absolutely, as long as key figures are kept fit and firing.
The Case Against
Being able to score freely is one thing, but if you can’t defend then over time you will drop points….and thus throw away any chance you have of glory.
Arsenal have shipped eleven goals so far – more than any other side in the top five, and there have been times when they have been lucky not to ship more; against Leicester, as one example, they saw Wilfried Ndidi hit their bar with a header and a cast-iron penalty appeal against them waved away.
Indeed, the Expected Points league table suggests that, based upon the balance of creating ‘big chances’ and conceding them, Arsenal should actually be a lowly 11th in the division!
Many of us are guilty of recency bias, which is paying too much focus on events that are front and centre of our minds, rather than seeing the bigger picture, and Arsenal fans will know their side were lucky to beat Everton and Watford, to some extent, in recent times.
Indeed, when you look at the Gunners’ last six league fixtures, three have come against sides in the bottom four and none have been against the top six in the division.
So can Arsenal win the Premier League title? Come back to us at the end of December, by when they will have played Liverpool twice, Manchester United and Tottenham. At that point, we’ll know if Unai Emery’s men are going to sink or swim.
|Sunday 28th October||Crystal Palace||Away|
|Saturday 3rd November||Liverpool||Home|
|Sunday 11th November||Wolves||Home|
|Sunday 25th November||Bournemouth||Away|
|Sunday 2nd December||Tottenham||Home|
|Wednesday 5th December||Manchester United||Away|
|Saturday 8th December||Huddersfield Town||Home|
|Sunday 16th December||Southampton||Away|
|Saturday 22nd December||Burnley||Home|
|Wednesday 26th December||Brighton||Away|
|Saturday 29th December||Liverpool||Away|