When the Premier League fixtures were announced, a little smile went across my face.
After last seasons horror opening few fixtures, the computer had been nice to us for the upcoming campaign.
In the first 5 games, 3 would be at home, 2 against newly promoted sides and none would be against a “Big 6” team.
Even the pesimistic fan would have struggled to make a case against us getting at least 13 points from 15. The optimistic amongst us went straight in with 15 from 15.
And that is why we should not go too OTT about our start.
Yes, you can only beat what is in front of you – and teams will drop points away to Crystal Palace this season. But just 2 games in it is too early to start talking about us being in a title race.
I do not want to be a negative nancy. In fact many people have criticised me in the past for being too positive. All I try and do is be optimistically realistic.
At the time of writing (prior to Liverpool’s game), we are one of only 2 sides to get 6 points from 6. That is somehting to celebrate.
And with the next game being Bournemouth (away), we should make that 9 from 9.
Then we have a home double header against Fulham and Aston Villa. Would 15 from 15 really be an unreasonable expectation? I do not think so.
But even if we are sitting with a 100% record after 5 games, we should not get too over-hyped. We still would not have played anyone.
Sixth game in is a trip to Old Trafford which, despite their poor start, will not be easy. We know how often we have bottled it in Manchester. there is a mental block there.
For me, we will not really see what we can expect from the season until October hits.
We start with the 10th month with games at home to Tottenham and Liverpool before visiting Leeds. Manchester City then make it 3 Big 6 visitors to the Emirates in the month before another away trip to Southampton.
Finally we face Nottingham Forest at home.
A tough month where we are set to play six games. We also have 3 Europa League games in between which will make it a 9 game month.
As the winter World Cup looms, we have a couple of tricky away games in November – trips to Chelsea and Wolves. At that point the Premier League shuts down for 6 weeks.
By the time Qatar comes around, we would have played 16 games and faced every “Big 6” side, with a 50/50 split on home and away games.
I am excited about our start, and more importantly the performances on the pitch.
But we need to respect the computer has been kind to us – and continues to have been so.
It is always more enjoyable skipping into work on a Monday morning having seen your team put in a top class performance. And even better when the Man U fans who have never left London are keeping their heads down.
In the past, these guys have piped up when Arsenal lost. Usually playing videos of a certain fan TV channel and laughing. I have always said that channel’s target audience was not Arsenal fans.
Well today they will be silent. Because not only did The Arsenal win convincenly but Man U were embarassed. Humiliated. Abused.
We are getting a lot right as a club right now and this is highlighted in our transfer dealings.
We stepped away from Lautaro Martinez when the price became too steep and opted to go for Oleksandr Zinchenko at half the price.
Now Mikel Arteta had always planned to use Martinez as an inverted full back, utilising his defensive ability out wide but tucking him into the midfield in attack. We had no interest in playing him as a central defender.
Erik ten Hag had other ideas and has started him in central defence. WhoScored rated his performance against Brentford at 5.7. Ironically this is also his height.
Other Premier League clubs will ruthlessly expose his vertical challenges and he will be dominated by lumps of centre forwards.
Meanwhile Zinchenko put in another solid performance.
The performance against Leicester City also showed why it is unlikely we will go for Youri Tielemans.
In the battle between Tielemans and Granit Xhaka, the Swiss man came out on top.
Add Zinchenko as an option in the middle, Fabio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Mohamed Elneny, we are clearly well stocked in central midfield. I would rather a winger.
Last little thought is about Gabriel Jesus.
What an astute he has been.
Edu got a little bit of flack for “buying Manchester City rejects” but Jesus’s all action performance against Leicester makes you wonder why he was not given more of a chance for City.
It was interesting to hear Raheem Sterling speaking at the weekend of how frustrated he became with Pep Guardiola’s rotation policy.
City have now lost Jesus, Zinchenko and Sterling – all of whom left for regular football. And Bernardo Silva could also be out of the door.
The important thing now is to ensure Jesus workload is managed.
Jesus can not be expected to put in a 90 minute all action performance twice a week. We will need to ensure he is taken off when the games are won, and that Eddie starts in the Europa League.
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhāes, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Nicolas Pépé, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Gabriel Jesus (23 mins, 35 mins), Granit Xhaka (55 mins)
Yellow Cards: Takehiro Tomiyasu
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 50%
Referee: Darren England
Assistant Referees: James Mainwaring, Wade Smith
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR: Mike Dean; AVAR: Derek Eaton
In this 35 degree scorching heat, there is a massive expectation amongst our supporters that we feel that we can beat the Foxes here at the Emirates this afternoon, but having said that, we all know through sometimes bitter experience that the proof of the football pudding in the early weeks of the season is always in the eating. The early action of this game didn’t appear to suffer too much from the oppressive heat, with both teams being more than active in both penalty areas. If anything, Arsenal have the edge over Leicester City as they are able to soak up the pressure from the visitors and are confident enough to move out quicker on the break. After eight minutes, Oleksandr Zinchenko’s through ball to Thomas Partey was neutralised fairly easily by the Leicester City defenders, however, which was a chance missed, sadly. A few minutes later, the Foxes showed their mettle when a lively solo run by Wesley Fofana ran unchallenged into the penalty area, but Aaron Ramsdale came to the rescue, which was a relief. The match started to turn in our favour quite dramatically at this point with the vast majority of the match being played in the Foxes half, as it seemed that it was only a matter of time before we opened the scoring. After twelve minutes, a free-kick was whipped into the Leicester City penalty area and Gabriel Jesus got his head to it, but sadly his sterling effort flashed into the side-netting. The confidence in our team was good to see; Gabriel Martinelli was held back by Wesley Fofana as he bore down on goal, which resulted in a well-deserved yellow card for the Leicester man. Despite the heat, we controlled the game admirably and as our probing strikers were firing dangerous crosses into the Foxes’ penalty area, it was Granit Xhaka who came unbelievably close to opening the scoring with a strong header, but Danny Ward just tipped the ball onto the post, but sadly Oleksandr Zinchenko whacked it over the bar from close range, as he followed in. Just before the drinks break, we took the lead quite deservedly when Gabriel Jesus’ superb right footed shot from the left side of the penalty area hit the top right hand corner of the net, flying past Danny Ward in the Foxes’ goal, and a contender for the goal of the month undoubtedly. The Emirates is rocking, our supporters are buoyed up, and the players are responding accordingly with classy play, pressurising the visitors constantly, who, with no obvious leader out there, are starting to look decidedly lacklustre. Our team were piling on the perssure with exciting play, and ten minutes before the half-time break we got our reward for match domination; Gabriel Jesus grabbed his second of the afternoon with a beautiful header from extremely close range to the top right corner following an Arsenal corner. The Gunners are flying now, but suddenly we got caught on the break and unbelievably, and totally against the run of play, referee Darren England gave a penalty for the visitors when minimal contact between Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy and Aaron Ramsdale clipped more than collided; Mike Dean, in the VAR room at Stockley Park requested the referee to take a look at the pitchside monitor, and having done so, cancelled out his original decision, and quite rightly so, it has to be said. In the four minutes’ injury time, probably as a result of the penalty that never was, the atmosphere in the stadium and among the players was rather flat, it had to be said.
The second half started with much expectation and excitement from the Emirates’ crowd, and for the first seven minutes or so, it was fairly pedestrian stuff; that was, until William Saliba, under pressure from Jamie Vardy headed the ball past Aaron Ramdale and into his own net. Tragedy for the young man; it mattered not, as two minutes later, Gabriel Jesus slotted the ball to Granit Xhaka, who confidently struck the ball from the centre of the Leicester City penalty area into the centre of the goal. Not resting on their laurels, the team came back at the Foxes with vim and vigour; Thomas Partey (assisted by Gabriel Martinelli), struck a strong right footed shot from outside the penalty area which went narrowly past the left hand side of Danny Ward’s goal. Attempt after attempt came forth, but we went into the drinks break slightly frustrated, but overall happy with the result so far. The drinks break appeared to change things somewhat; firstly Kelechi Iheanacho’s shot narrowly flashed by Aaron Ramsdale’s post, but unbelievely a couple of minutes later, James Maddison snatched a second goal for the Foxes, but wait a minute! After Ben White being substituted by Takehiro Tomiyasu, it became a case of anything you can do, we can do better. Gabriel Jesus jinked and turned a defender, passed the ball to Gabriel Martinelli, whose left-footed shot from outside the Foxes’ penalty area flashed into the bottom right hand corner of the net. With thirteen minutes of this exciting game remaining, Oleksandr Zinchenko was replaced by Kieran Tierney, and onward we marched. Bukayo Saka almost scored our fifth of the day, when his low, left-footed shot from the right-hand side of the penalty area was saved by the Leicester City goalie. Mikel Arteta undertook a double substitution with Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah replacing Bukayo Saka and our two-goal hero Gabriel Jesus with around eight minutes of the game remaining. Thomas Partey hit the base of the post with an excellent shot that saw him swivel and strike the ball after a corner kick, and as the match entered its final stages on this incredibly hot North London afternoon, our desire to score yet more goals was evident to for everyone to see. In the five additional minutes injury time, Takehiro Tomiyasu received a yellow card for a silly tackle, but still we came forward looking for more goals and glory today; but it was not to be, as the final score of the game remained as it was.
A superb performance from the boys today, and an impressive debut from Gabriel Jesus too! So many good points from the team, it would be hard to pick just one, but if anyone did impress above and beyond the call of duty, it was Gabriel Jesus of course. William Saliba was desperately unlucky with regards to the own goal, but aside from that, his home debut performance was also excellent. The first home game of the season was certainly one to remember, let’s hope that the performance at the Emirates today was one that will be replicated throughout this season.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, 20th August at 5.30pm. Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon