Arsenal currently sit at fifth place in the PL table with 20 points from six games and are just six points off the top spot. Nobody expects them to compete for the title but a top-four spot is now firmly up for grabs. Arsenal have turned around their campaign in a spectacular manner after languishing in relegation zone before the September international break.
After a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City, Arsenal were in disarray and were quite unsure about their best starting eleven. Fast forward two months and for the first time under Arteta, Arsenal have a stable setup and a set game plan. After experimenting with several formations, Arteta has settled for a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 formation. More importantly, he has given his players a lot of clarity about their roles on the pitch.
It was Arteta that initially decided to use Aubameyang as a left winger rather than a center-forward. But now he is back doing what he does best, which is playing as a striker. He has more quality than an old-fashioned target man and thus Arteta’s new system allows him to drop deep and combine with the midfield.
Lacazette is also one of the reasons why Arsenal have turned around their campaign. He has played slightly behind Aubameyang and his hold-up play is coming in handy during quick transitions. By starting Lacazette for three consecutive games and by pairing him up with Aubameyang, Arteta has showed that he values experience.
Martin Odegaard has done well while given a chance to start. He has also made a few useful cameos off the bench. Odegaard has tried to replicate Ozil’s role but his work-rate is a key difference compared to the German. Arsenal’s record signing Nicolas Pepe has also largely remained on the bench for the past 10 games. But as a substitute, he provides an injection of pace and energy.
Academy graduates Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka have become consistent starters. Smith-Rowe in particular in is the middle of a wonderful goal-scoring run with three goals in three games. He has all the attributes of a modern-day attacking midfielder and has earned a call-up to the English national team. On the other hand, Saka is a natural winger and is capable of playing on both the wings. He still has to improve his composure in front of the goal but he is only going to improve with each passing game.
Arteta has preferred a double pivot in midfield, with Partey and Lokonga seemingly his first-choice. Xhaka, Elneny and Maitland-Niles have also been used as holding midfielders. With Xhaka out injured, all the remaining contenders have more or less proved their value as a central defensive midfielder. Partey has particularly excelled at shielding the defense but there is more to his game than just sitting back and making interceptions.
Water-tight defense and emergence of Ramsdale
Gabriel and White have formed a rock-solid partnership at the center of defense. White is the ball-playing center-back while Gabriel complements him well with solid man-marking and timely clearances. Tomiyasu at right-back is another bright spot for the gunners. So far he has looked like an elite defender and barely anybody has dribbled past him. With the excellent Tierney out injured, Tavares has made a huge claim for the left-back spot. He is excellent while moving forward and has provided some pin-point crosses for the strikers.
If Arteta is forced to cite a single reason why Arsenal have turned around their campaign, he will point his fingers at Ramsdale. When Arsenal bought him, he was trolled by many citing his previous clubs’ relegation from the top flight. But he has made some outstanding saves and his distribution has been even more impressive.
Overall, Arsenal seems to be on the verge of a break-through campaign and will surely be back in Europe next season.