Arsenal’s Season Is About To Finally Lift-Off
Arsenal’s hard-fought win at Cardiff suggests things are brighter than they first appeared after some difficult early season fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea. Indeed, the manner of their victory in Wales suggests the doom and gloom that greeted defeats to the 2018 Premier League champions, and the subsequent loss to Chelsea, should be shelved for guarded optimism as new manager Unai Emery finds his feet.
An away trip to Cardiff was always going to be tricky. It had an added dimension following Arsenal’s early season defeats too. After managing only four wins on the road last season, and suffering 11 defeats, Spanish head coach Emery knows that if he is to successfully develop a new attitude within the dressing room, away days are where he’ll find out if it’s working. Premier League betting might favour Cardiff for the drop but that makes Arsenal’s subsequent victory against the Bluebirds even more impressive.
Cardiff are clearly in need of the points and, following a well-earned draw against fellow relegation favourites Huddersfield Town in their last game, were eager to continue the point-scoring trend in front of their home fans. But this is Arsenal post-Arsene Wenger and there’s clearly a desire to improve away from home compared to previous seasons. To twice squander the lead but find the resources to score the winning goal in a 3-2 victory suggests Emery’s finding not only the right approach but the right players too.
Victory against West Ham in the Gunners’ previous game got their season up and running but there were positives in the defeat to Chelsea too. Their first-half dominance should have seen them score four goals. And despite missed chances, they still fought back from 2-0 down. Would that have happened during the Wenger era? Maybe. What perhaps wouldn’t have happened was the substitutions of Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil after lacklustre first-half performances. It’s also refreshing to see the new manager place faith in promising youngster Matteo Guendouzi.
Admittedly, the defending is still one area Arsenal need to drastically improve. Emery has sought to fix that problem but his new players – defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira and young goalkeeper Bernd Leno – need playing time to adjust to the physicality, pace and pressure of the Premier League.
As new manager Unai Emery finds his feet in England’s top division, Arsenal’s results are likely to tally with that increase in experience – not just of playing styles but of the intrusiveness of the press and the demands of the fans that come with playing week in, week out in the Premier League.
Emery will also be better placed to know which of his star players understand and work well under his management; the attitude of such players being a big part in whether they’re a first-team pick or bench dwellers.
The hard-fought win against Cardiff came at an important time. It also showed fighting qualities that the team may have lacked in previous seasons under Arsene Wenger and perhaps points to Emery’s increasingly positive influence on the dressing room.
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