Despite last winning the English Premier League title back in the 2003-04 season, Arsenal have always been considered one of the “Big Six” teams as they are constantly battling for UEFA Champions League positions.
This year may be a bit different given that Arsene Wenger is not at the helm, but the objective remains the same for the Gunners under Unai Emery: return to the top of English football.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur appear to be the stronger teams on paper, but Arsenal still have the talent to challenge these teams when they play to their game.
This season has been a mixed bag so far, but expect the London outfit to bounce back after the international break.
Ninth in the league with six points, the Gunners are only slightly better than Manchester United who are 10th due to a more superior goal difference. Outside of that, much of the same can be said about the two teams regarding their form and performances on the pitch.
It was a tough opening-day match for Emery and the Gunners as they faced the defending champions Manchester City and they never really got off to the start they hoped for to challenge the holders. An early goal by City dictated the pace and they went on to win 2-0 at the Emirates.
The nightmare continued as Arsenal travelled to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in another tough clash of teams and the Gunners’ defence succumbed to another early goal, with Pedro netting in the 9th minute.
Arsenal would battle back to level the score at 2-2 but their defence couldn’t hold the Blues from scoring close to time and they eventually lost 3-2 to their rivals.
After the tough games, Arsenal finally broke through the win column with a 3-1 hammering of West Ham United followed by a see-saw affair against Cardiff City where a late goal from Alexandre Lacazette gave them three points and sending them on a good streak before the break.
HOW TRANSFERS HAVE FARED
The Gunners had a busy off-season as Emery made sure to bring in new players to help the squad challenge for the title.
They brought in five new players, Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira all joining during the summer.
Leno is still yet to be given a real chance as Petr Cech is still the preferred goalkeeper. However, Cech has not been his usual elite self so expect the German to be given a chance soon.
Among the new signings, the 19-year-old Guendouzi appears to be the player who has adapted well and won Emery’s trust as he has featured in all Premier League games so far for the Gunners. Despite his age, Guendouzi appears to be very confident with the ball and his key passing has impressed critics so far.
Torreira was brought in as Arsenal’s big-money signing but has yet to really establish himself as a defensive midfielder for Arsenal. However, the season is still early and many are expecting Torreira to be a regular part of the starting XI soon.
Despite additions of Sokratis and Lichtsteiner to bring depth and veteran presence in the defence, the Gunners are still lacking the bite to stop their opponents from scoring as they have yet to register a clean sheet so far this season. Emery has injected a new attacking style of play that has seemingly worked in the last two games but they should really improve things in the back line.
HOW THEY MAY FARE IN THE COMING MATCHES
It is important to note that Arsenal are in a fairly good place despite a slow start. With two out of four matches against title contenders and no European football to play in, Emery and the Gunners can very well concentrate in the Premier League.
Up next are Newcastle United who have struggled mightily in the league, only with one point so far in four matches in the Premier League. The Gunners have won four of their last five match-ups, but the Magpies won their last meeting 2-1 at St. James’ Park.
Next up are Everton who are unbeaten so far in the season. The Toffees sit in sixth place at the moment and are slowly looking to improve of their outing last year. It appears to be a tough match for Arsenal but the Gunners have been comfortable when facing Everton in recent games. In fact, the last three meetings have resulted in Arsenal wins with a combined goal tally of 13-4.
In what could be the toughest clash in the next four games, Watford travel to Emirates to face Emery’s men. Watford are third in the table at the moment and are riding a wave of momentum with four wins in as many matches. Their most recent win was against a tough opponent in Tottenham and they are looking for another win against a big six club.
Finally, Fulham host Arsenal at Craven Cottage. The last time these two teams met was in 2014, with Arsenal winning 2-0 and it is expected that the Gunners get maximum points against their opponent.
SEASON SO FAR: 3/5