Back in 2016, or rather the 2015/16 season, the media, television pundits, even football fans didn’t really believe Leicester City could win the Premier League title. As each so called ‘big club’ turned up to face them, that was the day Claudio Ranieri‘s team would stutter or stumble but they didn’t. In fact they were beaten on just three occasions. By Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium and Arsenal again at the King Power Stadium. I can still picture Danny Welbeck coming off the bench to nod in our winner at The Emirates. I can remember typing ‘he won’t will he’ into the comments as he stepped onto the turf because before that moment, he’d been injured for ages.
Arsenal are in a similar position now as Leicester City was seven years ago. Outside the Arsenal circle, ‘people’ are expecting us to stutter, stumble and ultimately fail in our attempt to win the League. Unlike in Leicester City’s case though, those same people probably want us to fail. No other club has to pass ‘the next big test’ in a way Arsenal do but, as each of those tests are put to Mikel Arteta’s players, they pass. Often with flying colours.
Yesterday was no exception. The game had everything a football fan could wish for, well, apart from a few wayward Arsenal passes but the way we battered Man Utd’s defence in the second half was fantastic. I know we could have scored more goals but Utd weren’t going to roll over and let us. Their backs were against the wall but not one Arsenal player looked like he’d settled for the point.
I don’t know if Mikel Arteta and his players will go on to win the league but they are certainly up for the fight to do so. Sometimes it will be a fight too, not literally of course but other teams are going to make the next few months difficult for us, just as Man Utd did yesterday. Yet once again, despite going behind and then surrendering a 2-1 lead, we fought hard until the end before Eddie Nketiah popped up with the winner with just minutes left in the game.
Mikel Arteta spoke and Eddie Nketiah after the game:
The qualities that he has, how much he wants it, how much belief he’s got in himself to become Arsenal’s number 9. His desire, his background, we’re with him every single day, [he’s] a special kid, he’s so loved by everybody at the football club, he’s got a real Arsenal heart and experience within him and that’s really special. You cannot put that into numbers. He’s really, really good.
I’m not sure what more he has to do in order to get his critics off his back. He’s not Haaland, he’s not Gabriel Jesus or any other big money signing. He’s Eddie Nketiah, he’s getting his chance and he’s not only working hard off the ball but he’s scoring goals.
Regardless of how it came about, Marcus Rashford’s goal was superb. Bukayo Saka’s though, was better and but for a lick of paint, he’d have nabbed another in similar fashion. Both of Eddie Nketiah’s goals were very good too. The first saw him jump high to head home a lovely cross from Granit Xhaka, the second was a what I’d call a poachers goal. Right place, right time, great finish.
The good news keeps on coming as after yesterday’s match, the number of bookings a player has totted up so far this season went back to zero which. Plus, Leandro Trossard may have not had much time on the pitch but he looked good.
— Leandro Trossard (@LTrossard) January 22, 2023
Our imminent new arrival and second signing of this transfer window Jakub Kiwior was in the stands watching his new teammates perform well. I bet he’s glad he didn’t join that rotten club down the road.
Post match, Mikel Arteta was asked about the atmosphere within the stadium at full time…
I don’t know [if I’ve ever heard an atmosphere like that], but it doesn’t get much better than that. It was a beautiful moment, a really special one because we were pushing and pushing and pushing and the goal wasn’t coming, but it came at the end and then VAR made it even more difficult, but it was just electric, it was really emotional, really passionate and I loved it.
Even watching on television, it was clear to see and hear The Emirates faithful not only celebrating the victory but urging their team on during the match. They, as we all do, have a reason to believe in the club again and by that I mean the owners, the board, the manager, his coaching staff and the players. Especially the players because if they didn’t believe in the what the club, our club, is doing, they wouldn’t be fighting tooth and nail for three points each game.
I mentioned Eddie Nketiah earlier for obvious reasons but as conversations continue about his performances, there are so many other players in the team who are seriously good. A few were already at the club when Mikel Arteta arrived but now they play even better. Arsenal’s recruitment over the last couple of years has been excellent, possibly the best it’s been since Arsene Wenger was in his prime. How many Utd players would, hypothetically, improve Mikel Arteta’s first team?
Lastly, I think the signing of Jakub Kiwior will be confirmed today. When Mikel Arteta was asked about him, instead of refusing to talk about other players, he said he’d talk when the deal was done. I suspect it’s already done but he just needs to pose for the camera…
One more thing, Arseblog, courtesy of The Athletic, report that Real Valladolid’s right-back Ivan Fresneda will decide today whether he signs for Arsenal or Borussia Dortmund. Both clubs have have agreed to pay the €15 million asking price. Whichever club Fresneda signs for, he’ll stay at Valladolid for the rest of the season.
Next up is Man City in the FA Cup on Friday.
Catch up in the comments guys…