It’s easy to forget that Mikel Arteta won the F.A Cup within his first six months as Arsenal manager.
That was a lifetime ago, a world-shaking pandemic ago, a disenchanting 2020/2021 season ago.
When Arsenal won the Charity Shield against Liverpool in August 2020, everybody could see that they were a team heading in the right direction under Mikel Arteta.
Nobody could have predicted the disappointing season that followed.
It’s not just that they finished 8th last season, it was the way they did it. So often, they looked devoid of any attacking imagination. So many games passed them by as they struggled to play out from the back and failed to link the rest of the team to the attacking players.
Arteta has always protested that he needed the right ‘specificity’ of players to make his football work. As a result, this season will be a referendum on his management, because he has his players now.
A statement win over North London rivals Tottenham on Sunday has gone some way to solidifying his philosophy.
With Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney in front of Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal suddenly look coherent.
With Partey and Xhaka anchoring a young offensive unit of Odegaard, Saka and Smith-Rowe feeding Aubemayang, Arsenal finally found their flow against Spurs and raced out to a 3 – 1 win.
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This is how Arsenal are capable of playing when they have all their players available. Whether they can be consistent enough to return to Europe remains to be seen. However, that two of their goals came from youth team players will be enormously encouraging for the new project they have undertaken.
That was a proper Arsenal win on Sunday, the first one in quite some time. The challenge for Arteta now is to keep it going.