Are Arsenal ready to take that big step towards the title?

By on December 11, 2023

Mikel Arteta Arsenal

As the 2023-24 Premier League season unfolds, Arsenal finds themselves in a familiar position, reminiscent of their strong start in the previous campaign. However, the air surrounding the team feels different this time, marked by a nuanced blend of optimism and concern. Mikel Arteta’s squad, which narrowly missed the title last season, is once again in contention, yet questions linger about their readiness for the ultimate leap. As the Premier League unfolds, Arsenal’s current form sparks intriguing Premier League predictions, with fans pondering if they can sustain their title challenge amidst challenges in squad depth and increased competition.

Comparing their current stats to the same point last season reveals a team with a marginally inferior record, winning eleven, drawing three, and losing one of their first 13 games, accumulating 36 points. Last season, they boasted 13 wins, one draw, and one loss, amassing 40 points. Despite the slightly lesser numerical prowess, the prevailing sentiment among fans is one of contentment, acknowledging the team’s fantastic form and a position that promises a more sustained title challenge.

Arsenal looks unstoppable force

Yet, the glaring difference lies in the style of play. Last season witnessed Arsenal as an unstoppable force, bulldozing opponents with ruthless efficiency. This time, however, their attacking prowess has waned. The numbers tell a story of diminished goal-scoring, with averages dropping in goals per game, expected goals, and shots taken. A recent narrow 1-0 victory against Brentford exemplifies this trend, marking their fifth single-goal win this season.

The reliance on set pieces has become more pronounced, contributing to almost 30% of their total goals. While effective, it hints at a team struggling to replicate the free-flowing football of the previous season. In open play, they lag in both goals scored and expected goals, indicating a diminished attacking flair. A key contributor to this shift is the decreased influence of Martin Ødegaard, whose role as a playmaker has seen a subtle but impactful decline. His touches in dangerous areas have reduced, resulting in fewer shots, goals, and assists. Injuries and changes in personnel, notably Declan Rice’s arrival, have altered the team’s dynamic, affecting Ødegaard’s connection with danger man Bukayo Saka.

Arteta’s strategic emphasis on defensive solidity is evident, with Declan Rice playing a pivotal role in thwarting opposition counters. This season, Arsenal leads in defensive metrics, conceding fewer shots and expected goals. The meticulous defensive organization, coupled with an efficient defensive set-piece record, highlights Arteta’s commitment to balance.

Summer Signings Making Their Mark

However, the concern lies in Arsenal’s historical tendency to falter in the latter stages, as witnessed in the previous season’s notorious second-half slump. The current campaign, potentially more challenging with resurgent City and Liverpool, demands sustained excellence and depth. Looking ahead, the depth of Arsenal’s squad emerges as a critical factor. While their bench may not rival the star-studded options of City, there is a noticeable improvement in game-changing talent compared to last year. Summer acquisitions, including Kai Havertz and the transformative Declan Rice, have begun to make their mark. However, key positions remain susceptible, and the potential loss of integral players like Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice, or William Saliba could derail their title aspirations.

In conclusion, while Arsenal’s attacking prowess may have diminished, their defensive resilience and improved depth make them serious contenders for the title. The narrative unfolding in the coming months will reveal whether they combust or soar, adding an intriguing chapter to the ongoing Premier League drama.