From the Emirates Stadium – Five wins from five games. That’ll sound sweet in the ears of any Arsenal fan. The only 100% record in the league and, on Wednesday night, it was easy work…mostly.
Of course, with increased league position comes increased scrutiny. If you’re going to act like a title-challenging team, you’re going to get treated like one. That means that when you play an absolutely woeful Aston Villa side and don’t put them away until well into the second half, and you haven’t played against a good team all season, some people might be justified in asking exactly how clad the Emperor is.
The good news first; nobody’s actually putting Arsenal forward as title contenders yet. This squad is not built to compete with Manchester City, it’s build to compete with Spurs, Chelsea, anyone else with their eyes on the lower Champions League places – that’s just where the project’s at right now.
They are better this season though. If Champions League football doesn’t materialise, it’s a disappointment. And if you can’t put away Fulham and Villa on your own turf in consecutive games, it’s worth having a little look at what your problem is.
First off? Gabriel Jesus is a really good striker who freelances a bit. You’ll find him popping up out wide and creating opportunities, running at defenders, and…being stuck for a next move, because nobody’s shifted in to replace his presence or give him a target.
Bukayo Saka was particularly guilty of that on the weekend, which unfortunately leads onto another little issue. Saka has been electric between the halfway line and the 18-yard box, but his finishing has been problematic. A tap-in at the back post went screaming into the crowd against Villa (yes, Emi Martinez got a touch on it, yes, he still should’ve done better). It wouldn’t be fair to say that he’s looked off as such, but he hasn’t looked on.
It’s a lot better than it could be (see: Arsenal getting done at home by inferior teams every year for the last decade), but this team absolutely has to be more clinical if they’re to be anything more than a perennial disappointment. When Villa scored straight from a corner with 15 minutes to go, it absolutely reeked of…well, Arsenalling.
Just like on Saturday though, the response was immediate. Martinelli finished from close range, Martinez failed to make a save that was within his capabilities, and Arsenal held on for three points.
This is good. This is better. Last season’s Arsenal team might’ve taken two points from the last week, this season’s has six. What Mikel Arteta is building is working, but the profligacy being shown even in this winning run can’t continue for the rest of the campaign. Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea once their defence has been patched in, even Spurs – they won’t allow as many chances as the Gunners have been wasting.
The first test of the season is going to be coming at Old Trafford on the weekend. Arsenal are on the up, but it’s time to see just how high they can fly.