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How has Mikel Arteta transformed Arsenal into a Premier League title contender?

If Arsenal continue to maintain this upward trend, then defending champions Man City will struggle to catch up with them.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta; Credit: Twitter/@Arsenal
By Karthik Raman | Nov 27, 2022 | 6 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

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It is indeed hard to imagine Arsenal are sitting atop the Premier League table with a five-point cushion at this juncture in the season. Club football has come to a halt due to the unusual winter World Cup in Qatar. It was known for a while the break from club football will come in November but what many failed to anticipate is to see the Gunners topping the table during this break. The level at which Arsenal played in the league so far this season and the professionalism they showed in grinding out important results have been credited with a well-earned spot at the top of the standings.

Back in the summer when pundits and supporters were making the predictions, two names commonly popped out – Manchester City and Liverpool. Defending champions City were expected to be favourites and the Reds were anticipated to provide another tough fight. However, Liverpool have fallen way off the pace, while Pep Guardiola’s side have been strangely inconsistent. While the performances of these two teams have surprised many, what they did not anticipate seeing was Arsenal topping the table convincingly at this point of the season.

The Gunners have played 14 matches and have secured 37 points from them, which is five more than second-placed Man City. Liverpool are way below in sixth with 22 points from 14 games. With a lot of matches left to be played anything can still happen. After players return from the World Cup, a lot of twists and turns could be in place. Hence, it is silly to rule out the chances of other teams this early in the season. Nonetheless, if Arsenal continue to play at this level, other teams will find it difficult to catch up to them in the second half of the season.

Steady improvement

One of the hallmarks of Arsenal’s recent success is largely down to the steady improvement that is seen over the years. Ever since Mikel Arteta was appointed as head coach of Arsenal in December 2019, they have had their highs and lows but one thing that has remained constant is the gradual progress. In his first season itself, they won silverware by beating Chelsea in the final of the FA Cup. Overall, the Gunners finished eight in the 2019-20 season with 56 points.

The following season, which was Arteta’s first full campaign, Arsenal once again finished eight but with 61 points. However, it was last season (2021-22) when the Gunners were praised for their resilience and spirit. They came within touching distance of finishing in the top four positions. At one point, they seemed to be the favourite for the fourth spot, however, a few poor results at the business end of the campaign saw them lose out the fourth spot to old foes Tottenham Hotspur.

SeasonPositionMatchesGoals ScoredGoals ConcededPoints
2022-23114331137
2021-22538614869
2020-21838553961
2019-20838564856

In the end, Arsenal managed 69 points from 38 games to finish fifth. They eventually finished just two points shy of fourth-placed Spurs. It was massive progress from where they were a couple of years ago. Still, credit has to be given to Arteta and his boys for not dropping their heads after missing out on the top four last season in such dramatic heart-breaking fashion. They continued their upward streak by producing a title challenge this season. If Arsenal continue to maintain this upward trend, then defending champions Man City will struggle to catch up with them.

Visible progress across the pitch

The hallmark of Arsenal’s success so far this season is not only about their results but the performances too. They are playing as one unit from back-to-front and the players seemed to have developed good chemistry between them. The Gunners are defending efficiently at the back, while their attacking movements have also been impressive. Arteta has to be given the credit for getting the most out of his well-drilled squad, as they are clearly punching above their weight.

The improvement in the overall performance level of the team in various departments is visible to the eye. In contrast to last season, Arsenal are defending better and are attacking with more purpose this campaign. There is unity among them and everyone seems to know exactly what they have to do on the pitch. The fighting spirit shown by the squad so far this season is extremely commendable, making Arteta a happy man.

There is a clear improvement in the way the Gunners are attacking and defending this season. Last season five teams scored more than Arsenal’s tally of 61 goals in the Premier League. Moreover, they conceded an alarming 48 goals from 38 matches. In contrast, Arsenal have already found the back of the net 33 times in 14 games – which is the second-best in the league. They have also conceded the joint-lowest number of goals (11) along with Newcastle United in the division so far.

These numbers clearly show that Arsenal are topping the league table at this point through merit. They deserve to be at the top of the standings, as club football in most countries has come to a halt due to the FIFA World Cup 2022. Back in the summer, not many fans would have believed the Gunners would be topping the table when domestic football takes a break  due to the showpiece event in Qatar. However, it is safe to say that at this point the Gunners have earned the right to sit at the top of the Premier League table.

Arsenal board deserves credit

For way too long Arsenal relied on their legendary former manager Arsene Wenger to bring success to the team. In his long reign at the club, Wenger did deliver a lot of joy for their supporters. However, the path after his departure has not been an easy one. It is understandable that they have struggled to replace a manager who was present with them from 1996 to 2018. First came Unai Emery through the door. He lasted a little over a year before being dismissed due to the team’s poor run of form.

Mikel Arteta is pushing to end his first full season in charge of the Gunners by finishing in the top 10. (Image Credit: Twitter/@Arsenal)
Mikel Arteta in a file photo. (Image Credit: Twitter/@Arsenal)

Then came Mikel Arteta – a former Arsenal player. Many tipped him to become a great manager one day, however, the process was slow at the Emirates Stadium. He did well to incredibly win the FA Cup title in his very first season with the club. However, their form in the Premier League had been below-par for a while. This in turn put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Arteta during his initial years with the club. 

Even last season they had a poor start to the Premier League campaign, with some people already giving up on him. However, the Arsenal board stuck with him and stood by his side. This backing allowed the Gunners to overcome their disappointing start to last season and very nearly finish in the Champions League places. At one point, Arsenal looked destined to finish in the top four positions. However, they succumbed under pressure during the business end of the season, allowing Tottenham Hotspur to leapfrog them into the fourth spot.

Despite fans being happy with the overall progress made by Arsenal, some were not happy about how they threw away the opportunity to finish in the Champions League places. However, the board still continued to back the manager and they have been rewarded for their complete support. The Gunners have a five-point lead over champions Manchester City at this stage of the season. There is still a lot of football left to be played this campaign, thereby anything could yet happen in the Premier League. However, the progress Arsenal are showing and the level at which they are playing this season needs special recognition. It is undoubtedly the best time to be an Arsenal supporter.



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