Arsenal embarked on a major revamp this summer as a rebuild of the first team squad. The need free up squad space and wages meant some notable exits for players who were ‘in need of a fresh challenge’. As the exodus took place so there was continued push to find young blood, the search for vibrant and hungry new faces gathering pace. The extension of the close to the transfer window ‘till the start of September, on the back of the delayed Euro2020, meant that this process was still ongoing as the Season kicked off.
Then came the combination of an unfortunate Covid outbreak and three very tough opening fixtures: we fielded players who were clearly heading out the door and suffered three defeats without a goal scored. A sad sight at the bottom of the League.
The transformation since the first international break has been incredible. Some clever signings have added to the exciting mix of young talent already on board. Arsenal fans could quickly see the improvement, as I witnessed at Burnley and then Sunday’s stunning win over Spurs. A renewed sense of hope for an exciting season and future. So, what has changed?
Here is my take. Firstly, and most importantly for me, in White and Gabriel we at last seem to have a commanding, powerful and excellent ball playing pair of centre halves. The signing of White looks an astute piece of business – despite the price tag. Next, with Ramsdale and Tomiyasu, the best two signings of the summer window in my opinion, all of a sudden, for the first time in a generation, we have a young but solid keeper and a dependable back line, Tierney included in that! Plus, we have protection in front of that back line, a fully fit Partey at last, and – wow – you see what he brings to the ‘party’!
With Lokonga, another good new signing, we have options on who to play in beside Partey as an alternative to Xhaka. The protection and ball winning capabilities are clear. This gives us the chance to gain more ball possession and start to dominate in the midfield area. Which then brings our two top young talents Saka and Smith Rowe much more into the game in offensive areas of the pitch. Coupled with the quite brilliant signing of Odegaard, after his decent loan last season, we have a real threat in the final third.
With lots of options waiting in reserve, all of a sudden, as the North London Derby showed, this young, vibrant, hungry and talented squad of players is really starting to take shape. It’s clear the fans are buying into the project as I witnessed first-hand at both Burnley and the home match against Spurs (what an atmosphere!).
OK, it’s only been three good games and results against Norwich, Burnley and Spurs but, in all honesty, these are matches in which we’ve really struggled in recent years – so that’s real encouragement. Hopefully the players’ confidence will grow and this new squad will continue to gel and improve, I am sure it will be great to watch as they do. All in all, there is at last much to be encouraged about.
Jason MacDonald, ASSC Regional Rep for Perth