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There are few clubs in the country where things change as quickly as they do at Arsenal. The Gunners have a penchant for peaks and troughs in quick succession, constantly veering between optimistic highs and devastating lows.
The Emirates Stadium has been a tumultuous place since the latter years of Arsène Wenger’s reign. But the drastic shifting of emotions in North London has never been more evident than the past few weeks – what seemed like a period of crisis is quickly evolving into a more promising outlook for Mikel Arteta’s men.
Arsenal began the Premier League restart with back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Matches that were most notable for a spate of injuries and a calamitous David Luiz performance at the Etihad Stadium.
Gradually, the Gunners are getting back to their pre-coronavirus form. There were signs of life in victories over Southampton and Sheffield United, while their 4-0 win against Norwich City was a ruthlessly clinical demolition of the Canaries.
Those results have been accompanied by individual performances that have gone some way to enhancing one or two reputations that were under significant scrutiny.
Granit Xhaka, a man who looked set to leave the club in January due to his seemingly irreparable £72million price tag, but there is a growing feeling things have started to click for him at Arsenal since the restart.
With Rob Holding making the most of his chance to impress and Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ start against Sheffield United indicating the door may still be open for him, there are plenty of positives on the pitch when it comes to a number of individuals at the club. Cédric Soares’ goal against Norwich could help shift public opinion in his favour too after his four-year contract at the Emirates was met with long-term deal with the Gunners.
Tying Saka down was absolutely fundamental to Arsenal’s future and the outcry if he had left North London would have been devastating to the reputation of the club’s hierarchy. A versatile and supremely talented player, the is Arteta can build a team around the 18-year-old as he continues his rapid development into a Premier League star.
It’s interesting to note the Arsenal boss revealed he was optimistic of keeping Saka at the club before the deal was announced.
“I am very positive that everything is going to be done with Bukayo very shortly,” he said after the defeat to Brighton. “The communications between the club, agents and the family has been going on for months and is very fluent. The player and family knows how much trust I have in him. He is just showing that every week and his consistency level is getting better and better.
“I’m so excited with the young players that we have. They just need the right environment around them to explode and Bukayo is doing that, even in difficult circumstances, which is even more merit for him.”
Intriguingly, Arteta hinted at similar positivity when it comes to both a new contract for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and – even more surprisingly – the chances of Dani Ceballos staying at Arsenal beyond his loan spell.
“Hopefully he (Aubameyang) will be here for a long time,” he said following the Norwich win. “Every time I speak with him he is really happy where he is, he is very settled and his family are happy.”
On Ceballos, Arteta added: “Both clubs have been in communication, I really like Dani and what he brings to the team.
“When I joined he wasn't available because he had a difficult injury, but he's understanding what we're trying to do really, really nicely and he has big personality to play and take the ball in any area of the field and give us the continuity that we need as a team to control the games better, but as well without the ball.
“The running that he's putting in, the tackles, every time with the interceptions, his desire to win that ball back and help the team, he's improved so much and he looks a really good player at the moment.”
The prospect of Aubameyang committing his future to Arsenal is a tantalising one for Gunners’ fans while retaining Ceballos is an intriguing prospect if an agreement with Real Madrid can be reached. He may not have set the Emirates alight this season, but at 23 years old there is room for him to develop under Arteta’s tutelage.
If reports that Atlético Madrid‘s central midfield destroyer Thomas Partey could be on his way to North London are accurate then Arsenal may surprise a few people with their quality in the centre of the park next season.
With fixtures against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool on the horizon, the feeling of hope and optimism around Arsenal could evaporate as quickly as it has materialised. But with positive developments on the pitch and in the boardroom, it’s certainly been a good week for the Gunners.