Arsenal have made a miraculous recovery this season. The Gunners were once struggling in the lower ends of the Premier League table. But Mikel Arteta has steadied the ship, with the club now sitting in the top four.
It was once unthinkable to imagine the Gunners in such a high position in the table at this stage of the season, given their disastrous start to the campaign.
It was one that began with a miserable opening day defeat to newly-promoted Brentford. A 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea followed, before Manchester City delivered a 5-0 thrashing. Such a poor start had the Gunners sitting in the relegation zone.
It was early days, but many supporters had seen enough of Arteta in the Arsenal dugout. Fortunately for them, the Spaniard was calm and collected, and has slowly but surely turned things around.
The club have now climbed into fourth spot, with 48 points from their 25 matches. They are unbeaten in their last five league games, winning four of those.
It’s hard to pinpoint just one reason for their recovery, but much of the plaudits must go towards the talented youngsters that Arteta has at his disposal.
Young Gunners leading the way for Arsenal
Not every youngster is capable of taking the bull by the horns and stepping up for his side. But the Gunners have four young attackers capable of doing just that. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard have been key to Arsenal’s revival.
At 23, Odegaard is the eldest of the four. He has taken some time to warm to the Premier League, but based on recent displays, he is now in full flow. The Watford game was the perfect example, with the Norwegian showcasing his skills in a one-two with Saka before slotting the ball home.
It was his fifth goal of the campaign, going alongside his three assists. Those numbers could definitely be improved, but Arteta will be happy for the time being that his secret weapon is now finding his feet.
The former Real Madrid man has also proven his versatility in recent months, playing in both central and attacking midfield. The latter looks certain to be his favoured position, playing in the hole in Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 system. Odegaard once struggled for game time but is now one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet.
Also, a guaranteed starter is Saka (20), who scored his ninth goal of the season against Watford. He’s also chipped in with five assists, with his best position seemingly on the right side of the three.
His superb dribbling and vision have helped unlock other attackers, while his running on and off the ball has been key to Arteta’s philosophy. Again, Saka may want to improve his numbers in front of goal, but perhaps a world-class striker is all that is needed to achieve this.
Martinelli and Smith Rowe are hot on their heels
Also coming to the fore lately has been Martinelli (20). The Brazilian couldn’t quite break into the starting XI in the early stages of the season. But his recent displays have ensured he cannot be left out.
He now enjoys a regular spot on the left of the three, combining with Odegaard and Saka. The forward has also mixed well with Kieran Tierney down the left.
Martinelli has five goals and two assists in the current Premier League campaign. He is another who Arteta will demand more from in the final third, but the youngster looks more than capable of doing it on the big stage.
Perhaps at the bottom of the current pecking order – but by no means a bad option – is Smith Rowe (21). He began the campaign in fine form, which included a period of four goals and two assists in five games.
But such form has slightly declined, with injuries also playing their part. He does, however, remain a key piece of the puzzle. Moreover, his figures speak for themselves, with 10 goals and two assists this season.
Smith Rowe is another versatile asset, having played centrally and on the left over the last couple of months.
As mentioned, one can only imagine just how deadly these youngsters would be with a lethal forward ahead of them. Arsenal would certainly be improved with one of Europe’s leading strikers. They sit behind Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, West Ham and Manchester United for goals scored in the league this season.
The likes of Jonathan David, Alexander Isak and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all been linked in recent months. One of these strikers would undoubtedly improve the goals scored tally for the Gunners.
Young defensive talents also shining
With all the young attacking talents, it’s easy to forget about Arsenal’s youthful backline. The Gunners have been resolute at the back this season. Only Wolves, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City have conceded fewer.
And that has been thanks to a new generation of Arsenal stars in the making, beginning with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale (23). Heavily mocked for his relegation status with both Sheffield United and Bournemouth, the goalkeeper was written off by many pundits and fans.
But he has proved everybody wrong. His superb shot-stopping and sharp reflexes have saved the Gunners on countless occasions. Only Man City’s Ederson (15) and Liverpool’s Alisson (14) have more clean sheets than Ramsdale (11) this season.
At just 23, Ramsdale has already proven himself to be one of the best in the league and is well on his way to a starting role for England.
The number one has, of course, been helped by his young defenders. Ben White and Gabriel, both 24, have been rock solid at the heart of the defence.
And out wide, favoured full-backs Tierney (24) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (23) have won the hearts of Arsenal fans worldwide. Both have suffered injury setbacks this season, but both are almost unstoppable on their day and have what it takes to intricately balance their attacking and defensive duties.
At 24 years 230 days, the Gunners have the youngest average starting XI in the Premier League. The future is certainly looking bright.