July 1st was representative of a pretty perfect day for those within the Arsenal faithful. The report from David Ornstein early yesterday morning seemed something of a bad omen. Firstly, he revealed that an announcement regarding the renewal of Bukayo Saka’s contract was imminent and secondly that Arsenal have ‘intensified’ their €50 million pursuit of Thomas Partey. The elation shown on Twitter by Arsenal fans was palpable.
This elation only continued to rise further when the club officially announced that Saka had extended his contract. When asked why he’d signed on, the Englishman replied that it was because “It’s Arsenal you know.” A moment that made a lot of Arsenal fans, including myself, proud to support such a great football club. It all seemed too good to be true. Surely Arsenal couldn’t let their fans’ positive mood remain intact for too much longer?
The opportunity arose to add a blemish to the perfect day when Norwich travelled to the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal’s first home game since the restart. As you’ll know already, the day was not ruined, in fact, it just got better and better. Yes, it was only Norwich, but Arsenal were absolutely excellent against the Canaries yesterday. The first 45 minutes portrayed to Arsenal fans that they have a right to be excited for the future. They got one of their first prolonged glimpses of what ArtetaBall might look like when its operating to full effect.
The Gunners’ captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was at the centre of the action. And no, his goals were not completely down to luck. It was clear that there was an emphasis upon picking up upon sloppy Norwich errors and punishing them clinically yesterday. The first goal showed Aubameyang working his socks off to expose Tim Krul’s weakness on the ball, a great way to reach 50 league goals for Arsenal. His second became possible due to some strong pressing from the Arsenal players deployed on the right-hand-side which led to a stray pass from Josip Drmic falling perfectly into our Gabonese superstar’s feet. It’s arguable that these are the two goals that would’ve pleased Mikel Arteta the most yesterday. They were a clear exemplification of Arsenal’s superior sharpness.
However, there is certainly a line of argument to suggest that Granit Xhaka’s goal would’ve delighted MIkel Arteta too. Since the Spaniard has arrived at the club, there has been two options for Arsenal’s defence when building from deep. Either, you beat the press, or, you play over the press. On the occasion of the second goal, David Luiz chose the latter option. He pinged a pin-point pass out to Kieran Tierney on the left wing. Tierney, instead of sending in an aimless across, slipped Aubameyang in behind on the left flank. Our captain then cleverly knocked the ball into the feet of Granit Xhaka who smashed the ball underneath Tim Krul. A beautiful team goal.
Of course, the cherry was added to the top of a delicious Arsenal cake when debutant Çedric Soares added another to the scoresheet from range. But still, it wasn’t the goals that were most pleasing on the eye yesterday. Instead, it was Arsenal’s overall approach to the game. It seems so long since Arsenal have set up in such an attacking oriented fashion. The tempo was as good as it has been since the restart, Arsenal’s wing-backs were getting into some really dangerous positions and Arteta’s hard work on team pressing looked like it was coming into fruition. As such, it didn’t really matter how our defence played yesterday. The best form of defence is attack and that’s why the Gunners appeared so untroubled yesterday.
Special mention must also go to Dani Ceballos who was magnificent. In the first half alone, the Spaniard made 3 interceptions, completed 94% of his passes and created a huge chance for Alex Lacazette. It is without question that his effect on the game diminished in the second half, but his first 45 minutes highlighted exactly why the Arsenal hierarchy should be doing all they can to keep Ceballos at the club for at least another season. A top, top performance from the 23-year-old.
Quite frankly, it was a top, top performance from Arsenal in general. There were a few scares here in there, pot shots from Norwich, a poor day at the office for Shkodran Mustafi and some reckless moment from Sead Kolasinac. But overall, it was a great day for everyone involved with Arsenal Football Club. The next three games constitute much tougher tests for Mikel Arteta’s men. However, we’re in a great position to attack them with full force. I find myself with the same message at the end of this article that I had at the end of Sheffield United report. Don’t you worry Arsenal fans, the future is bright.