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Arsenal's phenomenal season sets the stage for next year’s title bid

15. May 2024
Arsenal (foto: Getty Images)
Despite a phenomenal season, Arsenal is unlikely to clinch the Premier League title this year. However, the team is well-positioned for a successful title run next season.

In four of the five major European leagues, the champions have already been crowned. Inter triumphed in Italy, Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, Real Madrid in Spain, and Paris Saint-Germain in France. Only the Premier League title race remains undecided, thanks to Arsenal's efforts.   

Under Spanish coach Mikel Arteta, Arsenal was already the closest challenger to the almost unbeatable Manchester City last season. This year, the Gunners have taken another step forward. Last season, they collapsed at a crucial stage, but this year they have persevered until the end. To compete with Pep Guardiola's "extraterrestrials," you need an almost perfect season, and Arsenal has come incredibly close.   

Since losing two consecutive matches just before the New Year—at home against West Ham and away against Fulham—Arsenal has collected 15 wins, one draw, and one loss in 17 Premier League games this calendar year. They drew at the Etihad against City and surprisingly lost at home to Aston Villa.   

After the loss to Unai Emery's disciplined team, many expected Arsenal to crumble under pressure, similar to last season. This was especially likely after a painful Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Bayern. However, Arteta's team bounced back, winning their last five matches, pushing the title race to the final round next weekend.   

Considering that Arsenal's rival, Manchester City, is one of the greatest football teams of all time and, despite European setbacks, currently the best team in the world, Arsenal's achievement is remarkable. Especially when you consider where Arsenal was two years ago. They finished the 2021/22 season in fifth place, a full 24 points behind City at the top.   

Over the past two seasons, Arteta has elevated the team. This season, he accurately assessed where reinforcements were needed, bringing key players from other London clubs. Declan Rice arrived for €116 million from West Ham, Kai Havertz for €75 million from Chelsea, and David Raya for a nominal fee from Brentford. While Raya’s quality can be debated, he fits Arsenal's style, and Rice and Havertz have undoubtedly been pivotal in the title race.   

The backbone of the team includes central defenders William Saliba and Gabriel, right-back Ben White, midfielder Rice, playmaker Martin Odegaard, the rejuvenated versatile attacker Havertz, right winger Bukayo Saka, and recently, left winger Leandro Trossard, who has displaced Gabriel Martinelli. Striker Gabriel Jesus has underperformed, scoring only four goals in 26 matches.   

Arteta, much like his mentor Guardiola, is obsessed with possession and control. His Arsenal is a well-drilled, offensive 4-3-3 unit that relies on high possession and automation rather than an unrelenting tempo and high pressing. In attack, the formation shifts to 2-3-5, creating overloads on the wings or centrally, depending on the opposition’s movements. The Gunners press and suffocate their opponents, continuously grinding them down until they crack.   

Arsenal has also improved defensively, conceding the fewest goals in the league, a crucial factor in the title race. But their competitor is Manchester City, a well-oiled machine on the verge of a fourth consecutive title, an unprecedented achievement in the 136-year history of English league football.   

The most likely and expected outcome is City winning the title. However, even if Arsenal falls short this season, the gradual growth of Arteta as a coach and the evolution of the team suggest that the North London club will be serious contenders for the title in the future. They are aiming to end their two-decade-long wait for a trophy, reminiscent of Arsene Wenger’s 2003/04 unbeaten season.
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