Surprising Arsenal truth proves Mikel Arteta critics wrong amid Stan Kroenke summer dilemma   13/02/2024 15:00

For much of this season, Arsenal have been compared to their title-chasing campaign from 2022/23. It was a surprise for almost everyone to see the Gunners be Manchester City’s main contenders for the Premier League trophy and were it not for a combination of William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu's injuries and the quite unbelievable second half of the season run from Pep Guardiola’s side they might have gone all the way.

Much of the conversation has surrounded the Gunners' frustrations in both creating clear goalscoring opportunities and also, when created, their lack of a ruthless centre-forward like Erling Haaland. Last season Arsenal managed to rack up 88 league goals, more than they have ever scored before during a Premier League campaign.

This means that Arsenal sides of the past that included Ian Wright, Nikolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t match it. All despite criticism levelled at Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah for not being a good enough strike partnership, which has led to speculation that owner Stan Kroenke may splash the cash in the summer on a new frontman.

This season, there has been even more scrutiny, especially with the return of Liverpool as one of the leading candidates for the title race turning it into a three-team affair. Despite this criticism and judgement, Arsenal have just come off the back of a 6-0 win away from home - both their 8000th league win and the biggest Premier League away victory in their history.

Somewhat surprising for a side that has seen such criticism for their goalscoring perhaps? However, I would offer up a statistic that is even more of a shock when considered in the context of how Arteta’s side has been viewed especially in comparison to last season.

After the six-goal win in east London, Arsenal’s 24th game of the season, it left the side on 52 points, which is five points worse off than they were in the same position last season. This might tally with how people have seen the club in relation to last season’s almost unstoppable start to the run.

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However, despite the five-point deficit, they have scored 53 league goals so far, one more than at the same stage last season. Not only that but they have conceded just 22, one less than they conceded at the same stage last season giving them a plus-two better goal difference.

The point drop comes from some frustrating defeats and draws against the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle, Aston Villa, West Ham and Fulham. They managed to beat both Liverpool and Manchester City which has stood as a major step forward under Arteta.

The Gunners have achieved this despite having Thomas Partey available for just four league appearances all season and Jurrien Timber - a £38million summer investment – missing everything except just over a half of action on the opening day of the Premier League season.

Other injuries have plagued Arteta’s side with the aforementioned duo joined by Takehiro Tomiyasu, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira on the sidelines for the weekend hammering of David Moyes’ side. Arsenal have also had to contend with Champions League football this season and despite forewarning of the step up in competition, they have handled it very well according to the numbers.

There remains some way to go in the title race and this current run of games leads ominously toward that clash with Man City at the Etihad Stadium at the end of March. If Arsenal can continue this winning run up until this time, the game will certainly be billed as something of a potential early decider in this year’s race.

However, suggestions that Arsenal are nowhere near their standards from last season are now crumbling away very quickly. They have momentum and with players making their way back from injury, the signs are looking assuredly encouraging.

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