Gunner Thoughts

Forward Arsenal! Gunner’s Run-in Starts Now

Forward Arsenal!

It’s hard to believe this season is only at the halfway mark. But the second half starts now.

The window is closed and while there was intent to land a major name to add serious weaponry to the title-charge arms race, Arsenal were frustratingly forced to pivot. It’s not all bad. While they were targeting names that could provide serious impact now and grow into pivotal roles over the next half-decade, they managed to land different names that can contribute now and produces a team that feels deeper with options for Mikel to work with.

When Arsenal played Newcastle, it felt like a glimpse into many fan’s nightmare for this team. The margins are tight at the top and any point lost feels like a major blow, so seeing this team dominate the match but run out of steam and options, in large to do with a lack of game-changing depth options, stung. 

Now, whether it was the ideal window or not, Arteta knows exactly what pieces he is working with and the strategist can plot while Arsenal fans pray a few aspects fall in their favor. 

Needing favors and a bit of fortune isn’t unusual for a team looking to land a title, especially if Arsenal were going to win a title this year. When you’re not far and away the best team, and one that has had injury woes derail efforts in the past, a bit of fortune on that front is key.

If Arsenal can see Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Jesus stay healthy, they will have starting lineup and bench that feels more comprehensive on paper than what they came into the season with.  

It’s easy for fans to reflect back on past failures and let downs, especially when the most recent stumble was in the not so distant past. Last year Arsenal stumbled on the doorstep of top 4 placement and came short — injuries playing a role. But Arsenal fans should continue to remind themselves this team has felt “different” all year, as difficult as that may be. 

What makes it so difficult is knowing you are standing up against a behemoth that has little worry of season-derailing injuries. Unlike Arsenal or anyone else in the league who feel a key injury away from entering rocky terrain, there is not a single Manchester City player that could get hurt and cause that ripple effect. Not de Bruyne, not Haaland, not anyone. Even Manchester United tied for third feel like they could be on a precipice of a cliff after Eriksen got injured, despite landing Sabitzer as an emergency loan. 

Being in this position is unnerving. It’s daunting. It’s taxing. It’s exhausting to constantly know this is the pace this side has to maintain through May and that any slippage could see a valiant effort fall short. The breathing room feels suffocating at times. 

In reflection, January as a whole was an incredibly stressful month this season. Players returning from the World Cup, Jesus’ injury, a 31 December match against Brighton and then matches against: Newcastle, Oxford United, Tottenham, Manchester United, and Manchester City. Running underneath that like a raging river was the constant checking and monitoring of a crucial and exhausting transfer window filled with peaks and valleys. 

The stakes remain higher than ever, but as a fan, February should bring an opportunity to breathe a little easier. Matches that are all important but that Arsenal should hopefully have an easier time navigating. It starts with a struggling Everton side, and while injured, cornered, desperate dogs can be most dangerous, Arsenal should take the opportunity to play an easier opponent in stride. No points are easy in the Premier League, but some still easier than others. 

Arteta knows what’s at stake, and he’s added players to the side that know the score as well. The influence of Zinchenko hasn’t gone unnoticed in interviews with players, and Jesus, even from the sidelines for now, and the newly added Jorginho know what it’s like to prepare for massively important springs.

All season we have talked about living games and earning the right to win. Now is the time to push on, live the season, and earn the right to call yourself a league winning champion. Forward Arsenal! 

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