A thrilling beginning to the season has dazzled supporters, rival fans and pundits alike. 12 points out of 12 has seen Arteta’s exciting team sitting pretty at the top of the table. The high hopes have been tempered with one little question: are the players too young to keep it up?
While it’s easy to get wrapped up in a start that has seen Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Bournemouth (maybe not Fulham) all swatted aside with a minimum of fuss, no one inside the Emirates camp believes the goal for the season can be any higher than top four – at least not at this stage. And with competition fiercer than ever for those Champions League spots, will the Gunners make it?
Arsenal’s squad is one of the youngest in the Premier League, and that lack of experience is sometimes pointed to as a reason for lack of success. Perhaps it was the cause for last season’s stuttering toward the end of the campaign?
We all remember the famous quote: “You can’t win anything with kids.” Alan Hansen was famously proved wrong by the youthful Manchester United side that went on to win the title. And I believe there is strong evidence that this Arsenal team could demonstrate the same mettle to pull through and surprise anyone doubting them because of their age.
Let’s take the example of new signing Gabriel Jesus. His start to life in Arsenal colors has been superb, including maybe the performance of the season so far with his two goals and brace of assists against Leicester City. The striker has scored over 50 Premier League goals, yet he is only 25 years old. It’s a strong case that Arteta has young players who already have the experience required.
One big obstacle this season will be the World Cup and its impact on players of all clubs. Gabriel Jesus will spearhead Brazil’s attack, and many of Arsenal’s other young players will also be participating. The big danger is having too many players make it late in the competition. A World Cup Final appearance means little rest from a packed schedule before it’s straight back into the Premier League fixtures. If you’d like to see each country’s chances of making it the full distance, get the World Cup Finals odds here.
More evidence for Arsenal’s ability to maintain the standards this season comes from the level-headedness of their manager. As Arteta calmly explained in this article here, the players are not going to get too excited about being on top of the league, only three match days in. You might remember rivals Tottenham Hotspur led the league after three games last year. Their manager Nuno Espírito Santo was sacked mere months later as they, predictably, couldn’t continue their form.
Meanwhile, despite the Gunners’ lacklustre start to the previous season, being bottom when Tottenham were top after three games, Arteta’s perseverance and management remained steadfast as he brought the team back into top four contention in a matter of months, despite dealing with numerous squad and depth issues.
The next consideration is Arsenal’s senior members of the squad. Typically, pundits deride a team’s chances for using youth players, because they are new to the squad. After all, when you’ve only played 10 games, how can you be sure it’s not just a flash in the pan? The beauty of Arteta’s team building has been that many of the young and so-called inexperienced players are actually senior members of the team.
Take Saka, who is only 20 years old and might struggle to get substitute appearances at some other top six clubs. But Arteta has placed his faith in him, and even at that young age, Saka has passed 100 appearances in the Premier League alone and has already proved himself a key player in the team.
Another example is Odegaard, who, despite being only 23 years old, has just been made captain and has been playing at Real Madrid since he was 16. His performances grow in stature with each passing game, and like Saka and Gabriel Jesus, he is another young player with bags of experience.
In summary, the season looks bright for Arteta’s young team, and we see many reasons why youth will not be an issue in the battle for the top four. The early performances have shown fantastic desire from the squad and we’re all looking forward to seeing how much further this exciting Gunners team can go.