The Gunners boss has been subjected to some of the most vitriolic scrutiny of any Premier League manager in recent memory after spending £142m this summer for his side to record Arsenal’s worst start to a season in history
Having lost their first three games on the bounce including a humiliating defeat to the newly promoted Brentford, Arsenal’s inabilities to find a winning formula have left them stranded on six points in 13th place on the Premier League board.
Perhaps what is the most perplexing about this predicament is the fact that the North London side racked up a mammoth £142million bill during the summer transfer window as manager Mikel Arteta looked to bolster all departments of his squad.
Arteta has been faced with plenty of criticism this season – but after two consecutive victories against Norwich and Burnley, have the Gunners turned a corner to go back to winning ways?
Arteta’s experimentation with Arsenal’s line-up remains yet to be proved successful, but the Gunners’ boss has seemingly solved a couple of key problems faced by his side…
The keeper dilemma – but Ramsdale proves his worth
One of Arsenal’s headline signings during the summer transfer window was goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United in a £24m transfer – a deal which came as a surprise for many Gunners’ supporters given Arteta’s continued loyalty to Bernd Leno.
Leno’s name has remained tattooed on the team sheet as the first-choice stopper since signing from Bayer Leverkusen in 2018 and his record at the club isn’t to be sniffed at with 34 clean sheets in 120 appearances.
But Ramsdale’s youthful energy has injected some zeal back into a side who will no doubt be despondent after a miserable start to the 2021/22 season and his performances have created some stiff competition for Leno to reclaim his place.
The 23-year-old wasted no time in staking a claim to be the club’s first choice keeper with an impressive debut against West Brom in the Carabao Cup – a game in which the Gunners not only won 5-0 but Ramsdale kept a clean sheet.
Does Ramsdale deserve to be Arsenal’s long-term No.1? Comment below
The former Sheffield United stopper made his Premier League debut for the club against Norwich and repaid Arteta’s faith with another clean sheet. Ramsdale made it three in a row on Saturday in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor.
The young goalkeeper is seemingly making just as much impact off the pitch and Goal report that Ramsdale is well-liked in the dressing room and his demeanour has made him a popular figure in the camp within just a month of arriving in North London.
Speaking to Sky Sports after his league debut, Ramsdale was delighted to be given the responsibility as the first-choice stopper and affirmed that his hard-work is not over yet.
“I’ve got to carry on working on the training pitch and keep the competition with Bernd [Leno] and hopefully I can stay in the team and keep helping out,” he said.
Arsenal boss Arteta reiterated the need to create healthy competition in his squad and warned that no places were guaranteed in the roster.
“It’s the same in every position. We want them to make each other better,” he said.
“We are competing against opponents; we are not competing against each other here. We are just trying to bring in players that raise the level of the players who is playing that position, the level of the team, the level of the club and this is the only reason.”
Leno’s contract at the Emirates expiries in 2023 and with his future at the club looking increasingly uncertain, it seems all the more likely that Ramsdale’s position as Arsenal’s first-choice keeper looks safe for now.
Two young guns: Smith Rowe and Odegaard together in harmony
While the signing of 22-year-old Martin Odegaard on a permanent contract after a loan spell at the Emirates was very much welcomed by Arsenal fans, others questioned the need to bring another young attacking midfielder into an already-saturated area.
Historically the pair are considered to be at their strongest when playing in central areas and due to the slight advantage from the additional experience of Odegaard, this forced Smith Rowe out wider last season which yielded mixed results.
But Arteta has worked hard to find a formula for them to co-exist in the same side and while Smith Rowe has been resigned to the bench in recent weeks with Odegaard selected as the number 10, the match against Burnley was the turning point that proved the two could work in tandem effectively.
The Norwegian scored the only goal in a stunning free kick at Turf Moor and Smith Rowe was able to push forward as Odegaard sat back in a deeper role.
This format also allowed Smith Rowe for a lot more time on the ball centrally, instead of being isolated out wide, which happened regularly last season.
Legendary pundit Paul Merson was sceptical at first when it was announced that Arteta has signed Odegaard on a permanent deal, saying that it may stifle the 21-year-old’s development.
He told the Daily Star: “What sort of message does signing Odegaard send to Emile Smith Rowe?
“He is the one who is going to suffer the most from them buying Odegaard. I think they are too similar. [Smith Rowe] is the future at Arsenal, he came through the ranks and he makes things happen.”
Arsenal fans will be hoping this new look team will be able to carry this new winning momentum forward into next week’s North London derby at the Emirates.