Can Arsenal win the English Premier League?
With a quarter of the 2022/23 season gone, an unfamiliar contender sits atop the Premier League table.
Ahead of the season, few gave Arsenal any chance of putting up a credible title challenge. Not only have the Gunners not won the league for 18 years, but under manager Mikel Arteta their current team is relatively young and inexperienced. What’s worse: last season, Arsenal finished outside the Champions League places for the sixth consecutive season. Expectations were modest, and rightly so.
It is a surprise then to see the North London club perched at the summit, four points clear of reigning champions and heavy favourites Manchester City. Arsenal have won nine of their 10 league matches (with their sole misstep coming against Manchester United at Old Trafford) and have their most balanced squad in a long time. Most importantly, Arteta has strengthened in key areas, bringing in Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City in the summer to secure problem positions.
Arsenal have also shown resilience, finding different ways to win. Against Leeds this past weekend, the Gunners were under pressure for much of the second half, but held on to their one-goal advantage to keep clear of City, who lost at Liverpool. They came from behind earlier in the season to beat Fulham late on, triumphed over Liverpool and Leicester in end-to-end battles, and dominated Brentford, Bournemouth and Tottenham. They have been able to handle whatever has been thrown at them so far.
The question is: can they go all the way?
While their start suggests it is not impossible, there are several factors not in their favour.
For one thing, Arsenal have a history of fast starts not translating to league success. The last two occasions when a team has started as well as they have without going on to win the title was… Arsenal, in the 2004/05 and 2013/14 seasons. As the saying goes, a league is a marathon, not a sprint, and the Gunners rarely last the course.
Second is the fact that this is a young team led by a young manager. While this is deliberate and seems to be working now, their lack of title-winning experience will likely catch up to them. When the going gets tough, there simply is not enough mental toughness and know-how to ensure they remain steady. No team is 100 percent every week, and you need to know how to manage that. So far, Arsenal have done well, but there is still 75 percent of the season to play.
Lastly, Arsenal lacks depth. Not only have a number of players have been league ever-presents already this season, but it is clear that in certain positions there are no quality back-ups. Arsenal’s third-choice centre-back is their first-choice right-back, and against Leeds, they used their second-choice right-back at left-back.
Without Thomas Partey they were weak against Manchester United, and if Gabriel Jesus were to pick up an injury, they would have to rely on Eddie Nketiah to carry their title campaign. They also have no dependable rotation options for their starting wingers.
With a compressed season and a World Cup to come in December, it will be almost impossible to avoid injuries and/or fatigue. Once those kick in, Arsenal will be unable to cope.
Finally, Arsenal have Manchester City to contend with. This is by far the biggest challenge of all. Not only are Pep Guardiola’s side the reigning champions, but they added Erling Haaland to their squad over the summer and have the title-winning experience that Arsenal lack. Guardiola is the finest coach of his generation, and City have the best scoring record in the division as it stands. Watching City against most teams is simply witnessing attack v defence, and it seems inevitable until they score and the floodgates open.
While they do not have as much depth as they used to, Manchester City still have the level of quality and accomplishment that most other teams can only aspire to. With Liverpool, who have pushed them hard over the last couple of seasons, struggling, the stage is set for City to stroll their way to a title.
All these factors mean it is unlikely that the Gunners go all the way this season. That said, they have started well, and the good times seem to be back at the Emirates Stadium. Their fans should absolutely enjoy the ride, but realistically this will probably be a bridge too far for them this season.
Bet on Arsenal to win the English Premier League @ 7.00
Bet on Gabriel Jesus to be the top goalscorer in the EPL @ 35.00.
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