Since Arsenal were last in the Champions League, I have worked six different jobs and been fired from two of them. Since Arsenal were last in the Champions Leage, Arsenal have had three managers, fired one of them and now, with their third, they are potentially returning to that holy grail of European club competitions.
With three games left of the season Arsenal are fourth in the Premier League, four points ahead of fifth placed Tottenham. The Mikel Arteta revolution has been as miraculous as Rob Holding’s new hairline (see Ramsdale joke and Holding’s actual hairline) and he was – personally – deservedly handed a new contract which saw him sign on for an extra three years on Friday, to stay with the Premier League club through to the end of the 2024-25 season.
The extension displays the confidence that Edu and the board have in Arteta’s plan, and this is replicated in the stands and on the pitch, a harmony that hasn’t been seen in North London since Pochettino’s Tottenham.
Arteta is building a team, an actual team, and he is doing that on the principles of an old trope of the Gunners from the fabled time of yesteryear, one-nil to the Arsenal. And by this, I mean that Arteta has built a team from the bottom up, nailing down a solid defensive unit that unleashes their inner Gandalf when looking at the Balrog-y opposition, staff and sword (or cannon in this case) in hand and saying, “You shall not pass!”
|Season||1-0 Victories||Victories by 1 Goal Margin||Clean Sheets||Goals Conceded||Position|
|21/22 (After 35 games)||5||5||13||42||4th|
Just look at this season’s stats compared to the past five seasons out of the Champions League. This season sees them top for one-nil victories, victories by a one goal margin and clean sheets. These are significant stats because what we can see is that Arsenal have the most reliable defence that they have had in years.
Looking even closer, the victories by a one goal margin are significant because in only one of those five games, had Arsenal come from behind. They are not the finished article, therefore when they get ahead, they can concede, but then they do something completely un-Arsenal, they park the bus and hold on for the victory.
They may have conceded more goals this season than last, however they have more clean sheets this season than the last. That is progress even if they’re shipping more goals in one off games (two goals conceded against Manchester City last season, seven goals conceded this).
Fitting it is that Champions League qualification could be won at The Tottenham Hotspur stadium. They won the league at ‘S***e Hart Lane’ twice, Champions League qualification here would be comparable.