There’s no denying the fact that Arsenal have surprised most people with a bright start to the 2018/19 Premier League season. Not many expected a winning streak such as we’re witnessing at the moment, especially after the two opening defeats. But here they are, two points off the top of the table after eight rounds, defying scepticism to the hilt.
However, sceptics aren’t likely to go away just like that, not without having a good go at dampening the spirits of anybody positively excited.
A very good example of this battle of views are contrasting opinions of two of Sky Sports’ regular contributors, Nick Wright and Paul Merson.
Wright was at the Craven Cottage on Sunday and it’s fair to say he was impressed by what he saw, and by what he heard the away fans sing in the stands. He called the Arsenal performance ‘a throwback to their glory days under Arsene Wenger’, and felt a growing sense of optimism for the future of the team under the guidance of Unai Emery.
Meanwhile, Merson took another, far gloomier view. Despite the convincing win, he believes the Gunners will face ‘a thrashing soon’, and points to a gap in defensive stability between them and the two teams above. He admits scoring goals will always be there to help them out of trouble, but defensively, he sees them still all ‘over the place’.
To be fair, it’s hard to argue with that. Both writers make some good points, and the truth is, as always, somewhere in between. There are definitely encouraging signs, moments when Emery’s men play some fantastic football, giving us perhaps a glance at what future may bring once the whole team is settled in and truly built.
But there are other moments, mostly at the other end of the pitch, that reveal the real picture – the fact that Emery’s work has only just begun. If looking at transition periods of other clubs has taught us anything, it’s that it takes time to build success. For all their money, Manchester City failed to win anything in Pep Guardiola’s first season even though the Catalan inherited some two-time Premier League winners in his team complemented by the acquisition of players like Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. Jurgen Klopp has now been at Liverpool for full three years, and even though they played two European finals and improved ten-fold in that time, they are yet to win a trophy under the German.
Patience is the key for Arsenal, just as much as for others.