Last season was an odd one for Arsenal fans. Most Premier League predictions had them down as outsiders for a spot in the top four before a ball was kicked. Once the season got underway though, the campaign went better than anyone thought it ever could have.
Mikel Arteta’s young Gunners found their footing early doors and the likes of talented winger Bukayo Saka and captain Martin Ødegaard saw the North London outfit become genuine title challengers. Despite being dumped out of the FA Cup by rival City, a 4-1 victory over Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium in April saw them go eight points clear of title rivals Manchester City at the Premier League’s summit. From there though, the wheels came off.
That victory against the Yorkshire outfit saw Arteta’s men become outright favourites for the trophy. Even if City won their game in hand on the league leaders and then beat them in the April clash between the two at the Etihad Stadium, Arsenal would have still held a two-point lead over their nearest rivals. Unfortunately for them, changing from outsiders to favourites saw the pressure amp up, and the gunners were unable to handle it.
In their next game, they raced into a two-goal lead against Liverpool at Anfield, but goals from Mohamed Salah and a last-gasp Roberto Firmino equaliser saw them throw away two points. They were then sitting pretty in a matchup against West Ham United at the London Stadium, leading by two goals to nil and in complete control. Finally, they inexplicably drew 3-3 at home to rock-bottom Southampton, meaning that they had to get a result at the Etihad in order to still have a chance at a first title in two decades. They were thumped in that crunch clash by four goals to one, and their title challenge had gone up in flames.
A lack of dynamism was also to blame for the faltering title challenge. While Granit Xhaka was in the form of his life last term, the January addition of Jorginho didn’t work out as planned. This summer, Arsenal brought in England midfielder Declan Rice, a player who was praised for his leadership skills in a recent Emmanuel Petit interview. Should the Gunners feature prominently in the title race this term, then he may very well be enough to get them over the line.