Arsenal vs Liverpool: Mikel Arteta’s side can prove Gunners’ ‘era of banter’ is over with win

Since they last won the title in 2004, Arsenal have gone from being one of the most dominant and glamorous clubs in the Premier League to one of the most ridiculed.

Over the next three years, the North London outfit bid farewell to their historic crop of One-by-One Invincibles; Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry et al filtered and, in turn, so did any realistic hopes of major silverware.

Aside from their appearance in the 2006 Champions League final, a match in which the majority of their outgoing Invincibles have played, and a handful of FA Cup wins, they haven’t come close to landing or competing for the big prizes that Henry, Vieira and Co had become accustomed to.

Since their last title victory in 2004, Arsenal have become one of the most ridiculed clubs in England

Their famous Invincibles era was followed by a period of mediocrity under Arsene Wenger

Their famous Invincibles era was followed by a period of mediocrity under Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger fails to effectively replace his outgoing heroes and moves away from a pattern of pace, power and aggression in favor of a softer system centered around technical players is a big part of why. As a result, a top-four finish became Wenger’s new barometer of success, as well as a stick for rival fans to push the Frenchman and Arsenal with.

Instead of catapulting themselves back into title contention, the Gunners spent the final years of Wenger’s tumultuous reign slipping away from fourth place, missing out in 2017 and failing to qualify for the Champions League since. .

The club that once had an eye on rising superstars were now spending their money on Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner and Sebastien Squillaci. And any world-class talent they’ve managed to acquire and nurture has always been scooped up by a superior, trophy-hunting rival in the end.

Timid and snappy performances, no Champions League football, non-existent title hopes and dodgy transfers thus sealed Arsenal’s status as a true Premier League banter club. But is that about to change?

It did not appear like this at the start of the season. Mikel Arteta had just led one of the most disastrous campaigns in the club’s history in 2020/21, winning just 18 out of 38 games and finishing eighth in the Premier League – which deprived them of European football altogether.

Rival fans reveled in the Gunners' timid and shaky performances and poor results on the pitch

Rival fans reveled in the Gunners’ timid and shaky performances and poor results on the pitch

They also made questionable signings that fell short of their previous heroes

They also made questionable signings that fell short of their previous heroes

Arsenal's status as a Premier League joke club appeared to continue under Mikel Arteta

Arsenal’s status as a Premier League joke club appeared to continue under Mikel Arteta

New signings like Ben White have come under fire in a first three-game losing streak

New signings like Ben White have come under fire in a first three-game losing streak

To follow this, they added a number of obscure signings to Arteta’s ranks over the summer; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares cost nearly £40million and weren’t exactly names to stoke a frenzy at the Emirates.

They also shelled out almost £80m on unproven England talents in Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale, with the former acquisition coming under scrutiny in a dismal first run of three defeats in as many Premier League matches.

Having also been a goalless goalkeeper in that damning trio of defeats, Arteta’s position as manager was hanging by a thread, Champions League qualification looked like a dream and some of the club’s most expensive summer signings were prompting speculation. reviews. Banter FC certainly lived up to its label.

Yet six months later, Arsenal’s position and reputation in the English top flight would have been unbelievable in August. Arteta’s men are currently enjoying a five-game winning streak, their only loss in 11 matches was highly controversial in the closing seconds against champions Manchester City, and as a result they are now in pole position to secure themselves. secure a place in the top four. .

Fast forward six months and Arsenal are now in a position that would not have been credible

Fast forward six months and Arsenal are now in a position that would not have been credible

Arteta has found a formula that works in the Emirates and is now producing consistent results

Arteta has found a formula that works in the Emirates and is now producing consistent results

Slowly but surely the Gunners have found a formula that works; settling on a solid back five, of which the once heckled White is at the heart, a solid pair of midfielders and a loose, fast-paced attack.

Ramsdale were a revelation in goal, mocking those who balked at his £30million transfer fee and instead emerging as a leader and indispensable for Arteta.

Tomiyasu has also become a key member of Arsenal’s backline despite arriving in north London as a somewhat unknown quantity, with Cedric Soares a sufficient understudy. White has improved over the season and has formed a tight partnership with Gabriel, while Kieran Tierney is a reliable asset at left-back.

In midfield, Thomas Partey proved a sure anchor sweeping past the defence, and his partner Granit Xhaka was always a valuable player when not acting briskly.

Arteta also has a host of dynamic and adventurous attack options. Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli are apparently the first choice at the moment, but with Emile Smith-Rowe and Nicolas Pepe also waiting in the wings, an injury or suspension from one of the aforementioned trios would not be a disaster. .

Aaron Ramsdale was a revelation in goal despite initial confusion over his £30m price tag

Aaron Ramsdale was a revelation in goal despite initial confusion over his £30m price tag

White then formed a tight partnership with Gabriel at the heart of their defense

White then formed a tight partnership with Gabriel at the heart of their defense

The Gunners have also attacked with a new adventure in recent outings

The Gunners have also attacked with a new adventure in recent outings

The five attacking midfielders and wingers are able to work in tangent with each other, linking up well with the marauding full-backs and Alexandre Lacazette at the tip of the front line.

While still a useful team player, and his recently impressive performances simply haven’t been backed by a one-in-seven goal return, Lacazette is arguably the only player Arteta will be looking to. replace this summer even if he puts pen to paper on a new contract.

It marks a stunning turnaround for a team that sleepwalked straight into another slump at the start of the campaign. Now Arsenal are one point clear of fourth place and three games behind their nearest rivals.

One of those certainly comes against title contenders Liverpool at the Emirates on Wednesday night, although in their current form the Gunners have good reason to quietly imagine their chances of taking at least a point.

Yes, Jurgen Klopp’s men lost 2-0 when they met in north London for the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final in January. But the hosts were without Partey and Xhaka for the majority of this outing, and they also repelled some glorious early chances on the night.

Wednesday's clash with Liverpool gives them the chance to show the era of banter is now over

Wednesday’s clash with Liverpool gives them the chance to show the era of banter is now over

If Arteta's men can pull off a victory over title hopefuls, they will be a force to be reckoned with

If Arteta’s men can pull off a victory over title hopefuls, they will be a force to be reckoned with

They were brilliant against league leaders City, succumbing to defeat in the 93rd minute after controversially conceding a penalty and a man on New Year’s Day. chances are they will be upset and derail Liverpool’s hopes of becoming champions.

The visitors have been in fine form themselves, winning their last eight games and not losing a game in the new year. However, Jurgen Klopp is known for putting up a high defensive block, and if Arsenal can time their counters well, there will certainly be room for Saka and Martinelli to exploit during the break.

For the first time in years, the Gunners have a stable and assured starting XI, a system that produces consistent results and a genuine expectation of a return to Europe’s elite club competition.

Getting the better of Klopp’s side this week would signal that they are a force to be reckoned with these days and, in the process, the era of banter is now over.

Helen L. Cuellar