Last season, Arsenal were playing free flowing, attacking football. Up until April that was enough to have us at the summit of the Premier League. After we lost William Saliba to injury and some other factors, we ended up losing the title to the juggernaut that is Manchester City – who had a phenomenal season winning the treble.
This season, the approach has clearly changed. Mikel Arteta has spoken many times about control and his ruthless nature in obtaining this has seen us have a more considered approach to games – with more control. It’s also led to the Arsenal manager dropping fan’s favourite Aaron Ramsdale – who to be fair to him has been outstanding for Arsenal and hasn’t done much wrong to lose his place.
What David Raya brings is more control, and is far more comfortable on the ball. In his first game for Arsenal, his distribution and control on the ball helped us win at a ground we hadn’t won at in 6 seasons. And despite having issues yesterday, we beat Manchester City for the first time in 12 attempts.
Based on Everton and Manchester City alone, we’re already doing better than last season.
Last season we were devastating in attack, with Saka, Martinelli, Jesus and Nketiah all in goalscoring form. This season we might not making as many chances but more importantly, we’re not conceding needless goals.
Being an attacking team last season, we were prone to conceding goals on the break. When we lost the ball in transition, we struggled. Unfortunately for Aaron Ramsdale, it happened twice this season and that’s when Mikel Arteta thought enough is enough.
Against Fulham when Saka cheaply lost the ball, the team were caught out for the opening goal. Then against Manchester United, Havertz lost the ball and they scored with Rashford on the break. It’s no co-incidence that after that game (even though we won), Ramsdale was dropped.
Raya has come in and we’ve beaten Everton, beaten PSV, drawn against Tottenham, beaten Bournemouth and beaten Manchester City. If you looked at that set of fixtures before we played them I don’t think many Arsenal fans would have thought we’d win all of those.
Of course, we lost to Lens (ironically, due to a Raya mistake) but Mikel Arteta doubled-down on this when asked after the Manchester City game, basically saying he is telling Raya to play like that and if anyone has a problem take it up with him.
Pep Guardiola is a man who is obsessed with control and you can see it in the way he gets his teams to play, which players he signs and his whole approach – so it’s hardly a surprise when Mikel Arteta has a similar outlook.
Will this new approach be enough? There’s still a hell of a long way to go this season but based on the games we’ve played already (the Everton and Manchester City games in particular) then Arteta is giving us the best possible chance.