The story so far
Arsenal were expected to start this season in blistering fashion and build on the momentum gained from a productive transfer window - but they have rather stumbled out of the starting blocks.
The Gunners remained unbeaten throughout the opening month of the season but there is a sense that they are yet to hit top gear.
Arsene Wenger’s side took on Crystal Palace in their season’s curtain raiser and had to wait until the last minute to seal a late winner in a dramatic 2-1 victory.
Their next Premier League clash was a similar story, as two late goals rescued a credible point at Everton and they followed that up with a draw against newly promoted Leicester City.
This middling start to the campaign was interspersed with the side’s qualification for the 17th consecutive season to the Champions League – where they edged out Besiktas 1-0 on aggregate in a nervy two-legged clash.
Calum Chambers. Much of the hype around Arsenal’s summer had occurred because of the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, though the former Barcelona man has actually been overshadowed by Chambers so far. The £16 million recruit has been a revelation at the heart of Arsenal’s defence, despite playing his entire professional career at right-back so far - and has firmly established himself as one of England’s top prospects.
Fighting spirit. It is often said that it is the sign of champions when you are still collecting points despite not playing at your optimum potential and Arsenal have already shown an ability to do that. For all their flair and panache, it has been the side’s battling qualities which have shone through so far and, although they will be hoping not to leave the winning so late in the future, the Gunners will be encouraged by the heart their squad have shown.
English core. Arsenal have taken an admirable stance of bringing through English talent and they now have the basis of the England squad that will be tested by trying to increase the interest in the Three Lions’ fortunes. The aforementioned Chambers is now joined by Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the Emirates and all five have the ability to be mainstays in the national squad.
Attack improved. Wenger’s deadline day singing of Welbeck seems like an astute piece of business. The price-tag of £16 million for a youngster of his potential seems like a bargain and he should enhance their quality going forward substantially. Welbeck has the pace to stretch games, allowing their ample creative outlets to thrive and, if he can add a predatory touch, he should help the club move into title contention. Opinions may differ, however...
Glaring weakness. The defensive midfield position simply needs to be improved at the Emirates. Wenger should have ensured that the club signed a midfield enforcer over the summer and his reluctance to act could have cost Arsenal dearly once again. Mathieu Flaimini and Mikel Arteta are his only options in the position at the moment and both are in dire need of an upgrade.
Lack of defensive cover. Although Chambers’ form has been a revelation so far, he is not a specialist centre-back and that could be a worry as the season progresses. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny look as good a partnership as any in the Premier League but, beyond them, Arsenal posses a dearth of quality options in this position and it could cost them as they look to compete on four fronts.
Mesut Ozil. Signed last season and expected to lift Arsenal on to the next level, the Gunners are still waiting for the prodigious talent to hit top form at the Emirates. Indeed, The German is struggling in a system which should really allow him to thrive. His usual vision, touch and creativity just aren’t on display as he looks light-weight and often on the periphery of games. He has had his season to adapt to the pace of the Premier League now and has no excuse if he cannot rekindle the form that made him a star in La Liga.
Olivier Giroud. The Arsenal striker is the most proven scorer that Wenger has at his disposal and the fact that he could be out for a lengthy period is a major dent in their title hopes. It also piles the pressure on Welbeck to hit the ground running at his new club.
Grade: C– Arsenal’s start cannot be considered a poor one as they have managed to get through the month unbeaten. And yet it has been slightly deflating. There are great expectations on this current crop at the club and they will need to improve if they are to step out of the mediocrity that Arsenal supporters have suffered for far too long.