To be sure, the Arsenal have had a blazing start, winning their first three league games for the first time since 2004/5. Although acknowledging the fortuitously weak opposition, commentators have been unable to contain their enthusiasm and wishful thinking. The stark reality is that this same team may easily have lost two of last year’s first three fixtures (Brentford, Man City, Chelsea). I will let you in on a little secret. From across the pond, it has appeared rather clear for a number of years that the Arsenal are “England’s team”, or at least London’s, as the Dallas Cowboys use to be America’s.
Still, for all of the Arsenal’s clear progress, something is amiss. There is a sense that they are riding a wave of luck that can be derailed by fixtures against the big boys, Man City and Liverpool, or aspiring ones, Newcastle and Brighton. Or, alternatively, by an injury to Jesus–or a dip in his unsustainable form–or to the ever injury-prone Partey, Tomiyasu, and Tierney. And then this storybook feeling can reverse overnight, like the second half of the second half of last season. For all the great start, there still remains a troubling lack of depth, and their resilience is unknown.
But enjoy this wonderful moment, we, open and secret Gunners alike, shall.
What I have noticed in this 2022/23 iteration is a growing maturity in the manner they celebrate goals (nine thus far). No wildly desperate, over-exuberant displays that betray relief, insecurity, and surprise. But rather a restrained, disciplined, perspectived joy demonstrating a deeply-quested, exclusive fellowship’s belief that this is natural order of things: “Yes, we scored–as we should.” And also reveals a champion team’s innate understanding that this moment, no matter how glorious, is just a small step in a long game and much longer season. “There is still much more to do”, their body language portrays. There is neither time nor luxury to get carried away, leaving that to fickle fans and pundits. It is the way Man City and Liverpool celebrate (not Tottenham and Chelsea). Indeed, for this class of club, these periodic celebratory interludes become more beneficial timeouts to discuss tactics, players pairing off and pointing at the pitch discussing something that should have happened or needs to. Or their manager summoning one to the sideline for instructions. Yeah, Pep can be four up, and he’s thinking about the next game.
But if I am right about this change in the Arsenal, and have not myself gotten caught up in the England’s team hype, then this 22/23 iteration may indeed be destined for top four. Or at least to finish ahead of the annoyingly tricky and compelling Hotspurs.
©TW Matters™ 2022