November 12, 2021 | SPORTS | By Will Taylor | Illustration by Sydney Morris

Arsenal Football Club are at a crossroads. The season initially appeared to be headed for disaster: after the opening three games the club sat in last place, conceding nine and scoring none. However, in the eight games that followed, Arsenal won six and drew two. They are now only three points off from third place. 

It has been quite the turnaround for a team who some were considering relegation contenders just a few weeks earlier. 

Arsenal have been incredibly hard to predict this season, from losing their opening match against newly promoted Brentford to beating Leicester City and Tottenham comfortably. But the recent run from the club is more than welcome to many fans; with a few tough fixtures coming up, this could be a pivotal time in what has already been a tumultuous season for the club.

Arsenal are one of the most youthful teams in the league, with heavy summer investment in young stars such as Martin Ødegaard and Aaron Ramsdale. But with youth comes inexperience, and with inexperience comes inconsistency. 

The team also has experienced players to guide the younger ones. Their roster includes players who have played across numerous leagues and won a plethora of competitions, such as Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta commented on how the team worked through the poor start to the season. “I could see the faith that the players and the staff have in what we do,” Arteta said. “The belief and the sense of belonging that they have and the unity that they showed in difficult moments; to not try and point at anybody, but to take responsibility and show leadership.”

Critics of Arsenal have long pointed to the lack of a leader in the squad, and while there is still no overt leader of the team, there is a much stronger sense of cohesion among the group. Instead of one or two players shouldering the burden of leadership, it’s a collective effort.  

From Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s perpetual smile to Kieran Tierney’s quiet determination, there is a little bit of everything in this squad when it comes to personalities. 

With the uptick in recent form, the question then becomes: What might be a realistic goal for the club this year? One answer may be to finish in the top four and compete in the UEFA Champions League next season. The club has failed to do this for the past five years after previously playing in the competition for 20 consecutive seasons. 

Other than the chance at competing for what is arguably the most prestigious club trophy, participation in the Champions League also has significant financial implications. Chelsea, who won the competition last year, earned just under 95 million dollars throughout the tournament. 

While it is unrealistic to think that Arsenal will get near the Champions League trophy anytime soon, just playing in the competition will increase revenue and make the club more attractive to young players who want to play in Europe’s most elite competition. 

For a club interested in investing in the brightest young prospects, this will be a huge boost to recruitment. 

Other achievable goals for the season include winning the Carabao Cup and FA Cup. The club has won the latter competition 14 times, the most in the competition’s history. 

While it is possible that the club finishes empty-handed in terms of trophies this year, it is safe to say that they are trending upward. This week alone, both Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Megalhaes received senior call-ups for England and Brazil respectively. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back to his goal-scoring ways, netting four times so far this season. 

Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, and Takehiro Tomiyasu, all of whom are new signings, are settling in well in defense, with Arsenal tied for the second most clean sheets in the league. 

Arsenal is still a ways off from competing for the Premier League or Champions League trophies, but their ten-game unbeaten run shows that Arteta and the rest of the squad has promise. Arsenal’s next game, away to Liverpool, will be a true test of what this team is made of. 

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