Arteta turns Gunners into contenders
Things could not be any better for Arsenal at the moment after their comeback win over Fulham ensured they won their first four Premier League games of the season for just the third time.
It’s a stat with good vibes for the Gunners: in 2003-04 they went on to win the title and in 2004-05 they finished runners-up.
Talk of winning the title at this early stage is a stretch - Mikel Arteta said himself they were in for a “long, long marathon” - but Arsenal have shown plenty in the opening weeks to give fans optimism.
Their trajectory looks on course for Champions League qualification, which would be a big step forward under Arteta, who has already overseen change at the club during his three-year reign.
The 2-1 win against Fulham marked his 100th Premier League game in charge of the club and the contrast between his first 50 and the second is remarkable.
So what has changed at Arsenal under the Spaniard?
The most tangible difference is a shift in mentality of his players.
England forward Bukayo Saka was buoyant after the latest victory, saying: “We’re all so hungry to win each game. We’re going to continue like this for the whole season.”
Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith said there was a “belief” that had built gradually.
“It hasn’t been the most difficult start but it has been faultless. Now they look to the harder challenges and go into that with real confidence. It was a learning curve last season but now it bodes really well for a really good season.”
That belief was displayed in the Fulham victory, as Arsenal were tested by the newly promoted side and forced to come from behind after a mistake from defender Gabriel allowed Aleksandar Mitrovic to score the opener.
When the Brazil defender wandered back into position for kick-off, with his hands on his hips after pulling his shirt over his head, there was a danger Gabriel would allow his mistake to consume him.
Instead, captain Martin Odegaard’s persistence, along with a bit of luck, led to a swift equaliser and Arsenal reacted strongly to gather momentum.
Gabriel redeemed himself with the 85th-minute winner, making sure he was first to the ball in a scramble from close range to give Arsenal all three points for the fourth game in a row.
There was an outpouring of celebration from the stands at a raucous Emirates Stadium, while injured Oleksandr Zinchenko leapt into Gabriel’s arms in a display of the growing togetherness at Arsenal.
“After I lost the ball my head was down, but my brothers kept saying ‘let’s go’. I lifted my head up - my team-mates were a big help to me,” Gabriel said afterwards.
Odegaard added: “He showed great character to come back and score the winning goal. It shows the character of the team. When someone makes a mistake, we lift them back up.” -BBC