Captain Obviously will tell you that Arsenal has had a particularly difficult start to this season’s Premier League campaign.
Arsenal’s inability to find a winning formula has left them stranded on six points in 13th place in the Premier League table after losing their first three games in a row, including a humiliating defeat to newly-promoted Brentford.
The fact that the North London side racked up a massive £142 million bill during the summer transfer window as manager Mikel Arteta attempted to enhance all areas of his team is perhaps the most baffling aspect of this dilemma.
Arteta has received a lot of flak this season, but have the Gunners turned a corner after two consecutive victories over Norwich and Burnley?
Arteta’s experimenting with Arsenal’s starting lineup has yet to bear fruit, but the Gunners’ manager appears to have solved a few of the critical issues.
The keeper dilemma – Ramsdale proves his worth
Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United was one of Arsenal’s most high-profile additions during the summer transfer window, a £24 million transaction that surprised many Gunners fans given Arteta’s unwavering allegiance to Bernd Leno.
Since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in 2018, Leno’s name has been tattooed on the squad sheet as the first-choice goalkeeper, and his record at the club isn’t bad either, with 34 clean sheets in 120 games.
However, Ramsdale’s youthful exuberance has injected some zeal back into a team that will no sure be depressed after a poor start to the 2021/22 season, and his performances have generated fierce competition for Leno to restore his spot.
With a superb debut against West Brom in the Carabao Cup — a game in which the Gunners not only won 5-0, but Ramsdale also kept a clean sheet – the 23-year-old lost no time in staking a claim to be the club’s first-choice keeper.
The former Sheffield United goalkeeper made his Premier League debut against Norwich and rewarded Arteta’s faith with another clean-sheet. In Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday, Ramsdale made it three in a row.
Ramsdale is well-liked in the dressing room, and his demeanour has made him a popular figure in the camp within a month of his arrival in North London, according to Goal.
Ramsdale expressed his excitement at being named the first-choice goalkeeper after his league debut, telling Sky Sports that his hard work is far from over.
“I’ve got to keep working on the training pitch and compete with Bernd [Leno], and maybe I’ll be able to stay in the team and continue to help out,” he said.
Arsenal manager Arteta emphasized the need for healthy competition in his squad and cautioned that no position in the lineup was guaranteed.
“Every position is the same.” “We want them to improve each other,” he stated.
“We’re competing against other people; we’re not competing against each other.” The main reason we’re bringing in players is to increase the level of the players that play that position, the level of the team, and the level of the club.”
With Leno’s contract at the Emirates expiring in 2023 and his future at the club looking increasingly questionable, Ramsdale’s place as Arsenal’s first-choice keeper appears to be safe for the time being.
Two young guns: Smith Rowe and Odegaard together in harmony
While Arsenal fans applauded the permanent signing of 22-year-old Martin Odegaard after a loan spell at the Emirates, some questioned the necessity to add another young offensive midfielder to an already overcrowded position.
Because of Odegaard’s minor advantage in experience, Smith Rowe was forced to play wider last season, with mixed results.
But Arteta has worked hard to find a way for both to coexist in the same team, and while Smith Rowe has been relegated to the bench in recent weeks in favour of Odegaard, the match against Burnley was the turning moment that proved the two could work well together.
Smith Rowe was able to press forward as Odegaard dropped back in a deeper role as the Norwegian scored the game’s only goal in a magnificent free-kick at Turf Moor.
This structure also allowed Smith Rowe to spend more time on the ball in the middle of the field, rather than being isolated out wide as he was last season.
When it was first revealed that Arteta had signed Odegaard on a permanent deal, legendary analyst Paul Merson was sceptical, claiming that it would impede the 21-year-old’s development.