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19th Feb 2023

Why Arsenal will win the Premier League

Rory Fleming

With 15 games to go, the Gunners are in pole position.

Passion, intensity, character and every other footballing buzzword were on display at Villa Park on Saturday, as Arsenal ended a three-game winless run with a resplendent 4-2 victory over Aston Villa.

“This is why the Premier League is the best league in the world!” exclaimed Arsenal’s midfield maestro Jorginho, in the aftermath of his side’s last-gasp win.

Having gone behind twice in the opening half, first to a fine Ollie Watkins finish and then a splendid Villa team move, Mikel Arteta’s title-hopefuls dug deep to deliver an astonishing second-half display which saw them slot three goals past former Arsenal keeper, Emi Martinez.

The result, which comes off the back of midweek’s disappointing defeat to Pep Guardiola’s three-peat-chasing Manchester City side, sees the Gunners reclaim the top spot by a two-point margin, with a game in hand.

For apparent title challengers, a win on the road to a side currently sitting in 11th place may not seem season-defining, but for this youthful Arsenal side, it is one which could propel them from pretenders to favourites.

Many pundits and rival fans have recently expressed the opinion that Arsenal’s early-season form was merely a fleeting moment of serendipity, with the likes of Sky’s Gary Neville stating:

“I don’t think Man City have started yet – they have been messing around. Pep Guardiola has been rotating. When they start to purr, I think they’ll motor on and put pressure on Arsenal”.

Neville even went on to suggest that his former side Manchester United could usurp Arsenal in the league table despite a dominant victory for the Gunners over Erik ten Hag’s side; “I said Manchester United would finish above Arsenal, and I’m sticking with it”.

In what was a worrying three-game spell for the league leaders, their title credentials received serious disparagement after two defeats in three. Losses to a revitalised Everton side in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge and Guardiola’s Man City were wedged either side of a contentious draw to Brentford.

Despite this blip, Arsenal have somehow managed to emerge unscathed by the scrutiny which engulfed the club as they momentarily slipped into second place- exactly the type of character required by a side looking to bring to an end a 19-year-long title drought.

Embodying this character is Arsenal’s left-back recruit, Oleksandr Zinchenko. Signed from Manchester City last summer, the Ukrainian national team captain has brought a steely mentality and unwavering belief to the Emirates Stadium.

Arteta Everton

Buoyed by this newfound confidence that Zinchenko has precipitated to this exuberant Arsenal side, the league’s youngest squad have found a talismanic totem on which they can build their expressive style of play around.

Imperious yet again against Unai Emery’s Villa side, the former Manchester City full-back – although describing a player of his influence as full-back seems misguided – drove what appeared to be a faltering Arsenal side, on to a vital three points.

As is in vogue with many of Europe’s top teams currently, Zinchenko operates as an inverted full-back, slotting into the midfield trio of Odegaard, Xhaka and Jorginho to create an overload in central areas, as Mikel Arteta looks to suffocate opposition teams with possession.

A sumptuous left-footed strike from the Ukrainian saw him claim his first-ever Premier League goal, drawing Arsenal level in the process and inspiring their frenzied snatching of victory.

It is not just the influence of Zinchenko though which sees Arsenal cement themselves as title favourites, but also their shrewd business in the January transfer market.

The signing of Chelsea’s Italian midfielder Jorginho was much maligned at the time, but since Thomas Partey’s untimely injury absence, the deep-lying playmaker has proved manager Mikel Arteta right in his assertion that fans will “fall in love” with the Champions League winner.

Whilst not as mobile as the absent Partey, Jorginho offers a metronomic ability to keep possession and the tempo of the game in Arsenal’s favour, acting as the perfect facilitator for the supremely talented skipper Martin Odegaard.

At just a paltry £13 million, the acquisition of the 31-year-old Champions League winner seems like yet another stroke of genius by Mikel Arteta and his technical director Edu Gaspar.

Arsenal’s squad depth has been another proverbial stick used to beat the North London club’s title aspirations, however, that issue too now looks to have been rectified.

On the bench at Villa Park, Arsenal had the experience of Kieran Tierney and Polish international Jakub Kiwior to call upon in defence. Whilst in the attacking department, both Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson returned from injury to support Portuguese playmaker Fabio Viera.

The ace up the sleeve of Mikel Arteta is the impending return of the stellar Gabriel Jesus. The Brazil striker has been absent since sustaining a serious knee injury at the World Cup, however, it is rumoured that a potential return could be a matter of weeks away.

One of the stars of the opening half of the season, Jesus was the chief catalyst in Arsenal’s mesmerising run which saw them win 10 of their opening 12 Premier League games. His expected return will provide not just a morale boost to the squad, but also rekindle the league’s most dynamic front 3 alongside compatriot Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka.

With four of their next six games at home, a run of games which sees them face relegation candidates Everton, Bournemouth and Leeds at the Emirates Stadium, the prospect of continuing on the momentum gained from their win at Villa Park seems highly likely.

And finally, Europe is perhaps the biggest factor in asserting Arsenal’s coronation as Premier League champions. Arteta’s side don’t play in the Europa League again until March 9th, whereas their foremost rivals in Man City face a tricky Champions League tie with RB Leipzig in the meantime.

Furthermore, in the event that City progress to the quarter-finals, it becomes a distinct possibility that their focus begins to shift ever-so-slightly towards claiming a first-ever European trophy, and achieving the ultimate goal of their oil-state owners.

The path to Martin Odegaard hoisting the Premier League trophy aloft is now clear to see, and with just 15 games remaining, Mikel Arteta will urge his side to take it one fixture at a time.

But for the Arsenal fans, it is time to dream. The good times are back, and Premier League champions they will be.

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