The season has barely got started and instead of talking about round five of the Premier League, we’re twiddling our thumbs and talking about an international tournament nobody cares about or wants.
Let’s look at what we’ve learned from Arsenal’s first four games of the season instead.
Four games is a small sample size for anything but there are a few conclusions we can confidently draw from Unai Emery’s first foray into English football.
The most striking thing has to be what a mess Arsenal are.
When Arsene Wenger and his cohorts were still in charge it was easy to dismiss how poorly we played and focus on his removal as the only thing stopping us from being a decent, capable side. Now he’s gone, we can see clearly how ridiculous that notion was.
Habits built and solidified over years cannot be undone in a few months as we’ve seen in Arsenal’s defensive displays so far. They’re giving up chances and goals at a relegation rate. Thankfully, in 50% of those games, we’ve faced sides with defences even worse than Arsenal’s, but this must be the biggest concern for Emery and co.
The next surprising thing for me has been how much Matteo Guendouzi has played and how much he’s deserved his minutes.
Cesc Fabregas was the last teenager to play this much this early in a season for Arsenal and we all know he went on to become something quite special. There seems no reason why Guendouzi can’t do the same and, as a self-confessed Arsenal fan who grew up on a diet of Patrick Vieira, we don’t have to worry about his boyhood club coming for him.
Petr Cech starting instead of Bernd Leno has been another eyebrow raiser and it makes you wonder what the thought process is here.
We buy a much-needed new keeper, ensuring we get one who can play out from the back and then we start the OAP who looks like he hasn’t kicked a ball since he stopped being a striker before he hit puberty.
Lucas Torreira not starting is a bit easier to understand due to his World Cup participation but his cameos are starting to force Emery’s hand and that can only be a good thing.
Trying to predict Emery’s next lineup has also become a challenge for many.
Wenger would pick his favourites, regardless of form. Out-of-form favourites were picked so they could play through their bad patch. Only when out of options would he pick other players, no matter how well they had played when given a chance.
Emery doesn’t seem to have favourites. At the very least, he hasn’t been there long enough to really like one over another. He also looks forward towards the next opponent when deciding rather than just who played well in the last game. Which players give him the best chance of beating the next opponent given their style? Those are the ones he picks.
It is all still extremely early for Emery and this new Arsenal. Conclusions can be drawn about many things but we should hold off with any pronouncements until at least January when we have a decent sample size of games under our belts with which to judge him fairly. Even that’s still quite early when you think of what he is trying to undo and the restrictions on him as he does it.
For now, Arsenal sit in 9th place, above United on goal difference and three points from Tottenham after playing City and Chelsea.
We’ve been in worse places and during those times we couldn’t point to any signs that things might change for the better.
At least now we know the club and coaching staff are actively trying to change things and that, for me, is still the biggest takeaway from this season so far.