A big win over a rival club.

Reaching our highest league position of the season. Putting together a run of home form not seen since the turn of the millennium. A win-draw-loss record over the last twenty-seven games that reads 22-1-4.

These are all reasons to be hugely optimistic about Arsenal right now. I certainly felt so anyway, especially after seeing us clinically dispatch of Liverpool last weekend. But then, this tweet was posted by OPTA on Tuesday:

It made me think, ‘Are we actually better than we were last year, or are we all prisoners of the moment and just relishing the fact that we’re second in the league table?’.

So I had a look at last year’s squad and tried to work out if in fact there was much difference between that team and this year’s squad (apart from just the far superior goal difference).


2014: Szczesny, Fabianski, Viviano

2015: Szczesny, Ospina, Martinez

Szczesny has been disappointing over the last 18 months.

He’s the same age as David De Gea, and they both made their debuts in the Premier League at around the same time. Yet De Gea has developed into one of the world’s best goalkeepers, and Szczesny hasn’t shown much improvement at all.

Ospina has been solid, if unspectacular. He’s a competent keeper, but so is Fabianski, leaving the occasional brain-fart aside.

Are we better in goal than last year? No.


2014: Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Sagna, Jenkinson, Monreal, Gibbs.

2015: Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Chambers, Debuchy, Bellerin, Monreal, Gibbs.

Again, not a lot between those two groups of players.

We’ve got more central defenders this year, but Chambers’ disappearance from even the bench over the last few games is cause for concern, and we’ve no idea how good Gabriel is yet. Per and Kos have been very good this year, but they were very good last year. Monreal and Gibbs are playing pass the parcel with the left-back slot, and we replaced a French international right back and a promising youngster with a French international right back and a promising youngster.



2014: Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Rosicky, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Kallstrom, Diaby, Özil.

2015: Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Rosicky, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Coquelin, Diaby, Özil.

This is a tricky one, because apart from Cazorla, nobody else has been fit enough across both seasons to properly gauge how good they were.

Coquelin has been good since Christmas, but Arteta was just as good for parts of 2014. Santi has been excellent at CM but not as good as Ramsey was last year. Wilshere, Gnabry and Diaby can’t stay fit. The Ox has kicked on from last year but he’s played once in the last two months.

As for Özil, he missed a lot of last season through injury, and the same has happened this season. But this time, he’s had time to play himself into form, and that time has also helped him become more acclimatised to England and its physical style of football.

I’m not sure if he’s better now than he was when he joined, but he’s stronger for sure, and over the last couple of months, he’s been consistently good.


2014: Giroud, Podolski, Walcott, Sanogo, Bendtner.

2015: Giroud, Podolski, Campbell, Walcott, Welbeck, Alexis.

How in the world did we finish fourth and win the FA Cup last year with those forwards? It’s amazing to see nine months later that only one of those players is even close to getting in our starting lineup now.

Walcott is still finding his feet after his crippling knee injury, Podolski and Campbell contributed as much this year as Sanogo and Bendtner did last year. Giroud has improved, but that improvement is cancelled out by Podolski’s goals last year.

So what’s should be the conclusion from this? In essence, we’re a Welbeck and Alexis up on last year, and only Alexis is guaranteed a starting spot at the moment. But that isn’t really an awful lot, just upgrading one position from Theo/Ox to Alexis and adding a second quality striker.

It helps, but is it enough to keep up with a club that upgrades from Fernando Torres to Diego Costa? No.

What does it all mean?

Right now, Arsenal are in a marginally better position than they were last year.

Same points in the league, same place in the FA Cup, still smarting from losing in the last 16 of the Champions League, but this time they have a slightly better squad.

The question that has to be asked is; Is this enough to be considered a good job?

The answer is unequivocally yes.

As fans, we’re always hoping that next season will be better.

Even the Invincible season of 2003-04 will always be followed by the quote “Should’ve won the Champions League that year too,” even though Arsenal had accomplished something that hadn’t been seen for over a hundred years.

We can’t help it, there are just so many variables involved in football that there will always be something that can be improved upon.

But it’s those same variables that mean that just remaining as good as you were last season is extremely difficult. Liverpool lost Luis Suarez, spent over £100 million to replace him and couldn’t do it.

Manchester City won the league, spent £60 million on Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony and got worse.

Manchester United brought in Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo, and only now look better than they did last year after extensive teething problems under a new manager.

For years, Arsenal were ridiculed for the gall to be satisfied at finishing fourth, but the ability to maintain such a level whilst operating under huge financial constraints, was a huge achievement.

Now that those constraints are lifted, it certainly makes the job easier, but not to the extent that it should be a forgone conclusion. It’s still hugely difficult to compete in a league with clubs that can spend £60 million plus on a single player.

We’re slightly better than we were last year.

If we’re slightly better again next year, we’ll win the league. If we’re slightly worse, we might finish fifth.

It’s that tight at the moment.

Because of that, any sense that the club is not moving forward fast enough should always be tempered by the fact that any movement forward from where we are right now, could be extremely significant indeed.