It’s been some time since Arsenal fans had much to shout about and look forward to.

Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta gestures from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London on November 8, 2020. (Photo by Andy Rain / POOL / AFP)

Indeed, when was the last time that the side went into a season with optimism and belief? After the final years of Arsène Wenger, many of the club’s fans adopted a “same old Arsenal” mentality, which was defeatist by nature.

There are signs, however, that things might be improving. While no one’s claiming that Arsenal will win the league or get anywhere near to it, there’s a growing sense that the team is on the right path. And it’s not just a case of “a period of transition”; the team that Arteta has put together may indeed ruffle some feathers this season. They ended the previous season with a trophy in the cabinet and good vibes in the dressing room, and the optimism has only increased since Aubameyang signed ‘da ting’. It’s shaping up to be a good season and beyond for the North London club.

Photo by Jorono
Photo by Jorono

Why Arsenal Are Better Than In Previous Years

If fans of the Gunners are to be kept on board, then the side will have to perform better than in recent memory. And the early signs are encouraging. For starters, Arsenal are slowly beginning to shed the reputation they’ve held (and deserved) for the past few years. When the Gunners played against the top teams, there was more than a chance that the side would capitulate. Indeed, in some fixtures, it seemed more likely than not that they’d be beaten by a handful of goals. But times have changed. Today, tipsters making Premier League football predictions are much more likely to back Arsenal to hold their own, no matter who they’re playing. The determination and strength the side showed against Liverpool, away from home no less, will be enough to convince many Arsenal fans that Arteta has given the players a belief that has been sorely lacking in recent years.

In fact, when we look at how Arsenal have improved compared to even last year, it’s the belief that could be the most important addition. The side has always had good players. The issue was that the players were not reaching their full potential, or anywhere close to it. This will have been for two reasons. One is that there was a defeatist attitude that seemed to permeate the whole club. There weren’t too many games where the players went out and you knew they were going to win, in the same way that Liverpool and Manchester City go out and steamroll teams. Arteta’s time under Pep Guardiola seems to have given him a winning edge that he’s instilled into the players.

The second reason is that they’ve got a trophy in the cabinet, and that always has the potential to spur sides onto glory, especially when it’s one as prestigious as the FA Cup. The trophy may not be quite as iconic as it once was, but it’s no Mickey Mouse Cup, and the teams they had to beat to get the trophy — Manchester City in the semi-final, Chelsea in the final — were no slouches, either.

The rivals look shaky

There’s another reason why Arsenal and their fans should be hopeful for the forthcoming season. The sides around them are not looking as convincing as they would like to be. Of all the clubs that could end up in the top four, it’s only Liverpool (who look like they’re going to march to another title) that look to be in form. Arsenal have lost games, sure, but they’re far from the only ones at the moment.

So let’s think about the top four rivals. We can forget Liverpool. Manchester City are going through a surprising rough patch. Are they going to get it together to put a meaningful challenge for the title? Or may the unthinkable happen, and this is a season when they’re not going for the league, but challenging for a champions league place? Stranger things have happened.

Manchester United are a different kettle of fish altogether. They’re really not looking so good. While they’ll still win plenty of football games, in the Premier League, momentum can count for a great deal. And there is no momentum at the club; it feels like they might be in for a slog, unless things improve.

So what about Arsenal’s London rivals? Chelsea and Tottenham are two sides who, again, aren’t looking terrible, but similarly are not looking all that impressive. Perhaps that’ll change when their signings click into gear, but they’ll surely both have bumps along the rocky road of the 2020/2021 football season.

For what it’s worth, the experts are beginning to believe that Arsenal will cement a position in the top four come the end of the season. Jamie Carragher, for one, has been pretty forthcoming with his praise for the excellent job that Arteta has done so far, and has backed them for the Champions League positions.

Photo by flooy
Photo by flooy

So what should we expect?

Of course, none of this is to say that Arsenal are going to steamroll their way to second place, or even to have a nailed-on position in the coveted top-four positions. But compared with other seasons, there are more reasons to believe that the Gunners might just come good this time around. And let’s not forget that this is only Mikel Arteta’s second season in charge of Arsenal (and in fact, of any club). We don’t know how far he can take the club. He might be in the second season of a five-year plan that ultimately ends up with Arsenal winning the Premier League and Champions League.

Now we’re just dreaming. But the first time in a while, it seems that Arsenal fans are able to sit back and daydream about the future. And how long we’ve waited…