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When Arsenal went into half-time with a well-deserved one goal lead, Edu may have been thinking the very future he promised had already arrived. Mikel Arteta’s side appeared to be strutting their way to a fourth Premier League victory in five matches.
It was ironic the very passion, heart, energy, and precision of the first half, rarely seen in an Arsenal side since the days of Patrick Vieira, arrived on the very day the Frenchman returned to North London.
Three Premier League victories and a draw had passed since Gunners’ technical director Edu was flustering into the Sky Sports News cameras; trying to convince a furious Arsenal fan base to look to the future and trust what appeared to be a poorly thought-out transfer window.
At the time, the very vision he was trying to sell was invisible amid the horrific smog of three opening Premier League defeats and a goal difference of minus nine.
But when Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang pounced on Vincente Guaita’s flying save and converted the rebound from Nicolas Pepe’s sumptuous effort from a remarkably tight angle, their summer business appeared to be working perfectly.
Four of Arsenal’s six summer signings: Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Martin Odegaard, and Aaron Ramsdale provided a rock-solid spine, befitting of their combined £134m transfer fees.
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Ramsdale especially, the most eyebrow raising of the six signings due to the fact he had undergone back-to-back relegations with Bournemouth and Sheffield United, was a giant between the goalposts. He was almost at the penalty spot when his punch from a Crystal Palace corner dropped kindly onto the foot of Conor Gallagher, but he appeared to teleport himself back into his goal to spectacularly keep out Gallagher’s well executed volley.
White, who appeared to shrink beneath the pressure of his £54m fee as well as the brute force of Ivan Toney on his Arsenal debut against Brentford, played and carried himself like a future Arsenal captain. Tomiyasu impressed once again at right-back, while Odegaard’s partnership with Thomas Partey simultaneously protected the back four and fuelled the frontline impeccably.
The Norwegian playmaker may be easy on the eye, but the way in which he jostled with the likes of Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur, and Gallagher, proves there is steel in his game. Edu’s and Arteta’s vision was further enlightened when midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga, the only player to come out of their opening three matches with genuine credit, was substituted on for Bukayo Saka at half-time. However, was wondering what all the early season fuss was about, he was painfully reminded.
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Partey, who was one of Arsenal’s best players of the first half, was intercepted by Palace forward Jordan Ayew who caught him dithering with the ball. The ball soon made its way to Christian Benteke who moved the ball out of his feet and smashed past an exposed Aaron Ramsdale to level the match.
Within a matter of moments, Arsenal’s soft centre of the early season had made an unwelcome return. Edu emphasised at the beginning of the season the Gunners team was planned a year in advance, with the North Londoners looking for players 23-years-old or younger.
At 28-years-old, Partey was supposed to the experienced player to lead the younger stars and set an example – in all fairness to the former Atletico Madrid man, he did set an example, just not a good one. However, Arsenal reacted well and the introduction of Alexandre Lacazette from the bench would have resulted in an equaliser were it not for the finger tips of Guaita.
But just as the home crowd sensed an impending victory, reality returned and slammed the door on their faces. Sambi-Lokonga, the player brought on at half-time to steady the ship, gave the ball away in the Palace half; triggering a typical Palace counterattack.
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Conor Gallagher led the yellow cavalry charge and the ball eventually came into the path of Odsonne Edouard, who smashed the ball through the fingertips of Ramsdale, of the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net. Substitute Lacazette may have popped up to rescue a draw for Arsenal, but the magnitude of the task at hand to Arteta is enormous.
Unlike Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United; Arsenal require more than a solitary piece to complete their squads. However, with no Champions League football since 2017, they will not be able to attract the Erling Haaland’s of the football world.
Instead, a plethora of smart, astute investments in the form of Tomiyasu will likely be the typical signing Arsenal will need. Young enough to improve and carry resale value but experienced enough to hit the ground running and not be overawed by the pressures of Premier League football.
Unfortunately, these are very hard to come by, but Edu and Arteta are meticulous planners, they probably already know who they want to sign.
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