What Mikel Arteta needs in transfer window to propel Arsenal’s Premier League revolution
In pictures: Arsenal v Sunderland
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Nine changes in a League Cup match normally triggers accusations of Premier League sides fielding weakened sides in competitions they do not care about. Yet, this was anything but the case when Mikel Arteta and Arsenal took to the field against Sunderland.
Languishing in League One the Black Cats may be, yet Lee Johnson’s side have proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with in the Carabao Cup this season.
Aside from their first-round victory against Port Vale, Sunderland had dispatched of teams superior to them either by league standings or division, and did so with an aplomb in the 90 minutes or via the nerve jangling penalty shootout.
They came into the contest with no pressure, no expectation, and 5000 vociferous travelling fans behind them.
Yet, they were swept aside with alarming ease by an Arsenal side whose zip, guile, and finishing has been almost unstoppable in recent weeks.
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Arsenal are not the first team to oust a significantly weaker side with their second tea and they will certainly not be the last.
Manchester City have won this competition four years in a row, and did so without their biggest hitters most of the time.
Except, the precision, the speed, the intelligence, and most crucially of all, the quality was almost identical to the side who has won their last three Premier League matches. Secondary Premier League sides usually overcome those from the lower divisions, but rarely with this gusto, flare, and character.
A collective identity and philosophy was ingrained within this Arsenal performance – Arteta and technical director Edu would have been rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
Four of Arsenal’s five goals were scored by academy players Eddie Nketiah and debutant Charlie Patino, while £72m prodigy Nicolas Pepe also got in on the act with his second goal and fourth assist in the competition.
However, caution and grounding must accompany Arsenal’s progression into the semi-finals where they meet familiar foe Liverpool.
The problem positive run of results achieved through streamlined and impeccable football is the very expectations and demands they bring.
A return to the precipice of Premier League glory and European status seems only be a transfer window away, rather than a new manager and monumental rebuild as it was when Arteta had presided over three horrendous losses and nine goals conceded in the opening three matches of the season.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s stripping of the Arsenal captaincy has many believing a Dusan Vlahovic or Dominic Calvert-Lewin shaped hole has emerged in the Arsenal frontline.
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If they were to sensationally secure the goalscoring services of the Fiorentina or Everton hitmen, Arsenal may very well be announced as title contenders.
Unfortunately, that is a very heavy and often lethal crown of thorns capable of ending the most promising of projects.
Arsenal are sailing in the right direction, at the right speed, and, considering the ages of some of their rivals’ star men, at the right time.
Arteta is still in the process of establishing and cementing the foundations of his young side.
Seventeen years without a League title is a very long time, but Arsenal’s red and white ribbons will not move any closer to the league title if the harmony of the side is buried beneath pre-mature expectations.
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