How Arsenal can Benefit from FA Cup Exit
Arsenal were recently dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester City, but this may prove a blessing in disguise for the Premier League leaders.
The Gunners currently occupy the summit of the English top-flight with a 5-point cushion over Man City, although the two teams have yet to face one another in the league this season.
For the first time since 2007, Arsenal were at the very top of the English football pyramid at Christmas. Recent history has showed that, more often than not, the team in pole position on Boxing Day has gone on to hoist the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.
It must be said the North London club does not boast an appealing record with regards to capturing the title after being top of the pile on December 25.
In fact, on each of the previous five occasions which Arsenal led the English top-flight at Christmas, they failed to deliver the title every time. Two of those have come in the Premier League era, in the 2002/03 and 2007/08 campaigns, both under Arsène Wenger.
However, the Gunners have reason to believe they can rewrite the history books and ultimately bring home the Premier League trophy this season. Should they thwart Man City from celebrating a third successive league title, it would be Arsenal's first league triumph since 2004 when Wenger's men were inscribed as Invincibles.
Present day, Arsenal have picked up 50 points from 19 matches, averaging more than 2,5 points per game in the first half of the season. This is the club's highest tally of points after 19 matches in top-flight history.
Only four times in Premier League history has a team accrued more than 50 points at this stage of the season (Chelsea 2005/06; Man City 2017/18; Liverpool 2018/19; Liverpool 2019/20) and all but one went on to claim first prize.
Arsenal have 15 points more than they did halfway into last term and almost double the 27 points they had after 19 games in the 2020/21 season, which was Arteta's first full season in the manager's seat at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners have 5 points more than they did after 19 matches in their infamous Invincibles season. Needless to say the competitiveness of the present-day English top-flight is incomparable to the Premiership from two decades ago.
As mentioned, Arsenal recently crashed out the FA Cup at the hands of Arteta's mentor Pep Guardiola. Earlier this season, the Gunners crashed out of the League Cup in the third round, going down to Brighton & Hove Albion in November.
An early exit from the FA Cup means Arsenal will play up to four games fewer than Man City in the second portion of the season, with the Citizens generally expected to reach the latter stages of any cup competition they partake in.
Some breathing space in an already congested calendar may prove exactly what Arteta needs to get his team over the line and curbArsenal's 19-year wait for league success.
With his side now out of both domestic cups, Arteta can devote all of his time and energy towards a Premier League title charge before his team resumes its UEFA Europa League duties in March. It would truly take a seismic collapse for the Gunners to not celebrate a fourth Premier League title come the end of this season.
Arteta has added to his squad this January, with Leandro Trossard in attack and Jakub Kiwior in defence. As Tuesday's transfer deadline looms large, the Gunners remain desperate for extra midfield reinforcements.
Arsenal initially saw a £60million bid rejected for Moises Caicedo, with Brighton reluctant to sell the 21-year-old midway through the season. On Monday, the Seagulls turned down an improved offer of £70million for the Ecuador international.
The summer signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Man City added a pair of title-winning players to Arsenal's youthful ranks, while the arrival of Fabio Vieira injected more quality in the centre of the park for Arteta.
Owing to his time as assistant manager under Guardiola at Man City, the current Arsenal boss was most familiar with both Zinchenko and Jesus. The Ukraine international has notably brought with him the elite experience and winning mentality he gained during his time in Manchester, while the Brazilian striker immediately hit the ground running as a key figure in Arteta's high-press system.
Jesus suffered a knee injury at the World Cup last year and he may yet miss the bulk of his first season as a Gunner. The absence of their first-choice striker left a gaping hole in attack, but Arsenal academy graduate Eddie Nketiah has duly filled in for the four-time Premier League winner.
Nketiah has netted six times in seven games (all competitions) since the domestic season resumed on Boxing Day, including a brace as Arsenal edged Man United, 3-2, on January 22.
Perhaps no player has been as instrumental for the Gunners as Martin Ødegaard. The Norwegian is enduring his best season yet, both in terms of numbers and overall performances, which has earned him some early touts for the Player of the Season award.
Ødegaard signed a long-term deal at the Emirates in 2021, following a loan spell from Real Madrid, and he continues to go from strength to strength in the English capital. Last year he was named Arsenal captain.
The 24-year-old has notched 13 direct goal involvements this league campaign (eight goals & five assists) while teammate Bukayo Saka, 21, has seven goals and seven assists to his name.
Ødegaard was on the scoresheet in the most recent North London Derby as Arsenal secured their first league win at Tottenham since March 2014, back when Arteta captained the side under Wenger. Now, it was Arteta's skipper Ødegaard who starred in an historic win over the team's local foes.
Arsenal are taking maximum points from teams which they have struggled against in recent seasons and this shows the undeniable progress under Arteta's jurisdiction. The current team is almost unrecognisable from when the Spaniard took the reins more than three years ago.
(Cover Photo: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)