As Lucas Torreira wheeled away, then followed up with a shirt-off, knee-slide and yell at the skies celebration, Arsenal looked to have finally arrived. That was Torreira’s first league goal for the club, but much more significantly, it gave Arsenal what would prove to be an insurmountable lead in their victory over north London rivals Tottenham at the start of December.
That result looked to announce Arsenal under Unai Emery, there was no ‘yeah, but’, no asterisk beside this victory, this was an unadulterated win for the Gunners, their aggressive high-octane style absolutely took their neighbours to the woodshed. That result not only got the fans well and truly onside and made a statement, it also looked to create momentum for the Gunners to carry on. So far, not quite.
Arsenal followed that result with a draw at Manchester United and a laboured win over Huddersfield, results which, given the amount of energy they exerted in the win over Spurs, were definitely seen as positives. But following those games with one win in three league matches is surely not the progress fans envisaged after that victory in early December. That Huddersfield win was followed by a less than impressive defeat at Southampton, a comfortable-ish victory over Burnley, and a rather uninspiring draw away to Brighton, with an awful defeat to Spurs in the League Cup quarter-final somewhere in-between.
Arsenal aren’t expected to get going this season, but this is starting to look like a setback, immediate progress wasn’t expected but a run akin to stagnation is beginning to make fans seem antsy. Defensive problems continue to plague them, but that has been the case all-season, and with the increasing injury problems to personnel in that area, being suspect at the back is rather expected. But Arsenal aren’t doing as well as they have been up front too, they’ve always gotten away with the snags at the back and compensated for them with what they did in attack, but they don’t seem to be doing that as much. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still continues to score, but Alexandre Lacazette hasn’t found the net since that win over Spurs, and the chance creation looks to have dwindled a bit, particularly in the Brighton stalemate, Mesut Ozil created next-to-nothing at the AMEX stadium, while the closest his replacement, Alex Iwobi, came to troubling the Seagulls defence was when a clearance ricocheted off him and past the post.
After that supposed statement win over, Arsenal have failed to garner any real sort of momentum, while in comparison Spurs have won every league game since and have climbed into second place. The Gunners need something of another announcement of their arrival under Emery, so their next game could have come at the best or worst time. The Gunners travel to Anfield next, to face league leaders Liverpool, as the calendar comes to a close. While that win over Spurs was the big unveiling of the Emery-era, the reverse fixture between Arsenal and Liverpool in November was probably the first indication of the Gunners getting to grips with life under their Spanish boss.
Arsenal were very much on top, and unlucky not to have left with three points, as they had to make do with one, and signs of things clicking into gear were on show. But at that point, after that draw, the Gunners were only four points behind Liverpool; eight games later, they’re 13 behind the Reds. That just about sums up the Gunners of late, of those extra nine points they have ceded since, five have come in the last three matches. Arsenal’s wobbles are quite understandable; it’s only four months in the Premier League for the Unai Emery era, and the rut they looked to have been in for almost a decade won’t just go away in that amount of time.
But expectations are starting to be set, standards are starting to be raised, particularly after that win over Spurs which looked have made a statement. 27 days on, it looks very much like they need another giant result to re-ignite the feel-good factor.