Arteta’s process taking shape
The Premier League table since Christmas looks pretty good if you’re an Arsenal fan.
Since that time the Gunners have played six of the other seven teams pictured and the victory over Leicester was Arsenal’s first over a top three side in the league since 2015.
There are clearly still areas of improvement in the team that Mikel Arteta needs to address, but the encouraging signs so far bode well for the latter stages of the season.
Arsenal are beginning to match the big teams in the league and whilst their recent defeat to Manchester City wasn’t a great spectacle, they will take comfort in the fact that vast improvements have been made from the team which lost at home to Burnley almost three months ago.
Xhaka’s outstanding engine
Granit Xhaka recovered from his mistake for Leicester’s opening goal in typical Xhaka style.
He came out of the game with 87 per cent pass accuracy, 6 ball recoveries, 2 interceptions and was fouled four times.
Gunners boss Arteta spoke after the game about Xhaka’s determination and ability to play through tiredness after completing another match following his European excursions.
“If you have to put an example on that pitch about character and about going for every single goal with that determination, then probably it’s him,” said Arteta after the game.
“He’s played more minutes than anybody else but he keeps going, even when he is so tired. He tries to help the team in the right way and the same like with David.
“For someone like him, at his age, to play again quickly after the game we had to play against Benfica, it was tough.
“But they had the real attitude that they wanted to be involved, they wanted to play and that’s how they approach every game.”
Pepe’s magic trick
Now you see it, now you don’t.
Nicolas Pepe has turned heads since he arrived at Arsenal for his delicate touches and intelligent footwork.
Although he’s admittedly struggled at times the Ivorian’s form in the latter stages of this season has been some of the best football we’ve seen from him.
During the second half Pepe dragged the ball past Marc Albrighton and nutmegged the Foxes midfielder with a composure that we’ve become accustomed to from the former Lille man.
It’s delightful to see Pepe enjoying his football and snatching at every opportunity he gets after not featuring in the win over Benfica in midweek.
Here’s to more of the same from the most skilful player in north London!
Stop the count
Football fans can have a cruel sense of humour at times and the decision to open a Twitter account counting down the days until Willian’s contract ends at Arsenal is certainly that.
The former Chelsea man has had a difficult time since swapping blue for the red side of north London but over the last couple of matches something has clearly changed.
He made an excellent cameo appearance against Benfica, providing the assist for Kieran Tierney as the Gunners sparked a late win over the Portuguese side in Greece.
STOP THE COUNT!
— Days Until Willian’s Contract Ends (@WillianContract)
Rewarded with an opportunity to impress from the start at the King Power, the 32-year-old laid on two assists for David Luiz and Nicolas Pepe as Arsenal beat the Foxes 3-1.
Both Willian and manager Arteta will be hoping that it’s a sign of further things to come from a player who the Spaniard has persisted with over the past few weeks.
ESR32 X CR7
The only downside of Arsenal’s win over Leicester was the sight of Emile Smith Rowe walking down the tunnel in the first half after suffering an injury.
Smith Rowe was replaced by Martin Odegaard and during the commentary on BT Sport it was mentioned that the Norwegian once made his debut as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown responded by saying “he’s not that good, but might be in the future” in reference to Smith Rowe.
Indeed, the England youngster has drew praise from fans and pundits alike for his excellent performances over the past few months.
He will certainly be hoping to follow in the footsteps of such big names as he continues to cement a place in the first team set-up at Arsenal.