Can Gunners sustain winning tempo?


Johnny Edward

Arsenal made a perfect start to the Premier League this campaign, recording three straight wins from three games for the first time since 2004-05 season, thus sparking excitement among supporters of the once English giants.

There can be no better start to the season for the Gunners than these victories – a hard-fought win over Crystal Palace, followed by impressive victories against Leicester and Bournemouth.

The impressive start reignited the belief and hope of the club’s supporters, who have endured taunts for 18 years following their failure to win the Premier League.

In football crazy Nigeria, Arsenal have one of the highest fan base, alongside Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Indeed, their Nigerian fans are known for their unshakeable loyalty.

There have been no Premier League titles for the Gunners in the last 18 years, just one second place finish and five FA Cup wins.

Arsenal, of course, only have one final appearance to boast of in the Champions League, but their fans aren’t having none of that despite these lack of achievements that their rival fans mock them with.

In fact, in Okene, in Kogi State, an Arsenal Day is celebrated yearly.

The origins of the celebration are mostly unknown, although rumours suggest that the festival first started when two villages banded together to celebrate the Invincibles’ success (in 2004), reaching the Champions League final and the opening of the Emirates Stadium.

Despite years of celebrations, those who turn up to the party have had precious little to cheer, but the fans from Okene continue to turn up.

Wearing an Arsenal shirt appears mandatory, with many of the fans also choosing to wear white jeans and trousers.

Banners and posters of players and pro-Arsenal messages are hung on the wall, while red and white bunting is hung all around.

The day, according to the fans, has been something of a good omen for the north London club.

The Gunners, who were founded in 1886, have won the English topflight league 13 times, the last time coming in the 2003/04 season, when they claimed the title in style, going unbeaten.

This term, they’ve been electrifying, however, playing high octane tempo football in their opening three games.

The Gunners looked hungry as they got their campaign off to the perfect start with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace in an entertaining 2022-23 Premier League curtain-raiser at Selhurst Park.

They followed that up with a 4-2 win over Leicester City, with the impressive Gabriel Jesus scoring his first Premier League goals for the Gunners at Emirates Stadium.

The Brazilian striker, signed from Manchester City in the summer, scored twice before the break and missed several chances for a hat-trick as well as assisting his side’s other goals.

Their third game saw Arteta’s side beat Bournemouth 2-0.

The wheels could of course fall off and Mikel Arteta will be aware of that, after last season’s late capitulation in chase of Champions League football.

“Just wait until they face a Top Six side,” Arsenal fan Segun Onipede, an Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company official, told PUNCH Sports Extra.

“We will know where we stand when we face Manchester United, who outclassed Liverpool on Monday, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City in October, then Chelsea in early November – but it’s plain to see this Arsenal squad is an upgrade on the one that finished fifth three months ago.

“I think the Gunners stand a good chance of making the Top Four this season, the title may be a big dream if you ask me. If they stay consistent without losing till December, we can start dreaming.”

David Anana, a businessman, said Arteta’s side had shown enough potential to finish in the Top Four at the end of the season.

“These opening wins have sparked up excitement but whether that is enough for the top four come next May remains to be seen.”

Chukwudi Onoemene believes that Arsenal are on course for another league invincibility, claiming this squad is good enough to match the unbelievable feat of Arsene Wenger’s unbeaten team in the 2003/04 season.

Under Wenger, Arsenal went on the longest unbeaten Premier League run with 49 games.

“This Arsenal side can go invincible again,” he said. They have every quality to achieve that and I believe if they maintain this resilience they can go unbeaten and win the title.”

Some fans however held less lofty ambitions for their Gunners, but hopeful this sustained performance could lead them back to a Top Four finish again.

“Arsenal will make it to Champions League Next Year Mark my words,” Taiwo Adejuwon wrote on Twitter.

“Arsenal is on fire. The Gunners kept two clean sheets in three games for the first time since March,” Rahman Ogunbiyi noted.

Kazeem Ewulo, who works with Chivita, added, “They have started well and what I think could give them an edge is if the team avoids injuries and they are consistent for the better part of the season. It is going to be tough, but I believe they have had a great start and must work on it because the difference in points isn’t much at all.”

But a rival Chelsea fan Omotunde Dada insists the Gunners can’t be judged by their bright start, going by their antecedents.

“If the Gunners are to use this start to push them on to a successful season, they must first navigate the first half of the season, defeating teams with more recent experience of lifting the EPL title, before I can see them as contenders, not top contenders,” Dada stated.