The headline says it all.
Arsenal are the only team who can stop Manchester City’s title procession
The strength of the headline in the Telegraph is somewhat undermined by the sentence that opens the article, which asks the question, “Are Arsenal already the only team who can stop Manchester City from winning a fifth Premier League title in just six seasons?”
And of course, there are other factors that crop up soon after, such as the fact that this is initially an article about Liverpool’s failure not about Arsenal’s rise to the top. Sentences such as, “Should Liverpool lose to Arsenal it may, even this early into the campaign, be insurmountable for them. Back in mid-January Liverpool were 14 points in arrears to City, with Chelsea appearing the most likely challengers, with two games in hand, and clawed that lead back before finishing just a point behind.”
And besides, the piece continues, Tottenham are still “in the reckoning” although the piece does have the grace to admit that Tottenham really did lose to Arsenal, and not by the one lucky goal, as the press would normally say. Beside, Tottenham have the more experienced manager and probably a stronger squad.” This is, they say, “all new to Mikel Arteta”
But let us not be too churlish, for this comes alongside other articles in the printed media and reports on radio and TV in which Arsenal have moved from being certain not to get in the top four (as all the media stated before the season) to top four contenders (after half a dozen games) to challenging for second.
So Arsenal are now “the unlikeliest of likely challengers” – which is the media’s way of saying they didn’t see this coming. No one in the media admits that they got their predictions wrong, and there will always be the “of course there’s a long way to go” comments – but these only serve to contrast with the fact that last season, after three league games, there were no “there’s a long way to go comments”. The only thing that mattered then was the first three games. Now ten games are not enough to make a complete judgement.
And particularly welcoming is the statement that Arsenal overwhelmed Tottenham. That’s what I thought at the match, but it is a big movement for the media to consider this the correct summary of the match as well.
What is missing however is any explanation as to how this happened, and most certainly no commentary on how Untold got it right and the media en masse got it so horribly wrong. The Telegraph does remember that “after eight games of the previous two seasons, Arteta’s first two campaigns, Arsenal were in 12th place,” and from there one might hope they might finally admit how things were turned around in the last two-thirds of 2020/21 and the last 35 games of 2021/22.
But no, in this case, the article jumps to “Indeed it is the first time since 2013 that Arsenal have been top at this point although the excitement is tempered by what happened that season. They finished fourth.”
And the Telegraph even finds a new twist for the issue on the “Arsenal have had an easy set of fixtures” which should have read “Tottenham have had an easy set of fixtures.” Now we get…
“Arsenal’s next opponents are: Leeds United, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Only Chelsea – and, granted, it is away at Stamford Bridge – are currently in the top half of the table. Two of those five teams are in the bottom three. That is a highly winnable sequence for Arteta. City’s run is, in theory, trickier.”
Oh and there’s another trick that Arsenal have pulled. “Arsenal may, actually, have fewer players at the World Cup, because Martin Odegaard [isn’t going] while none of Arsenal’s three Brazilians made it into their country’s last squad.” Certainly, the fewer players we have going to the WC the better in my view, for the more players we will have rested and ready to rumble once the wretched competition in the appalling anti-human rights country is over, the better.
There is no thought that Arsenal will actually stop Manchester C from winning another title of course, that would be going far too far, and I’m not sure even I think that is the case, but there is the hope that Arsenal might stop Manchester City winning the title by Christmas.
But there is a danger of course. “this is completely new territory for this manager and for this group of players.” Which sets Arsenal up to fall for, “this weekend may reveal whether they are in one again – and whether they are becoming the only credible opposition to what may otherwise turn out to be a Haaland-led City procession.”
So that’s it: one game will tell us everything. A bit silly, but still, that is probably the most positive thing anyone is going to write about Arsenal in the mainstream media this season. And is probably more than most Arsenal fans expected at the start of the season. It’s just a shame the media can’t really bring themselves to explain how it happened.
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