Gunners are on the right road

Arteta's settled Arsenal side are very clearly now a team on the up
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores his side’s third goal of the game yesterday afternoon

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores his side’s third goal of the game yesterday afternoon

Paul McGrath

Well now, wasn't that a bit tasty from Arsenal yesterday.

I know, I know, Fulham are one of the promoted teams and staying in the Premier League will be success for them this season.

Yet there was a lot to like about the Gunners, who look like a team on the up to me.

In my Premier League preview last week, I didn't put Arsenal in my top four, but that effort at Craven Cottage by Mikel Arteta's team certainly caught my eye.

What may hold them back is that I still think Arsenal are a fair way off the really best teams.

In the head-to-heads with Liverpool and the Manchesster clubs, I suspect they are going to come up short.

But this fine opening day performance suggested to me that Arsenal will be well able to put away the weaker teams, something that they didn't always do of late.

Usually on the first day of a new campaign, when we say a team had a good end-of-season and won the FA Cup, we are talking about events that are three months old.

Of course now, in this strangest of times, we are talking about things that are a month old - and where teams have done precious little summer trading.

And remember too, that while I still doubt Arsenal long-term in the Premier League, they did beat Manchester City and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final and Final respectively.

So, on a one-off basis, Arsenal can be confident they can mix it with the very best. What we need to see from them is grinding it out week after week, and every midweek too in this compacted season.

For all of those doubts, I do believe that, finally, I think we can say that the Arsene Wenger era is over at Arsenal.

In just nine months, during most of which he could not work with his players, Arteta has clearly put his stamp on the team.

That's in the way they move, they way they play and in the crispness of their passing.


Maybe now we know why Pep Guardiola was most unhappy to lose Arteta from his Manchester City backroom team when Arsenal came calling for their man.

Pep knew he had a good coach working with him - and when things are going well, you don't want to lose a man like that.

But Arsenal have him know and I suspect they are very happy about that.

I liked the look of Gabriel at centre-half. That's a position that has bedevilled the London club of late, but he looks like a serious player to me.

As, of course, is Pierre-Emerick Aubaymeyang, what a brilliant goal he scored yesterday, with the pass from Willian and then the skipper's cut inside and strike.

We still haven't heard of a new contract for Arsenal's Gabonese star.

And really that is the one blight on Arsenal's horizon right now.

They cannot afford to lose him now, and the fact that the season has started with Aubaymeyang still scoring goals has to be a good sign.

Yes, money always talks. But teams who would be wanting to be a classy striker like Aubaymeyang would be sniffing around him now.

The money you spend on a player like him is not an after-thought. If one of Europe's elite clubs was going to move for him, surely we'd have heard of it now.

And maybe the lack of any news like that, is what is allowing Arsenal's Board to stall and delay giving their man a fancy new contract.

If Juventus or re-building Barcelona had been in touch, Arsenal might have moved to tie down their man by now.

Arteta did one really good thing yesterday. He nailed down the fact that Bernd Leno is his No 1 goalkeeper.

Any doubt at all about who the top netminder is can infect a club. Players don't like it when there is not certainty at this position.

Emiliano Martinez did very well for Arsenal, while Leno was out injured, but the word is that my old club Aston Villa is ready to splash the clash for Martinez.

To me that's good business all around. The Villa would get a very good goalkeeper, and Arsenal would get £20million to spend on another player, to improve in another area, and it settled the goalkeeping issue as a bonus with the German Leno now clearly the main man.


Yes, it is going nicely so far for Arteta, but this is only one game of a 38-game marathon and if I was a 'Gooner' I'd be hoping that the club might move to get another quality centre-half, and, of course, nail down Aubaymeyang for the next two or three years.

Then they could begin to dream of what must be their ambition for the season, to get into the 2021/22 Champions League.

As for Fulham, they don't have the usual problem of a team that is destined for the bottom half of the table - they do have a top-notch goalscorer in Alexander Mitrovic.

Far be it from me to question a young manager getting going in the game like Scott Parker.

But apparently he left Mitrovic on the bench at the start of this one because the lad had not had too many pre-season minutes, and had been off on a fortnight's Nations League duty with Serbia.

I have to say I'd have done it the other way around.

I'd have started with Mitrovic and told him: "Give me everything you have for 65 minutes and then I'll take you off."

Instead, by the time Fulham's best player came on, the game was up, literally, and Arsenal had a firm grip on the points.

I'LL be very interested to see how a re-building Chelsea side gets on in their Premier League opener tomorrow night.

I say 're-building' because the word is that Frank Lampard is still looking to buy a goalkeeper, another centre-half and a defensive midfielder.

Given all the players he has already bought, including Thiago Silva, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, Lampard is really putting his mark on this team.

And, in a roundabout way, that explains why the young manager is very high up the bookies list for the 'Sack Race.'

That's because Frank is spending all the money Chelsea couldn't spend last year when they were banned from transfer activity - when they got over £150million for Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata.

But Frank also works for an owner with a quick trigger-finger in Roman Abramovich.

If he gets the slightest notion Frank has not assembled a good team with prospects, he won't hesitate to act.

Remember this is the guy who fired Roberto di Matteo six months after he led Chelsea to the Champions League title. So if Frank makes the buys he wants, he'll be expected to win.


I suspect he was given a free pass last year as the club couldn't sign players and they had been forced to let Hazard leave. But now I'd expect Frank has a mission statement - win the Premier League or the Champions League this season or next.

Chelsea have too far to travel to finish ahead of both Liverpool and Manchester City. But, in 2022, that's where they will aim to be.

I think we can say that the Arsene Wenger era is over at Arsenal

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