Arsenal’s rebuild arrived out of necessity. In the previous two decades, the London-based club consistently finished in the top four of the Premier League. In fact, the Gunners qualified for 19 straight Champions League group stages until 2017/18.
Unsurprisingly, the fan base developed an expectation of domestic and, at least to some extent, European success. Now, Arsenal finds itself outside of the conversation for Champions League qualification. While Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea battle for Premier League titles, the club from the Emirates Stadium is simply a mid-table side.
Arsenal’s rebuild is one that will take time. Of course, different people have different perspectives on acceptable durations of rebuild before the club should blow it up and try again. In Arsenal’s case, the foundation is there.
Patience with Arsenal’s rebuild
Most sports fans don’t exactly react well to the word ‘patience’ regarding their favorite team. Unfortunately for many teams, supporters want convincing results immediately.
Nevertheless, there are some cases in which patience is undoubtedly needed. Perhaps the most common need for calmness and patience is when a particular team is young but shows potential. Or, the club’s manager is clearly building for the future. Both of these examples happen to be true at Arsenal right now.
Just four years ago, Arsenal’s players had an average age of 26.5, which was about average for Premier League clubs at the time. That middle-of-the-pack squad finished sixth in the Premier League. Good for a Europa League spot, but not up to the standards and without a clear view for the future.
However, at the start of the current campaign, the Gunners now average just 24.1 years old. Remarkably, this is almost a whole year younger than the second-youngest team, Brentford.
The nearly two-and-a-half year difference may not seem like a big deal to some, but they are the youngest Premier League squad since 2008/09 (also Arsenal).
Manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu developed crystal clear plan for the summer transfer market for Arsenal’s rebuild. They wanted to buy young, talented players that both fit the club’s current system well and will progressive over time. All six summer signings by the north London club were aged 21-23.
READ MORE: Grading Europe’s biggest clubs’ transfer windows.
Many pundits criticized Arsenal’s spending, which led all Premier League clubs in terms of expenditure. Much of that came from the fact that many believed Arsenal needed immediate results, not future success. Even then, the new sextet of Gunners performed well in the opening pair of months this season. In fact, new defender Takehiro Tomiyasu was awarded as the club’s Player of the Month for September, with Aaron Ramsdale finishing second in the poll.
Arsenal’s immediate results
Along with this young crop of players, Arteta is also a young coach. This combination will almost certainly guarantee some growing pains along the way. Despite the fact that the Spaniard led Arsenal to another FA Cup trophy in his first season as a head coach, Arteta is still learning and will only get better leading his team.
Gunner supporters took to Twitter following a disappointing draw against Crystal Palace last week, with some large fan accounts even suggesting that the draw should be the end of Arteta’s days as the club’s manager. Four days following the discouraging match, Arsenal managed to bounce back with an emphatic victory of Aston Villa.
There will undoubtedly be ups and downs throughout the current campaign with this group of players, such is the nature of a young squad and a young manager.
However, there is reason to feel cautiously optimistic about Arsenal’s future. The more this young team plays, the more comfortable and confident they will be. Surely a handful of COVID-19 cases and injuries contributed to Arsenal’s slow start this season. In fact, Arsenal’s first choice defending five (including goalkeeper) did not all play together until their win against Norwich on September 11. Since these players have been on the pitch together, the Gunners remain unbeaten in all competitions.
Some expected the so-called ‘process’ to progress a bit more than it has so far, but it was always going to take time. Arsenal have, however, seem to be headed in the proper direction.
With the club just three points adrift of a Champions League place with three-quarters of the season remaining, this group of youngsters should soon be back in contention for a European spot once again.