Arsenal Invincibles Mk II: the progress of the process can no longer be denied under Arteta

Matthew Stead

Arsenal achieved two things at Bournemouth: they underlined Mikel Arteta’s progress and chanted their way into the nation’s subconscious.


As is Premier League tradition, the team sheets were released and tectonic plates were shifted by the sheer weight of journalistic importance. There was the usual rush to get the right frame and angle for a specific picture to tweet as proof of attendance, or for uniformity, or just for something to do in the hour or so before kick-off.

Hidden in those readily available details was something quite startling. A fixture between Bournemouth and Arsenal ordinarily bears no real historic importance. They had met 12 times before, with one early-round League Cup game in 1987 the exception to a rule of 21st century bouts from which most would be able to recall nothing of particular note.

Their previous Premier League match did finally imbue the Cherries versus the Gunners with a sense of significance. In December 2019 this was Mikel Arteta’s first game as Arsenal manager. Indeed, it was his dugout debut as any kind of head coach. And the transformation in less than three years since has been astonishing.

Those line-ups told one chapter of a multi-layered story. Only three players who started that first game of the treacherous post-Freddie Ljungberg era took part in this match for Arsenal. And one of those was in net for Bournemouth.

Aaron Ramsdale joined Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka as the survivors, surrounded by memories of Sokratis, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson and Mesut Ozil.

They were perhaps the only remnants of that 1-1 draw in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was required to equalise after Dan Gosling’s opener. That Arsenal were lost, seasons away from any sort of salvation, in desperate search of meaning and almost entirely disconnected from the fanbase.

This iteration managed not only to lodge the earworm of a William Saliba chant into the nation’s subconscious, but they had their diligent singing rewarded with a stunning finish from the centre-half to round off the most routine of victories.

The Frenchman could have played all evening and not misplaced a single pass. Kieffer Moore promised a different sort of challenge, but absolutely not a successful one.

It was his introduction to the team which forced Benjamin White into an unfamiliar right-back position for the season but even he is acclimatising wonderfully to the role. His one-two with Saka and piercing run down the wing helped tee up Martin Odegaard’s second goal.

Martin Odegaard celebrates after scoring for Arsenal in the 3-0 Premier League win over Bournemouth

But his first was covered in those sumptuous fingerprints of Gabriel Jesus, who plucked a high ball out of the sky and turned debutant Marcos Senesi in the same movement, before sprinting past Jefferson Lerma, dancing past Adam Smith and luring Chris Mepham in, only to find the reverse run of Gabriel Martinelli over his shoulder.

Mark Travers saved the subsequent shot but Odegaard adjusted beautifully to open the scoring after five minutes. The control and calm Arsenal exuded thereafter was jarring.

But preconceptions around Arsenal have needed changing for a while. They are not physically weak and perennially lacking an heir to Patrick Vieira. They are not too young and their manager is not too inexperienced. Their transfer philosophy needs no explanation as it speaks for itself. And it turns out signing two players from the regular Premier League champions doesn’t hurt.

There will be greater tests to come, more relevant appraisals of precisely where they sit at England’s top table. But for now, Arsenal will take a 3-0 win that puts them top and keeps their record perfect, especially considering Arteta’s last trip here resulted in a 1-1 draw that put them 11th.