Arsenal haven’t lost a game since August and 13 of their players were called up to represent their country’s senior team during the recent international break
Euro 2020 was a wake-up call for Arsenal.
The Gunners had just four players at the tournament – Bukayo Saka, Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney and Bernd Leno – none of whom were expected to dominate the headlines.
Five years earlier, at Euro 2016, they had twice as many players – including Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. It was a measure of just how much they’d fallen behind.
As was their 2020-21 campaign. Arsenal finished a mere eighth in the Premier League, failing to qualify for Europe for the first time in more than two decades.
The situation looked bleak for manager Mikel Arteta. In just a matter of months, however, it’s improved significantly.
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Results obviously reflect this. The Gunners haven’t lost in any competition since August, surging to fifth in the Premier League table.
The recent international break, though, also shows how much they’ve grown under the Spaniard. Arsenal had 13 players representing their country at senior level during the past few days.
Three of which – Saka, Aaron Ramsdale and Emile Smith Rowe – started England’s victory against San Marino on Monday, a result that booked their spot at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Both Saka and Smith Rowe scored, while Ramsdale kept a clean sheet in the 10-0 drubbing.
It feels like a matter of time before those three – and defender Benjamin White – become a core part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
And that can only be a good thing for Arsenal.
Arteta and technical director Edu took a gamble during the summer when they invested in youth, yet it appears to be paying off.
Ramsdale, who made his senior England debut on Monday, recognises the progress Arsenal have made since he joined the club from Sheffield United in August.
“I’m delighted for those two [Saka and Smith Rowe],” said the goalkeeper after the victory. “It’s a really nice evening for us three lads and the football club on the whole.
“As a football club we’re making strides and we’ve delivered on the international stage tonight. I couldn’t be prouder of the two boys.”
When it comes to internationals, the next step for Arsenal will be developing their young talents into global stars. Although the club had plenty of players at Euro 2016, few of them would’ve been regarded among the continent’s best.
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But at Euro 2004 – which took place a month after the Gunners won their most recent Premier League title – the likes of Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry represented the Highbury faithful.
Developing that level of player – one that can realistically compete for the Ballon d’Or – is what Arteta, Edu and the rest of the club’s hierarchy need to aspire to.
For now, though, Arsenal fans should rejoice in having plenty of international stars again. The Londoners are on the up.