While a 1-0 victory over Burnley might not have caught the eye as anything particularly remarkable, it was an important landmark in Arsenal’s season so far. Indeed, three points at Turf Moor represented the first time Mikel Arteta’s side had won back-to-back games. It was also the first time the Spaniard had presented at least some part of his vision for the Gunners.
Arsenal were hardly emphatic in their win over Burnley, but they were solid at the back with Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White showing signs of a partnership in central defence. Further forward, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe were also effective in giving Arsenal a platform from which to launch attacks.
They had width on the wings through Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave them threat in the penalty box. Even Aaron Ramsdale, whose signing from Sheffield United was widely criticised at the time, was impressive after seemingly replacing Bernd Leno as the Gunners’ number one goalkeeper.
Perhaps the biggest positive, though, came in the performance of Thomas Partey who made his first Premier League
Arsenal don’t have anyone else who can perform Thomas’ role like the man himself can. Arteta has other midfield options in the form of Albert Sambi Lokonga and Granit Xhaka, as well as Odegaard and Smith Rowe, but Thomas is one of the best central anchors in the European game at this moment.
“He’s really important because he is the anchor. He is the one that needs to read what is happening and make the rest better. That’s his biggest job, to get the right balance in the team and get the right fluidity in the team so we can attack,” Arteta explained after the away victory over Burnley.
“How he managed the transitions was top, he has the pressing and the charisma, and then he struggled at the end,” Arteta continued when asked to elaborate on the midfielder’s display at Turf Moor. “He could not finish the game because he was cramping. But that will come up. He missed a long time but now he’s back again and he needs some more fitness back.”
This weekend’s North London derby could be another landmark moment in Arsenal’s season, and in their development as a team under Arteta. Tottenham Hotspur have also experienced trouble early on this season with Nuno Espirito Santo struggling to find a way to link his midfield with his attack.
Harry Kane, still at Spurs after a summer transfer saga that didn’t result in a transfer, has been left isolated in almost every game he has played. Derby day might spark the England captain into life again, but Arsenal showed enough defensive resolution in the win over Burnley to suggest they could keep out Tottenham.
Arsenal have an opportunity to get one over their closest rivals and also underline the gradual progress they are making. Arteta finally has many of his key parts in place and it could be argued that nobody is more important to the Gunners and their chances of moving forward this season than Thomas.