The younger trio revitalized Arsenal
Out with the old, in with the new?
Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Bernd Leno ensured the year-end mantra didn't quite match Arsenal's big Boxing Day win against Chelsea with a late penalty kick, but their win over their London rivals was sparked by the youth.
After just a few days before Christmas without a Premier League win in seven and a quarter-final defeat in the Carabao Cup, Arsenal were on their knees. A defeat would have increased the pressure on boss Mikel Arteta and caused the Gunners to wobble over the relegation zone.
With center-back Gabriel absent due to coronavirus regulations, Willian and David Luiz were unwell and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was only fit enough for the bench after his recent calf problem. Arteta's Arsenal squad was also exposed. He had no choice but to turn to the next generation.
The 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe faced the challenge together with the 19-year-old couple Gabriel Martinelli and the man of the game Bukayo Saka – and pulled their teammates decisively with them.
The toothless, wounded arsenal we've become familiar with over the past few months has been revitalized by these three talented, energetic players in attacking positions behind Lacazette.
Sky Sports expert Gary Neville praised Arsenal's enthusiasm and urgency. His colleague Alex Scott applauded their spark, their energy – and most importantly, the connections these young players had brought to Arsenal's attacking game. The Gunners were revived.
???? Arsenal's starting line-up today (mean age 25 years, 42 days) is the youngest to have won a PL game since September 2012 (24 years, 266 days in a 6-1 win at Southampton). Pic.twitter.com/JkHulRo2rN
– Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) December 26, 2020
Smith Rowe and Martinelli's hunger was evident in the Emirates in the first half. The pair made their first appearance in the Premier League of the season and brought Arsenal into the game.
In four of their last five home games, Arsenal were within 25 minutes behind. On Saturday they got out of the traps on purpose.
"It was different than in the last few games, we started really, really well," said Arteta afterwards. "We were at the top and that increased the team's confidence."
The young trio from Arsenal bring the energy
- Emile Smith Rowe ran further than any other player on the field in the first half: 5.74 km
- Bukayo Saka ran further than any other player on the field in the 90 minutes: 11.49 km
- Gabriel Martinelli made more sprints than any other player on the pitch in the 90 minutes: 20
Smith Rowe ran further than any other player on the pitch in the first 45 minutes when, in Neville's words, he "more than kept up" against N & # 39; Golo Kante. In the first period, no player could beat Martinelli's 12 sprints.
Saka, who would quit the game after covering more ground than anyone else, "made Chelsea look like old men," according to Neville.
The young England international once again showed his importance for this side – both now and for years to come. It was one of his many mazy runs that got Xhaka's free kick to roll home an adorable second and another that resulted in his cross-shot coming off Arsenal for the third time behind Edouard Mendy.
Teenager Saka hits Chelsea
Saka is the youngest Englishman to score for Arsenal against Chelsea since Theo Walcott in the 2007 League Cup final.
Smith Rowe got the support for this one, and it appeared that Saka was looking for Martinelli at the back post.
Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports before kick-off that you need both "personality" and quality in these big games. This young trio showed both qualities in abundance.
Maybe it was just Martinelli who marched off the pitch a bit sore – from a blow on the back and a handful of missed opportunities from his four-strong game. However, his boss would have been happy about his contribution.
The hope for Arteta will now be that his team – with this mixture of youth and experience – can use this moral-boosting victory as a launch pad.
Next up in the league are Brighton, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Newcastle. Four teams for Arsenal in the standings, but four teams will be favorites to beat in order to improve overall.
For the first time in a long time, Arsenal are now hoping to build positive momentum.
Arteta can thank its young, rising stars for restoring that belief.