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The Swiss pocket knife – NRK Sport – Sports news, results and broadcasting schedule

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The Swiss pocket knife – NRK Sport – Sports news, results and broadcasting schedule

In football, a victory can be many things. It can be ready, simple or deserved. If you win by a lot, we can talk about overtaking and outclassing.

On Monday night, Arsenal won a game that needed another word.

They were so good that it simply hurt.

Poor Sheffield United were 3-0 down after a quarter of an hour. Parts of the fans went home almost as soon as they had sat down, and those who remained saw a home team with zero chances and zero hope.

As a neutral, it was hoped that Arsenal would show mercy, and they did – Martin Ødegaard’s team “only” won 6–0.

In normal times, such a victory would have been unusual for Arsenal. But this time, and this gang, is anything but normal.

Brazil in Norway

Arsenal haven’t been that good since The Invincibles won the league in 2004.

In the “world‘s best league”, Arsenal stroll through matches as if Brazil’s national team had been invited to the Norway Cup. In seven rounds, they have seven wins and a goal difference of 31–3. The last three away games have ended 5–0, 5–0, 6–0.

A LOT TO CHEER FOR: Arsenal have been scoring goals lately, like here, when Leandro Trossard scored the 3-1 goal against Liverpool in February.

Photo: AFP

Whatever coach Mikel Arteta did at the team’s training camp in January has worked. The only blemish has been the loss against Porto in the Champions League, but there Arsenal lack experience.

It is the league they are built to win. Although Liverpool and Manchester City are one and two points ahead, Arsenal maintain the highest speed, thanks to extreme versatility. Whatever the situation calls for, they have the tools needed.

Ødegaard is the core of the league’s Swiss army knife.

Has no Haaland – and that’s fine

This Swiss pocket knife is first and foremost robust.

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Arsenal have the league’s best stopping pair in Gabriel Magalhães and William Saliba. Arteta has borrowed from his old teacher, Pep Guardiola, by inserting an extra stopper (Ben White) as a back, who gives the team an extra dose of physicality.

In front of the defence, Declan Rice has tackled, headed and fought his rivals down low.

The reds from North London have conceded 23 goals, which is the fewest in the league, and if you look at expected goals, it should have been 18 or 19.

The pocket knife also has a number of offensive tools.

DEVASTATING ON THE WING: Right winger Bukayo Saka, here in a duel with Sheffield United’s Auston Trusty.

Photo: Reuters

Arsenal’s passing game has once again become sharp enough to cut through defences. If they take the lead, Arsenal can counter with their speedy wings, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who have both found form at the right time.

At the top, Arteta can vary between a classic striker in Gabriel Jesus and elegant Kai Havertz, who has answered his critics with five goals in three league games.

Arsenal have no Erling Braut Haaland, but without a static striker, the rivals also do not know where the next threat will come from. Arsenal have seven players with five goals or more.

A large part of the team’s core is Ødegaard. The captain doesn’t score as often as before, but he creates more, and stands out as the symbol of what Arsenal has become.

If none of these elements work, Arteta has one last tool he can pull out from the knife: Death balls.

Guru’s

Arteta knows that one good set-piece coach can be behind as many goals as a striker for NOK 700 million.

Arsenal’s guru is Nicolas Jover, a Frenchman Arteta brought from City, who has made them the league’s most dangerous team from corners and free kicks.

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It’s easy to laugh at Arsenal when the man they send out to take the corner is Declan Rice, a 185cm gladiator. But no one is smiling when Rice time and again serves the ball on the forehead of Gabriel or Saliba.

This season, Arsenal have scored 18 goals from set pieces, which is the best in the league.

DANGEROUS UP FORWARD: Center back Gabriel Magalhães is a handful for opponents at set pieces.

Foto: ANDREW COULDRIDGE / Reuters

It is this versatility that makes Arsenal so special.

Arteta has not only created his own version of Manchester City, with high pressing, raw recovery and a passing game that can control games from start to finish.

He has combined these qualities with the heavy physique of Sean Dyche’s Burnley, a bunch of fighting men who won games with blood, sweat and tears, and who almost regarded corners as penalties.

Arsenal’s defenders have scored 11 league goals this season. If Arteta’s men don’t get through a defence, they can just go over.

Has silenced the parrots

Today’s Arsenal now have everything they used to lack.

If you last saw Arsenal play seven years ago, you’d think they only win with party football.

Arteta himself played for the club under Arsène Wenger from 2011 to 2016, when they entered the title race with technical players who were weighed and found too light.

PLAYER EXPERIENCE: Mikel Arteta played five years at Arsenal and knew the club well when he took over as manager in 2019.

Photo: Afp

In bars, pubs and television studios, the critics were as repetitive as parrots.

“They are too vulnerable.”

“They are too weak.”

“They lack leaders”.

Often Arsenal rolled the ball without scoring, before they were caught on a counterattack. Many felt that they missed the dueling power of Patrick Vieira, who left the team in 2005.

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Now Arsenal have fixed these mistakes. The defense is very strong. Rice is a modern version of Vieira. And the leadership qualities are taken from Drammen.

The great father

Suddenly, it is Arsenal who have the most stability in the title race.

Liverpool’s games are far more open, partly because they are struggling with injuries, and at the weekend they needed a goal eight minutes into injury time to beat Nottingham Forest.

City crushed Manchester United, but squandered their chances and let in some dangerous counterattacks. Before the derby, City had only scored three goals in three league games.

Arsenal have no significant parts of their game that stand out as weak. They have the best form, the best goal difference and the best underlying numbers.

The biggest dangers are injuries to important players.

Last March, Arsenal were leading the league by five points when Saliba injured his back. The defense collapsed and City jogged past on the run-up side.

Now Arsenal only lacks left-back Oleksandr Zintchenko, as long as Martinelli’s recent foot injury is not serious.

Arteta claims they have learned from what went wrong last year and the results suggest he is right. Next weekend, Liverpool face City, which could mean Arsenal climb to the top.

This increases the chance of Ødegaard lifting the trophy in May. Arsenal are not leading the league, but right now they seem the best.

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