What a difference a week makes!
Arsenal headed into Christmas in crisis, but now they are approaching 2021 with a sense of new found belief thanks to back-to-back wins.
Mikel Arteta’s side returned to form to end their seven-game winless streak in the Premier League when they beat Chelsea on Boxing Day and they backed that up with a 1-0 success at Brighton on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t the best of performances at the Amex Stadium from Arteta’s side, especially during the first half, when they managed just one shot.
But they improved drastically after the interval, inspired by the excellent Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, and secured all three points thanks to a goal from Alexandre Lacazette, who finished off a wonderful move from Saka just 21 seconds after coming off the bench.
The win lifted Arsenal up to 13th in the Premier League and moved them nine points clear of the relegation zone. More importantly, it leaves them just six points off the top six.
A season that was in danger of complete collapse less than a week ago, now looks salvageable thanks to two wins largely inspired by the club’s academy stars.
Fans have been crying out for the introduction of Smith Rowe for weeks and the 20-year-old has made a huge difference having finally been let off the leash over the past two games.
He lined up in the No.10 role against Brighton, just as he did against Chelsea, and although he was kept quiet by the impressive Yves Bissouma in the first half, he sprung to life in the second.
The young playmaker was involved in almost everything Arsenal did well after the break and his link-up play with Saka caused the home side all sorts of problems.
One fantastic break involving both players led to Saka picking out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the centre and only a superb point blank save from Robert Sanchez denied the Arsenal skipper the opening goal.
But Sanchez could do nothing to keep out Lacazette’s effort on 66 minutes.
The goal came just 21 seconds after the Gunners striker had replaced Gabriel Martinelli and although it was a fine finish from the Frenchmen, it was all down to Saka.
Arsenal’s young winger picked up possession in his own half before driving forward into the Brighton box and picking out Lacazette with a perfect cut-back.
It was yet another moment which showcased the quality of the 19-year-old and highlighted why there are plenty of reasons for Arsenal to head into 2021 in a positive mood.
There have been some dark times during the past couple of months but in the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal have some attacking talents that have already started to lift the gloom.
And with Thomas Partey now back in training and close to a return, suddenly things are looking much better for Arteta, who will certainly be resting easier two wins on the spin.
Partey’s introduction to the central midfield will make a huge difference and only add to the dynamism that Arsenal have shown in attack over the past two games.
The Ghana international has been a huge miss while he’s been sidelined with his thigh injury and Arsenal’s shortcomings in central midfield were exposed without him once again at Brighton, particularly during a drab opening 45 minutes.
Partey will more than likely miss the trip to West Brom on January 2 but should be available to face Newcastle in the FA Cup a week later.
That will be a huge boost to Arteta, who will now be looking forward to 2021 hoping that the worst is behind him.