After dismantling Lens in the Champions League on Wednesday night, the challenge for Arsenal is to bring their attacking flair to the home front.
It has not been easy in the Premier League this season, as teams have starved Arsenal of the space their attackers need to thrive.
In Europe, however, it has been a different story, the Gunners relishing the open nature of games. But there is no way Wolves will arrive at Emirates Stadium on Saturday with the same game plan.
“European football is a bit different, maybe a bit more transitions, a bit more open,” said Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard. “Of course, we want to take that into the League. We want to keep playing well, keep scoring goals and [playing] good offensive football. We have to defend well and then play good when we have the ball.”
Finding a key to crack the code is not easy, but Arsenal must get used to teams sitting deep and trying to frustrate them. They top the League and, after their title charge last season, teams respect them more than ever during Mikel Arteta’s reign.
Despite good results, it has been a difficult few months for Arteta, who has had to juggle injuries in attack. Now, however, he is able to field the front six he assembled in the summer — and there are promising signs.
Far greater tests than Lens at home are needed, but the way the midfield of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Odegaard combined with the forward line of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli was encouraging.
It was the first time this season all six had started together and they gave a glimpse of what the next phase of Arteta’s project could look like.
Rice has chopped and changed between playing at the base of midfield and further forward this season, but Wednesday underlined how he should be deployed in the former role. Whenever there was a rare Lens attack, Rice broke it up, and his ability to cover so much ground makes it almost like Arsenal have an extra player pushing forward.
His defensive stability gives licence for Odegaard to create and, perhaps more importantly, Havertz, too. The German has had a difficult start following his £65million move from Chelsea, but two goals in as many games suggests he has turned a corner. He certainly has his confidence back, trying audacious flicks and nutmegs that even a week ago seemed unthinkable.
Key to Havertz looking more settled is the forward line ahead of him. Jesus’s movement provides space for him to drive into, while out wide he gets service from Martinelli and Saka.
Arteta will have to rotate over this coming month, which sees Arsenal play eight times, but he will want to continue deploying this newly assembled front six as much as possible.
He has had to be patient to do so but, on the evidence so far, it has been worth the wait.