It was only 11 days ago that West Brom manager Sam Allardyce said he considered Arsenal a relegation rival.
But after a week which Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta described as “crucial,” his side are now 12 points above the relegation zone and could be starting to look like European contenders once again.
When Allardyce took over at West Brom, the Gunners were in 15th place, four points off the bottom three with one victory in 10 Premier League games.
Now, following successive victories against Chelsea, Brighton, and West Brom, they are six points off the top four and 11th in the table.
“Everything looks much better,” Arteta said following Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Baggies, while former defender Martin Keown asked: “Why can’t they start looking towards Europe again?”
Arsenal is now six points off Leicester City in fourth place – the last of the Champions League qualification spots.
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright said the current side “lacked confidence” during their poor run, and Arteta urged his side to play without fear against West Brom.
He was rewarded as striker Alexandre Lacazette scored in his third successive league appearance – he had failed to score in the previous eight – Bukayo Saka, 19, was on the scoresheet again, Emile Smith Rowe, 20, was impressive and “fantastic” Kieran Tierney also picked up a goal and an assist.
“They had to keep believing in themselves but at the same time the manager took a lot of responsibility on himself in the way they were playing. They were playing with a lack of confidence. Wins are going to totally change that,” Wright told BBC Match of the Day.
“There are younger players coming in who are playing without fear.”
Arteta’s own verdict was also upbeat: “This is as close as it gets to what we want. This is an Arsenal team with the idea I want. There were certain moments when we were very close to that. The players had the handbrake off and you can see they are free to play.
“There were moments when we were really good, both defensively and offensively. This is exactly what we want the players to do. The energy and momentum are much more positive.
“It is always tough to win away from home and we have done it in a really convincing way. It’s three in a row and we had talked about the importance of this week.”
And Keown agrees with Wright that the influx of youth in the team has lifted Arsenal.
“Now, with the kids coming in, there is a real core that they can look to the future with,” he told BT Sport. “I like the way they have reacted. There has been a lot of character and a lot of passion. The youngsters are leading the way for Arsenal.”
In contrast, it’s been a week to forget for Allardyce and West Brom.
Their celebrated 1-1 draw with champions Liverpool at Anfield has been quickly forgotten following a 5-0 drubbing by Leeds and the 4-0 loss to Arsenal.
West Brom has now suffered three home defeats under Allardyce – conceding 12 goals and scoring none in the process – and they remain second from bottom, six points from safety.
“I bet [Allardyce] wishes he stayed next to the fire with his slippers on rather than coming back into management,” Keown said on BT Sport.
“It was so unlike one of Sam Allardyce’s team. They are mainly schoolboy errors and there is so much to fix. There is still time for him to put it right but I saw no signs of it here.”
Former West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry added: “In his [Allardyce’s] heart of hearts, he knows the size of this task is huge.”
Culled from BBCSports