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‘We’ve Got Our Arsenal Back’

What a glorious team goal that was.

Aaron Ramsey collects the ball near his own corner flag. One touch out of his feet sets him up for his second, which plays it into the path of Alexandre Lacazette. Providing the support, he receives possession and delicately flicks it over his French teammate’s head who, with the ball still in flight, feeds it into the path of Hector Bellerin in behind. Arsenal are onto something.

An audacious backheeled flick lands onto the Welshman’s head, having continued his run forward from deep. If the move had broken down here, the sequence would still have been replayed over and over again. It doesn’t.

Ball bouncing, Ramsey heads on towards Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who swivels on the spot and lays it off for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang down the left channel.

Composure comes into play, as the Gabonese striker makes no snap judgments. Lifting his head up to see the dummy run from Ramsey, he plays him in on the edge of the six-yard box. With plenty still left to do, the midfielder latches onto the pass with a nonchalant stroke of his left heel; an exceptionally measured touch of the ball that evades all in the box, but most crucially Marcus Bettinelli in net, as it nestles casually into the far corner.

Goals such as these don’t come about all too often. While it was the third of the afternoon for the Gunners and signalled that the game was won, the overriding emotion was one of pure ecstasy. Poetry from back to front. A sweeping move that embodied the ‘Arsenal way’. A sign that Unai Emery was putting his stamp on this team and the road ahead was an upward trajectory with steel walls either side to prevent any veering off course.

We’ve got our Arsenal back‘ bellowed from the tightly tucked Craven Cottage away section. Smiles adorned the Putney End of the ground. Even those from home supporters, who are housed in the same stand – the only Premier League ground in the UK where there is no segregation between both sets of fans.

It will be almost exactly two years to the day when Arsenal return to west London for the 2020/21 Premier League season opener, coming into this clash poles apart from where we’d hoped to be in the aftermath of that victory. Finishing fifth that season and eighth in the most recent, the supporters did not, in fact, have their Arsenal back.

This is Arsenal we’re talking about, though. Even in the gloomiest of self-dug pits, there is always hope. Call it blind faith or sheer desperation, something, somewhere can be clung onto.

Four members of that starting XI have since moved on, two more from the bench, with others en route. Most importantly, however, so has the staff on the sidelines. Emery and his team have since departed, a scenario few saw coming after that resounding, aesthetically pleasing 5-1 drubbing.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 21: Unai Emery (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Lacazette’s two goals were him at his best, Aubameyang came off the bench and hit a fine brace, while Rob Holding looks assured in defence. What’s more, that was a ninth straight win. While the Ramsey goal acted as the trigger for the fans’ gleeful exuberance, it had come off the back of an impressive run of form. Arsenal were in the ascendancy and that sublime team goal was apotheosis of Emery’s reign.

23 months later the outlook resembles a similar degree of optimism, while equally nothing of the sort. Mikel Arteta is the new Spanish saviour, but with an approach that draws no parallels to his predecessor other than genuine excitement.

It will be reminded to us all again on Saturday lunchtime that our most recent visit to this famous stadium was memorable in its own right, but merely pulled the wool over our eyes in terms of what was to come.

A ground famous for its American contingent – Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Kasey Keller and Tim Ream, among others – is now the platform for renewed change for Arteta. The Stars and Stripes have glistened on this turf, but now Arsenal must show their own true colours.

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