BOURNEMOUTH, England — Martin Odegaard scored twice and William Saliba found the net with a brilliant effort as Mikel Arteta’s Gunners won their third straight game to open the 2022-23 season. The 3-0 win vaults them to the top of the Premier League with their first perfect three-game opening to the season since 2004-05.
Here is our reaction to Saturday’s Premier League clash on the south coast.
1. Arsenal go from rock bottom to top of the league
Last year, Arsenal lost their first three games to sit bottom of the table with no goals and no points, triggering serious questions over Mikel Arteta’s management. A year on, they are top of the table on Saturday night after a resounding 3-0 win over Bournemouth that suggests Arteta has Arsenal in a place where they can seriously challenge for a top four spot.
The welcome contrasts are everywhere. Arteta’s first game in charge was against Bournemouth in December 2019, a 1-1 draw in which the Gunners scrambled to rescue a point. This time, they were 2-0 up on the south coast inside 11 minutes through Martin Odegaard’s brace, before William Saliba extended their lead nine minutes after half-time. Their dominance was total: Bournemouth had no touches in Arsenal’s box in the opening 45 minutes and ended with an xG of 0.29. The jubilant away support sang Arteta’s name and went through a repertoire that underlined the reconnection with their team — even Granit Xhaka, who was stripped of the captaincy less than three years ago, was among those serenaded.
Tougher tests are to come — Bournemouth will palpably struggle to stay up this season if reinforcements do not arrive before the window closes — but Arteta has the Gunners in a completely different place right now to the dark days of the past.
2. Jesus sets the tone
The record books will show Odegaard scored the opening goal here and Gabriel Martinelli assisted, but it was Gabriel Jesus‘ contribution that did the most to turn the match in Arsenal’s favour early on. Five minutes in, Jesus out-muscled Marcos Senesi before producing a superb first touch to help him spin into space, evade Jefferson Lerma, ghost beyond Marcus Tavernier before slipping a reverse pass away from Chris Mepham to release Martinelli for a shot at goal.
Leaving aside the sublime quality of that passage of play, it was precisely the sort of defiant moment that sets the tone for the entire team. Past incarnations of Arsenal would start away matches like this with doubts over their hunger for the fight, allowing opponents to grow into the game as they sensed an opportunity.
Not this time.
Arteta has already described witnessing the impact of Jesus’ winning mentality behind the scenes, and here was a manifestation of that on the pitch: he led from the front with tenacity and authority to help give Arsenal a lead they never once looked like relinquishing. These are still early days, but the upgrade to Jesus from Alexandre Lacazette looks stark on this evidence. In another sign of his growing influence, Jesus ended the game here as captain in only his third appearance for the club.
3. Saliba’s transformation continues
The Arsenal fans spent most of the first half debuting a new song for their £27 million centre-back — “Saliba” to the tune of The Champs’ “Tequila” — long before he curled home his first goal for the club with a superb left-footed finish nine minutes into the second half. The 21-year-old took Xhaka’s pass first-time inside the box, lifting a marvellous finish over Mark Travers to score his first Arsenal goal. Well, his first goal at the right end.
Last week, Saliba put through his own net in the Gunners’ 4-2 win over Leicester City, but he was supported through that difficult moment by a fan base desperate to see him succeed after waiting three years to see him represent the club. As Saliba ran off to celebrate, Oleksandr Zinchenko simply sank to his knees, hands on head, overwhelmed by the majesty of it all.
Saliba’s composure is undeniably impressive for someone so young and he ended here with a perfect 100% pass completion rate: 75 out of 75. The hype around this promising young centre-back will only grow.
Bournemouth (3-5-2): Mark Travers 6; Chris Mepham 6, Marco Senesi 4, Lloyd Kelly 6; Jefferson Lerma 6; Adam Smith 6, Marcus Tavernier 6, Ben Pearson 5, Jordan Zemura 6; Philip Billing 5, Kieffer Moore 6.
Subs: Lewis Cook 6, Jaidon Anthony 6, Ryan Christie 6.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Aaron Ramsdale 6; Ben White 7, William Saliba 9, Gabriel 7, Oleksandr Zinchenko 8; Thomas Partey 7, Granit Xhaka 8; Bukayo Saka 7, Martin Odegaard 8, Gabriel Martinelli 8; Gabriel Jesus 8.
Subs: Emile Smith Rowe 7, Eddie Nketiah 6, Takehiro Tomiyasu 6, Kieran Tierney 6, Albert Sambi Lokonga 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: William Saliba
Marked another assured display with a brilliantly taken goal and a 100% pass completion rate.
WORST: Marcos Senesi
Hopelessly outclassed by Jesus in the buildup to the opening goal and was hauled off at half-time as Bournemouth made a double change to try to revive their fortunes.
Highlights and notable moments
Arsenal are off to a red-hot start this season and one player at the heart of it has been Odegaard.
82.3% – Oleksandr Zinchenko has finished on the winning side in 82.3% of his Premier League appearances (65/79), the best figure for any player with 50+ games in the competition.
82.3% – Oleksandr Zinchenko
82.1% – Arjen Robben
81.5% – Aymeric Laporte
79.8% – Phil Foden
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 20, 2022
Did anyone think the Gunners would be a perfect three-for-three to open the campaign? Us neither.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 20, 2022
After the match: What the managers, players said
“The quality of their levels was clear to see. I was disappointed with our general demeanour and body language and at times and not understanding what we need to be against a top side.
“We lacked an endeavour and real desire to understand how the game looked. At half-time the most important thing was to make the players understand what we really wanted from the game. We need to show certain elements of what we showed in the second half.
“We came out really strong from the start and dominated the game completely. We scored some good goals and controlled the game, so it felt good. The second half was maybe a little bit different. We gave them some momentum and a lot of set pieces but William [Saliba] scored our third one so it was a solid game.” — Martin Odegaard, Arsenal midfielder
“Still far [from perfect]. We had some strong periods. In the second half, we conceded too many chances for Bournemouth. I’m proud, it’s not easy to come here and win 3-0, but there are still things to prove.
“In life, difficult experiences make you stronger and make you learn more than good moments. That moment was painful and we don’t want to go through that again. We will try to the end [to sign more players]. The transfer market is tricky. We’d like to do something else. Let’s see what we can do.” — Mikel Arteta, Arsenal manager.
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
This is the first time in Martin Odegaard’s club career that he has scored multiple goals in the same game.
Arsenal have an 87-game unbeaten streak when leading by at least two goals at half-time. Their last defeat in such a game? Nov. 20, 2010, in the North London derby (lost 3-2 to Spurs).
This is a good run for Arsenal that’s worth calling out: it’s their first time winning the first three Premier League games of the season since 2004-05.