To follow typical footballing cliché, it has been a season of ups and downs for Mikel Arteta's Arsenal side. Each invigorating win has been paired with an equally frustrating or disappointing display, as the squad have battled their way through the first half of the campaign.
This edition of The Rundown aims to illustrate both the highlights and lowlights of what has been a captivating season in north London so far.
With the youngest squad in the league by far, the Gunners have found themselves in a good position as they look to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Some of the best performances this season have been orchestrated by the junior members of the side, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli to name just a few.
Bukayo Saka has nailed his place down in the Arsenal starting lineup this term, putting in the type performances that leave you astounded that this young man is still only 20 years old.
It has come to the point that whenever the England international picks up the ball in a half-yard of space, you can almost guarantee something is going to happen.
Anyone who watches Arsenal on a regular basis will know just how important Saka has become to the side, now starting to show his potential, we can't help but expect big things from him.
Another member of the squad that has become completely instrumental for the Gunners is Martin Ødegaard. Since arriving permanently in the summer of 2021, the Norweigan has shown nothing but improvement in his on-pitch displays.
Ødegaard has stepped up when the pressure is high, leading both by example and with his voice, he plays as if he has been in the Premier League for years. He has also been a shining light in some of the Gunners more disappointing showings, putting in respectable performances when others around him perhaps did not.
The 23-year-old has been pulling the strings, leading the midfield and working tirelessly for the team, accumulating eight goals and assists in the process.
Another name that deserves mentioning is Aaron Ramsdale. Arriving under huge pressure due to his price tag and reputation, the goalkeeper is halfway to proving himself to be among the best in the league.
To come straight into the side replacing a relatively trustworthy Bernd Leno was impressive in itself, but the form that the 23-year-old has shown between the posts has been a breath of fresh air.
Ramsdale embodies a fantastic modern goalkeeper, both agile and strong, superb reaction time and quite simply brilliant with the ball at his feet.
His ability on the ball has been a strong talking point throughout the year, as his passing range opens up a range of new avenues and angles for the north London outfit to attack.
Still only in the dawn of his career, he is another member of the Arsenal squad that you would expect to be a mainstay for many years to come.
- Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur - 26.9.2021
This, for me, was one of the most exciting North London Derbies in recent years. A first half demolition saw the Gunners fire three past Hugo Lloris before the break.
Goals from Saka, Smith-Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang helped Arteta's men continue the turnaround of their poor start to the season.
- Arsenal 2-0 West Ham United - 15.12.2021
With the situation in the league at the time, most Arsenal fans saw this fixture as an absolute must-win. West Ham have played some impressive football under the stewardship of David Moyes, and they were in good form at the time.
A cool finish from Martinelli put The Arsenal one up, and following a Hammers dismissal, Smith-Rowe stabilised the lead three minutes from the end. The win took the Gunners into the top four for the first time since 2019.
- Leeds United 1-4 Arsenal - 18.12.2021
While Leeds haven't quite been recreating the stellar displays we saw the season after their promotion, Elland Road is never an easy place to visit. Just three days after their win against West Ham, Arteta and his squad dismantled the high-pressing hosts, once again scoring three before the half-time whistle.
Martinelli stole the headlines again, grabbing an impressive brace, but it was the style of football that I, personally found most impressive. Games such as this illustrate the ethos and ideas behind Arteta's system - showing that when it works, boy does it work.
- Manchester City 5-0 Arsenal - 28.8.2021
Arsenal fans will hope to wipe this game entirely from their memories, as Pep Guardiola's team took the visitors apart piece-by-piece, in all too familiar fashion.
It was a painful start to the season, typified by this fixture - two nil down by the 12th minute, reduced to 10 men by the 35th, and out of the game by half time, it really was a bad day to be an Arsenal fan.
- Everton 2-1 Arsenal - 6.12.2021
While the scoreline of this fixture may not have been quite as drastic as other disappointing results, the display on the pitch certainly made up for it.
Throwing away a lead given to them by Ødegaard at the end of the first half, the Gunners saw themselves concede two goals in the final 10 minutes, to the Goodison Park crowd's delight.
Everton's recent form considered, this game should have been over before it started, but this was one of the occasions where the visitors just didn't have enough to put the game to bed.
- Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal 9.1.2021
Old Trafford, The Bernabeu, and of course, The City Ground. What is it about Nottingham Forest away that strikes untenable fear into the hearts of this Arsenal side?
This game was disappointing in more ways than one - not only did the Gunners get knocked out of the FA Cup, the competition in which they have had the best fortune in recent times, but the team's display warranted exactly what they ended up getting. The loss exemplified what was a very difficult January for the north London outfit.
This season has presented a plethora of challenges and difficult games as the squad further adapt to the tactics of Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff. Marred by COVID-19 and squad depth issues, this campaign has been anything but easy.
But the reality of the situation is that the Gunners really are not in too bad of a position looking forward into the final half of the season. The side find themselves in sixth place at the time of writing, with games in hand on both West Ham and Manchester United, who sit one and two points above respectively.
As far as the Premier League is concerned, Arsenal fans can feel content with the progress the side are clearly making with its youthful core.
It is in the other domestic competitions where the north London outfit may have fell short of expectations. With no European football for the season, supporters may have hoped that more attention could be paid to the FA Cup and EFL Cup.
However, been knocked out by both Liverpool and Forest, it is now nye-on impossible for Arsenal to pick up any silverware this season, putting immense pressure on their Premier League form. The delivery of European football is now essential for the Gunners, as they endeavour to be considered one of the top sides once again.
Looking at the squad available, supporters will hope The Arsenal will be able to bring in at least one more face, particularly a striker, as January departures have left the team numbers looking rather thin. On that front, we can only wait until any move is confirmed by the club.
In a campaign where the club captain has been exiled, numerous players and coaching staff have contracted the coronavirus, and squad numbers have been low, I cannot help but be impressed by the overall performance of the side.
There have been some particularly low moments, but this group of players seem to have something slightly different about them this year. There is grit, determination and flair at Arteta's disposal, and if he can keep his squad on-side, there is no limit to where this team could find themselves in the next few years.