Arsenal fans wanted this. Well, a large proportion of them wanted this. This being change. And change takes time. This is a fan base who marched to rid themselves of a manager, Arsene Wenger, who gave them The Invincibles, three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and a Champions League final. Perhaps they were right. There is little doubt that the Gunners were in decline when Wenger finally left the club in 2018. How much that decline owed to Wenger or the circumstances he operated within remains open to debate.

Have things improved since his exit? On balance, no. The Unai Emery era represented a lost two years. And there have, as Mikel Arteta's tenure has begun to lose some of its early momentum, been some unflattering statistics given prominence, but that misses the point. Arsenal fans craved change. This, genuinely, is it. Arteta must be afforded the time to overhaul the club, otherwise Wenger may as well still be in charge.

transfers
Arsenal land surprise deal as Ryan joins from Brighton
11 HOURS AGO

The Europa League fixture against Molde on Thursday was again a reminder that the club are in transition. Arteta once again started with a back four, following its use in the draw with Leeds United in the Premier League and in contrast to much of the rest of the season when a three-man defence was in vogue. And, while the opposition must be taken into consideration, Arsenal looked a far more potent attacking threat, with lots of invention and third-man running.

The 38-year-old is a manager, given his relative inexperience, who has yet to settle on a tactical framework to fit his philosophy. That philosophy is fairly clear: control via the medium of possession, as per his mentor Pep Guardiola. At its best it can draw out impressive performances and results - see the FA Cup final against Chelsea - at its worst, it can be passive and unimaginative. See large swathes of the game against Leeds United.

That has led to frustration amongst some Arsenal fans. Yet, this is what they wanted. They wanted change and this is it. Arsenal have undertaken a root and branch overhaul of the club. It will take time. What is in little doubt is that Arsenal under Arteta seem sturdier defensively - they have not conceded a goal from a set-piece situation this season in the Premier League but lack the guile or creativity of Wenger's best freewheeling sides. The next stage is to reinvigorate the attack, without their most creative player, Mesut Ozil, who remains jettisoned.

'It's a concern' - Arteta admits worry over Arsenal's attacking struggles

Arsenal's most impressive - or most decisive - player in the 3-0 win against Molde was Nicolas Pepe. The club-record signing perhaps was trying too much in the first half following his indiscretion - a red card - in that scoreless draw against Marcelo Bielsa's team, who, stylistically considering Arteta's wont of control, are a nightmare opponent for Arsenal.

In the second half, though, he provided variety, the sort of unpredictability and invention that Arteta's possession-retentive system requires. He could - and should - prove a critical component to any future success that Arsenal entertain. Yet, like Arteta's system and team, he remains a work in progress. He has started just two Premier League games this season and will miss the next three - including the north London derby - following his infraction against Leeds.

Yet his performance against Molde and, actually Leeds ahead of his red card, was a reminder why the club gave Lille £72 million for his services: within Arteta's system of control, whether they play with a back four or back five, the Ivorian can operate as an agent of chaos, who plays with the ambition that Arsenal have lacked in recent weeks and months. He scored the first, had a hand in the second and showed a constant ability to move the ball through the lines.

Pepe can be the difference maker but it will require patience and whether the club and its fans have the stomach for that remains to be seen. As yet, it seems - given his meagre return of two Premier League starts in a team that have scored just nine goals in the league - Arteta does not yet fully trust Pepe, but the 25-year-old can provide balance to Arteta's system of control.

Premier League
Arteta urges Chelsea to keep faith with Lampard
13 HOURS AGO
transfers
Odegaard to Arsenal: 'As good as prime Ozil' - but is Liga stay more likely?
YESTERDAY AT 13:09