Arsenal Season Preview- Can Arteta Lead The Gunners Back To The Champions League?
The Gunners have enjoyed a brilliant pre-season winning six out of their seven matches with the only defeat coming behind closed doors against Brentford which featured a heavily rotated side. The Gunners started with a convincing 5-1 win over League 1 side Ipswich Town in which Eddie Nketiah bagged himself a hat trick as well as Lokonga and Balogun getting in on the goals. Mikel Arteta’s side then headed out to Germany to face Bundesliga 2 side FC Nurnberg and played out a thrilling encounter which ended in a 3-5 victory for the Gunners.
Arsenal then headed out to America where they would play Everton, Orlando City and Chelsea in the space of a week and recorded three victories there. The most impressive of the three was the 4-0 victory over fellow London rivals Chelsea in which Arsenal dominated the ball and general play as Chelsea looked off the pace while Arteta’s side looked very comfortable and like a well-oiled machine. As mentioned, Arsenal then suffered their only defeat of pre-season at the hands of Brentford but the starting eleven featured a mix of squad rotation players and youngers.
The Emirates Stadium hosted its first match of the season in the form of the Emirates Cup as Arsenal trashed Sevilla six nil and looked just a cut above the side who came fourth in La Liga last time out. Gabriel Jesus finished pre-season with a scintillating hat-trick to take his tally up to seven for pre-season and looking very sharp going into the new campaign. Bukayo Saka chipped in with a brace as well as Eddie Nketiah with a late goal to round out a brilliant six nil victory.
Transfers In & Out:
Arsenal have made five transfers this season and with more possibly coming through the door it looks like Mikel Arteta is finally being able to put together his squad for the future. Matt Turner has been brought in as a back-up keeper from New England Revolution to most likely compensate Brend Leno moving onto Fulham if the deal goes through. Marquinhos has also been brought in for the future from Sao Paulo at just nineteen years old and it’s unknown right now whether or not he will be placed out on loan or will play a part in the rotation of the starting eleven.
The three marquee signings of this summer for Mikel Arteta’s side have been Fabio Vieira, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko. The first of which we have unfortunately not seen any of in pre-season due to a foot injury but Mikel Arteta assured us at his press conference after the Sevilla match that he is hoping he will return to the squad for the first couple of matches of the season. Vieira is just twenty-two-years-old and fresh of the back of a title winning campaign with Porto.
He is a more advanced midfielder and it is thought that Mikel has brought him in as competition and back up for Martin Ødegaard. With his flair and creative ability, it will also offer something different off the bench as well as being able to offer Arteta a change of formation in matches when he wants to play more attacking and on the front foot.
The second one of the three was, in my opinion, the most important signing that the football club have made this summer in the form of Gabriel Jesus. Again, like Vieira he is fresh of the back of a title winning this time with Arteta’s former club Manchester City.
After years of being rotated in and out of the Manchester City starting eleven as well as never having a consistent starting position now, I believe this is where Jesus is going to really shine. He will be working under his old coach who he clearly has a good relationship with as well as the fact that at Arsenal he will be the main man upfront and will consistently be starting as the number nine. He’s always showed his quality and especially on the big occasions for City so I think the Gunners have got themselves one brilliant goal scorer who in the right system can easily get twenty plus goals a season
The Gunners latest signing also happens to come from Mikel Arteta’s former club in the form of Oleksandr Zinchenko for a fee believed to be in the region of £30 million. Another player who Arteta has worked with as well as another signing who has just in off a title winning season. Arteta’s mentality is clear that he wants to add proven winners to the football club which he believes can take Arsenal to the next level of being able to compete in all competitions consistently.
Oleksandr also offers something a bit different for Arteta as well as his natural position as left back he can also play in midfield which he does for Ukraine. This is the kind of versatility and adaptability that a manager such as Mikel Arteta enjoys in a player and he will know already where Zinchenko fits into his starting eleven from the time they have spent together at the Etihad.
The Gunners haven’t had anyone walk out of the exit door this summer of note apart from Alex Lacazette who left to go back to Lyon after the club decided not to renew his contract. Other than that, Nuno Tavares has gone out on loan to Marseille while Matteo Guendouzi’s loan deal was made permanent by the French club as well. Arsenal will also feel like William Saliba is a new signing after two and half seasons out on loan in Ligue 1 since Arsenal signed him back in 2020. He looks to be part of Mikel Arteta’s plans for the future after a brilliant year last year winning ‘Ligue 1 Young Player Of The Season’.
Looking Forward To The Season Ahead…
Last time out the campaign was gruelling and at the business end of the season a paper-thin squad got overcome by injuries and exhaustion which cost the Gunners any chance of the top four. The fact that that squad was even challenging for the top four was an achievement in itself when many people and pundits hadn’t even put Mikel Arteta’s side as finishing inside the top six. One of the main reasons for the team not achieving top four was the lack of a striker after losing Aubameyang in January to Barcelona and the captain not being replaced. However, this summer Arteta has gone out and bought a goal scorer in Gabriel Jesus who is the exact time of player Arsenal could’ve done with in the second half of the season.
Another reason was due to the poor amount of squad depth as well as the quality in those who stepped in towards the end of the season which Mikel has been very clear on sorting out this summer with the signings, he has brought in. The Europa League group stages in particular will give some of the squad players more of a chance to shine and rise to the challenge set to them by their manager. With a signing or two more as well as players such as Saliba, Bellerin and Torriera coming back from their loan deals this just boosts the squad depth as well as the new signings who have walked through the door.
I think that Mikel Arteta’s side have a great chance to start the season strong with the fixture list that they have been dealt out. Last season was an awful start with the three matches before the international break consisting of an away trip to Brentford for their first ever match in the Premier League followed by two very tough games against Chelsea and Manchester City. However, this time out with eight games before the international break, due to the World Cup, the Gunners face just one top six side in Manchester United. Other than that, Arsenal face two newly promoted side as well four teams who finished in the bottom half of the Premier League last season.
This would be a brilliant way to kick start the season going into the first international break of the year and if Arsenal can get the ball rolling, we saw last year how good they were when they got on a solid run of form. The opening night of the season again for Arsenal which was tricky last season with a COVID and injury hit side but this time around we need to be calmer and the players will be seeking revenge over the three-nil defeat at Selhurst Park back in April.
Where Do The Gunners Finish In 2022/23?
This is a very tough question and, in all honesty, it sometimes depends on the day you ask me what I would say because I believe it is really up in the air. The main rivals to the top four for Arsenal will be Spurs, Chelsea and possibly Manchester United but I wouldn’t expect it this year with Ten Haag having such a big mess on his hands to sort out. Spurs looked strong last season and with the additions they have brought in over the summer I think they are nailed on for third place behind Manchester City and Liverpool. I just can’t see Arsenal being able to catch them but Chelsea on the other hand I could see the Gunners finishing ahead of.
The Blues haven’t had the transfer window they would’ve hoped for with what it seems like every transfer they attempt to make being hijacked by Spanish giants Barcelona. They have lost key players especially in defence even though they hope to get more signings in the door it might be a race against time for Thomas Tuchel’s side. I think it is important to bear in mind that Arsenal will also enter the Europa League as strong favourites so towards the business end of the season the Gunners might focus on the latter stages of the knockout rounds rather than the league. I feel like for Arsenal that this is the season they have to get top four if not, in my opinion, Mikel Arteta has run out of chances. If Arsenal get one or two more players in this season then Arteta has his squad together and he should be able to make it into the top four. If not then I believe questions will be asked of Arteta’s ability at the football club but I do believe that Mikel can guide Arsenal to the top four and hopefully with some silverware on the way as well.