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Pain. Mikel Arteta used the word again and again. And it was easy to see why. Arsenal had just beaten Everton 5-1. However, they were only two points clear of Premier League rivals Tottenham in fourth place.
So yes, “pain” covered how he, his players, and the club’s fans felt on May 22. Of course, it hurt a lot as Arsenal put themselves in a great position to get back into the Champions League. For the first time since 2016.
After a three-match losing streak at the start of April, they won four in a row. Nevertheless, it was followed by a dramatic 4-2 victory at Chelsea in the best feature of Arteta’s exciting young side.
Their worst qualities, however, were evident at Tottenham on May 12. They lost their game and discipline in a 3–0 defeat. Four days later, they were beaten again, prompting Granit Xhaka to question their character.
Those doubts about Arsenal’s bottle-neck still remain heading into the new season. However, there is an undeniable sense of optimism around the Emirates right now. The summer went better than expected, on and off the field.
So, will Arteta’s side finally be able to fulfill its potential? GOAL rule out their 2022-23 Premier League prospects below…
Team Goals of Arsenal
As far as new signings go, it’s been so good for Arsenal. The club has again backed Arteta in the transfer market, spending around £115m ($138m) on five new signings.
USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner will provide cover for Aaron Ramsdale following Bernd Leno’s imminent departure to Fulham. At the same time, Marquinhos could prove a future star. The Brazilian is already tipped to make a Gabriel Martinelli-like impact in north London.
However, the new signings fans are focused on include Fabio Vieira, Gabriel Jesus, and Oleksandr Zinchenko. All of them should add the quality, versatility, and depth that arguably cost the team last season.
However, Arteta has clarified that he still believes Arsenal is not finished yet. “The window is not closed,” he said last week.
Indeed, Arsenal’s interest in Raphinha has highlighted that they would be more than happy to bring in another winger, particularly if they can find a buyer for Nicolas Pepe, while Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans remains a top target.
Hopes at Arsenal
Hope is dangerous, as any Arsenal or cinema fan will tell you. The Gunners spent big last summer but still failed to return to the top four, affecting their summer transfer plans.
However, fans were rightly excited by the arrival of two players from Manchester City who are just entering their prime. Neither Jesus nor Zinchenko may have been guaranteed starters at the Etihad, but both were highly rated by Pep Guardiola and played crucial roles in the club’s recent title triumph.
They have both previously worked with Arteta and will bring a winning mentality to the Emirates and a burning desire to establish themselves as stars in their preferred positions.
Elsewhere, Bukayo Saka is back at the club, a huge reason for optimism. The England international is now a sought-after man, but for now, he is happy where he is and seems to have settled in perfectly as a north London legend.
Meanwhile, William Saliba’s return to the club after a highly successful spell at Marseille should mean Arsenal have no worries about their options in central defense. In contrast, Zinchenko’s presence means he can fill in at left-back if required. However, the hope will be that Kieran Tierney finally overcomes his injury problems.
Fears at Arsenal
Arsenal’s squad was decimated by the Covid-19 outbreak ahead of last season’s opening game, which contributed to their slow start – so they could certainly do without a repeat.
Fans will also be praying that new leader Martin Odegaard breaks the ‘captain’s curse,’ which claimed another victim last season when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a spectacular clash with Arteta, who saw the striker of his armband and then offloaded in Barcelona.
However, the main fear is that the new signings will fizzle out, and Arteta will not be able to build on the foundations he laid at the Emirates. Indeed, it’s hard to see how the Spaniard would survive the disappointment of a post-four finish, which might even lead to Saka’s departure to a club that can guarantee him Champions League football year after year.
The Hero of Arsenal
Saka is undoubtedly a favorite at the Emirates, but Jesus has in himself to turn into an instant hero at Arsenal. We know there have long been doubts about his completion and whether he is truly a natural center-forward.
The man himself admitted that he was comfortable playing on the wing last season. But that was at City, and now he’s at Arsenal crying out for a mobile No.9 who both scores and presses relentlessly. Predicting how the transfer will play out is a tricky proposition. There are so many variables. But it seems like one of those rare moves that work out perfectly for both sides.
With the World Cup approaching, Jesus wanted a chance to perform on the big stage. Well, he now has the perfect platform to do so at Arsenal. And judging by his pre-season performances, he could prove to be one of the stars of the Premier League season.
We could pick their most likely rivals, Chelsea and Tottenham, who have also strengthened considerably over the summer, but let’s face it, Arsenal are their worst enemy. They have done more damage to their hopes of re-establishing themselves as a major force in English football than anyone else.
Last season was a perfect case: they were perfectly positioned to finish fourth but lost six of their last 12 games. Part of this can be attributed to a lack of experience. But it cannot be denied that Arsenal has had a discipline problem under Arteta.
When the pressure is on, they very often lose their heads. This means someone either does something stupid to get fired or from a positional perspective, goes AWOL while the rest of the team tries to stay united.
The numbers speak for themselves: 13 red cards since Arteta took over in December 2019. No other Premier League club has double-digit dismissals in the same period.
It’s an issue costing Arsenal dearly, and the manager needs to deal with it this season for his own sake.
Last chance players at Arsenal
Who is it but Nicolas Pepe? The Ivorian doesn’t just drink at the Last Chance Saloon; He has been living there for the past six months.
Arsenal would have been happy to let Pepe leave in January. Therefore, right now they are desperate for him to leave as his departure would take a huge wage bill off.
If he does stay – and it’s entirely possible given the lack of interest in the 27-year-old – he could be given another “last chance” to prove himself at the Emirates, given Arsenal is currently struggling to land another winger, either challenging for a starting position or providing the cover needed for Saka.
Pepe, of course, can still be that player. We’ve seen his talent since he arrived from Lille in 2019, but it’s not even close to suggesting he was worth the £72 million ($87 million) Arsenal paid for his services. The time for excuses is over for the club’s record signing.
How do the fans feel?
Cautiously optimistic. The fans have been burned before, so the more level-headed Gooners do their best not to get carried away.
Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by the richness and energy of Arsenal’s performances in pre-season.
They seem to have overcome the bitterly disappointing end to last season and rightly look forward to the new campaign with renewed positivity.
Arsenal’s opening fixtures are far from intimidating, so if they can build up a bit of momentum, starting at Selhurst Park on Friday night, there’s no limit to what this energetic young side can achieve.
However, defeat at Palace would once again set off alarm bells among the more emotionally volatile members of the fan base. Time for Arteta’s Arsenal to break the cycle of going from positive to painful almost weekly.