Gunning for Success: Why Arsenal should be optimistic ahead of new season
Could Arsenal reclaim their top four status? Struan Garvie explains why Gunners fans can hold hope for the season to come.
Despite back-to-back 8th place finishes in the Premier League, Arsenal fans certainly have a few reasons to be optimistic heading into the new season. Although they made a poor start in the previous campaign, Arsenal’s form since the turn of the year was excellent. From 26th December onwards, they only lost five Premier League matches, winning 14 in the same period. They were only six points off the top four at the end of last season. Couple that with some exciting youngsters coming through and Arsenal suddenly have the makings of a quality side.
The Gunners were often criticised last season for their poor performances and not being up to the standards of their rivals, however, it was not an entirely awful season. In the Premier League, Arsenal took four points from Manchester United and did the league double over rivals Chelsea.
Arsenal have been busy in the transfer market this summer, with their main acquisition being the £50 million signing of Ben White from Brighton & Hove Albion. The 23-year-old defender brings a lot of quality to Mikel Arteta’s side and at such a young age, has a lot of improvement and development to come. Alongside Kieran Tierney and Gabriel – who are 24 and 23 respectively – Arsenal’s defence has the perfect blend of quality, but also scope to improve. Arguably, it is one of the most exciting backlines in the Premier League. I also believe that Calum Chambers will surprise quite a few people this season.
Thomas Partey is also one to watch as he enters his second season in English football. The Ghanaian was Arsenal’s big purchase in 2020 but he has so far failed to live up to expectations. Last season he suffered a few injuries that prevented him from getting a good run in the side. It is expected he will have a much stronger second season, providing he stays fit, following his adjustment to English football.
Partey’s midfield partner Granit Xhaka – who was excellent at Euro 2020 – will head into the new season in, arguably, the best form of his career. The Swiss captain has been known to make a few howlers during his time at Arsenal but, overall, he is a solid performer in the side and can generally be relied upon. Although he no longer wears the armband for Arsenal, he is still one of the main leaders at the Emirates. If Partey and Xhaka can build a good relationship in the heart of the Arsenal midfield, they can become a real asset for the side going forward.
As previously mentioned, Arsenal have a lot of exciting and talented young players in the squad. Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe are two of the rising stars to keep an eye on this season. Both players were standouts for Arteta last season and will be looking to start the new season where they left off. Both players have also signed long-term contracts with The Gunners, meaning they will likely be the building blocks for the future, as well asl two of the current side’s most talented players.
Gabriel Martinelli will also be one to watch this season. The forward has looked very dangerous at times for Arsenal and a real threat up front, particularly in the air. Last season he suffered from a few injuries that kept him out of the side for long periods. Following a successful Olympics, in which Martinelli and Brazil’s men won gold at Tokyo 2020, he will have a lot of confidence heading into the new season. One of the rumours circulating last season was that Martinelli was developing his game to become more of a striker than a wide forward. It will be very intriguing to see if this is true – especially with Martinelli’s excellent finishing ability.
Speaking of strikers, a final player to mention is club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese frontman endured a torrid 2020/21 season and looked a shadow of his former self. In 29 league appearances, the forward only managed 10 goals. In the two previous seasons, Aubameyang managed 22 goals in 36 appearances. Given Aubameyang’s talent, it is hoped that last season was more of a blip than a general decline in his ability. Still, only 32, the former Golden Boot winner will likely try his best to regain his form and help his side achieve their best possible finish. Alongside Saka and Nicolas Pépé, Arsenal have one of the most talented attacking trios in the league.
Arteta is also a fascinating piece to the Arsenal puzzle. Currently, he is the youngest manager in the Premier League at only 39 years old and, therefore, has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. As Pep Guardiola’s assistant manager at Man City, Arteta helped the side win two Premier League titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup. Leroy Sané was quoted as saying; “People always ask me about training under Pep, but the things I’ve learned from Mikel Arteta! We get on brilliantly.
“He’s (Arteta) always right. He’ll watch me training and then afterwards he’ll tell me what he thinks.”
During his 18-month spell as the manager of Arsenal, Arteta has already won the FA Cup and made it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League. He still has a lot to learn, but he has already proved that he is a very talented coach. Already one of the most talented young managers in world football, he may well be the man to get Arsenal back to where they belong.
A final reason Arsenal fans can be optimistic for the upcoming season is that they have no European football, meaning their entire focus can be on the Premier League. Having no European football may seem like an issue for a club like Arsenal, but really, it could be a blessing in disguise. In the 2015/16 season when Leicester City miraculously won the title, they had no European football and, thus, could focus solely on the league. Chelsea won the league in the following season and just like Leicester, had no European football. Fewer games for Arsenal also mean fewer chances of injury and less need for rotation. Squad depth is vitally important and is one of the main reasons cited as to why Manchester City and Chelsea are the favourites for the title this season.
We lucky fans will get the chance to have a behind-the-scenes look at Arsenal this season as Amazon have selected them to be the next team in their “All or Nothing” documentary series. It will give us a chance to get to know these players and how the club operates behind the scenes. Having an insight into Arteta’s thoughts and management will also be fascinating.
I am by no means saying Arsenal will challenge for the league title this season, but there are many reasons for The Gunners to be optimistic. One such reason for hope – they have a real chance of making the top four.