Confidence is high at Arsenal heading into what is a pivotal season for Mikel Arteta and the club.
The reset button has been very much pushed at this point, allowing the club time to rejuvenate an ageing, rudderless ship that had laid too much foundation on players that either weren’t up to it, lacked the required professionalism or a mix of both.
Now, they enter the season with a replenished looking squad and few hallmarks of the club that has bounced from one disaster to another since near the end of Arsene Wenger’s long reign in charge.
While patience is key to see this through to fruition, there may come a moment where patience will be weighed up against the more black and white notion of results, wins and tangible progress up the league table, and that could well come this season.
Arteta has been backed in the transfer window this summer and has shaped a squad that although might lack too much initial star power, is littered with strong young talent that can be moulded in a vision that was initially forged sat next to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
In fact, he’s taken two of Pep’s very own in Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko who, whilst expendable to the master, will fill very important roles for the student.
The outlay for both however didn’t match the description of play things City were happy to part way with, sitting at Arsenal’s first and second most expensive signings this summer. There is a certain degree of pressure on the duo to deliver and although both are experienced Premier League players, and entering their prime at 25-years-old, there still feels like there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to each player.
Jesus, for one, never truly seemed trusted by Guardiola but now will have the relatively daunting task of being Arsenal’s premier goalscorer. Gone are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, replaced with a player who has always looked supremely talented and hardworking, and showed impressive fight towards the end of his last season in Manchester in both an act of getting City over the line in the title race whilst simultaneously sprucing himself up on the shop window, as it looked all but certain that his time there was at an end.
In Zinchenko, they bring in a player who offered fine versatility at City but looks likely to be teed up for a more integral midfield role in Arteta’s system. A role he’s not unacquainted to but one that will require a step up.
Supplementing all that will be Fabio Vieira, who signed on from FC Porto into an attacking midfield role, but he will face stiff competition from Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe. Arsenal’s attacking options are outrageously talented but piecing that into a coherent force is something that has eluded Arteta thus far, to much frustration. Can he find a tune out of Jesus and a medley of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and the aforementioned trio? And that’s in addition to the likes of Eddie Nketiah and the perennially linked with a departure Nicolas Pepe, who appears to have committed his future for now.
Arteta has had less problems defensively and while there is a sturdiness to Arsenal at the back, which has been bolstered by the return of William Saliba, it isn’t impregnable, and has a worrying lack of depth should the oft-injured Kieran Tierney be joined by one or two of his colleagues.
An addition in the form of Youri Tielemans would add something extra to a midfield that feels lacking. It would be definitely be naïve of the club to go into another season where Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny may have major parts to play.
Arsenal are unbeaten in pre-season and although these results come with the caveat that they are, essentially, just friendlies, it doesn’t take much more than cursory glance at the reaction of Arsenal supporters to see expectations are very high heading into the new season.
This isn’t always a good thing and could tee them up for an even bigger fall should things not align the way they hope to.
And this also goes for Arteta. League finishes of eighth and last season’s fifth, behind Tottenham each time, shows the curve is on the upward trajectory. But any stagnation of that – especially as Spurs invest just as much as their local rivals have been – won’t make for a very satisfactory campaign. Patience is key, but so is progress and Arsenal don’t have many transfer windows left where the guise of a refresh can do so much of the heavy lifting.