Last season, Arsenal shocked fans as they challenged for the Premier League title in what many experts believed to be premature. However, they fell short of lifting the trophy, which undoubtedly dented the team’s confidence, but a Community Shield win against Manchester City may have restored their belief – and they could go out all guns blazing on 12th August.
With varied success and a season full of highs and lows, as we look onto the upcoming campaign, quantifying success is challenging. With new European adventures, integration dilemmas and more, this is the must-read Arsenal season preview.
Turning Setbacks into Lessons
Before looking into the future, it is beneficial to understand and relive the past using the profound ability of hindsight to learn and resolve previous issues.
In Summer 2022, many fans believed Arsenal’s aim for the next season should be Champions League qualification – and so naturally, a second-place finish was deemed as a big improvement on the prior expectations. However, as time passes and seasons reach their conclusions, expectations shift.
Regardless of their league finish, Arteta formed an exciting, young side with tactics capable of displaying individual players’ abilities and characteristics. Whilst the Spaniard improved his current group of players, in turn, he also made Arsenal an exciting prospect for potential new signings.
However, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies for the Gunners as they showed a lack of experience and concentration in important game states and fixtures as a whole, which was the ultimate factor in their loss of the league title. After such a strong campaign, a few details were poorly acted upon – the fine margins deemed so important by Arteta.
With this balance of positives and negatives, the young manager will have to learn and benefit from the previous campaign – and he will hope to use his findings to benefit the team next season.
Redefining Ambitions and Targets
This season, winning the league is not the only way of improving from last season – but anything lower than second will be seen as a step backwards. The likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have all strengthened their squads, and so facing these teams will be much harder next campaign. Naturally, Arsenal’s squad has also improved – so any neutral would be thrilled to watch these even more enticing fixtures next season.
If Arsenal are crowned champions, it would be viewed as a massive success – but if the Gunners falter and finish as runners-up again, the context and finishes in other competitions would be massively important. With the UEFA Champions League returning to the Emirates next season, squad rotation will be a key to successes in all competitions.
A second-place finish is a must next season to ensure Arteta’s five-stage plan is being met. Anything else would be a major disappointment, unless remarkable things happen in Europe.
Arsenal are back in a competition of the highest pedigree for the first time since 2015/16, and it may be a struggle for the Gunners to handle. Despite new additions at N7, Arsenal just don’t have the squad depth, or size, to compete with the likes of Real Madrid if injuries and fatigue come into effect.
However, surviving the group stage is a minimum and anything less will see the Champions League’s return to Holloway end in a rather underwhelming fashion. Upon progression, Arsenal’s target can’t fully be decided until they find out their luck in the draw.
Although the Champions League is the most prestigious club tournament in world football, fans mustn’t be daunted or lower their expectations purely because of the patch on their sleeve. Arsenal’s return is unpredictable to say the least – they could reach the latter stages of the competition, but if they are forced to face a European great early on, a first-round knockout wouldn’t be unrealistic either.
In previous years, it has been acceptable for the Gunners to drop out of domestic cups early in order to focus on the Premier League and European football – but this season, things have to change. As the squad improves, so does the expectation of the ability to juggle multiple competitions.
This year, Arsenal have to reach the semi-finals as a minimum in both competitions, and weaker sides must be beaten ruthlessly. Similarly to Manchester City, they have the ability and squad size to reach the latter stages of the competitions – and Arsenal have to copy this mindset for complete domination around the nation.
Who’s arrived at London Colney this summer?
As always, the most anticipated part of the off-season is the exciting transfers teams make to bolster their squads before the upcoming campaign. With a second-place finish in hand, Arsenal have become a hot prospect for youngsters, and the Gunners received a reported £167.8m in prize money.
With this, Arsenal have signed four new players: Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber and David Raya. These new signings are a statement of intent – the board and the manager are showing fans and players that they will be ruthless in the window to ensure targets are met, and will upgrade players as and when required.
The main man, Declan Rice, joined Arsenal before their pre-season tour despite tough negotiations with West Ham United. The midfielder slots straight into Mikel Arteta’s engine room, and marks a vast improvement from the days of Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and a declining Mesut Ozil. The Gunners have secured the services of a world-class talent with bags of Premier League experience, for £15m less than Chelsea paid for Enzo Fernández.
Arsenal have coupled excellent players with depth – and the players they have chosen couldn’t be better suited to the Gunners. Jurrien Timber and Kai Havertz are both players that will understand that they may feature on the bench often, but are of a brilliant ability to be subbed in, or started, due to injuries or preferred dynamics. Both players were very promising in pre-season, and they will no doubt improve under Mikel Arteta.
Who’s left for pastures new?
Of course, there have been some departures too – but nothing that will really upset the squad harmony that Mikel Arteta places such emphasis on. Granit Xhaka has bid farewell to North London as he returns to Germany, donning the Bayer Leverkusen colours for the 2023/24 season.
Matt Turner and Auston Trusty have both completed moves to Arsenal’s Premier League rivals, signing for Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United respectively. Pablo Mari has jetted off to Monza in a move worth just over £4m, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles has signed for Olympique Lyonnais upon the expiration of his Arsenal contract.
Player Of The Season
After an impressive campaign last season in a newly-formed midfield role, Martin Ødegaard will surely improve further this season. The Norwegian scored 15 goals and assisted a further seven times in the league alone – and with even more defensive stability behind him, the Norwegian prince will be given new reigns to have a bit more freedom in attack to find pockets and passes to help his teammates.
Player To Watch
As one of the Gunners’ latest signings, Jurrien Timber will definitely be a man to watch this season. Coming from the Eredivisie this summer, he has already impressed for Mikel Arteta’s side – capitalising on his early opportunities before the season has truly started. The Dutchman’s versatility will mean that he could be given many chances across the campaign if injuries arise, and will have multiple opportunities and areas in which he can impress, and cement his place in the side. He is definitely one to look out for as he embarks on his mission to knock Ben White or Oleksandr Zinchenko down the pecking order.
Declan Rice is the best arrival at the Emirates Stadium this summer, without a shadow of a doubt. Having made the short move across London from West Ham this summer, the player has lots to live up to – but many things have already been achieved with this bit of business. It is a sign of intent from the Gunners and when starting, he gives defensive stability, allowing attackers to push forward and leave more space behind them. Declan Rice broke Arsenal’s transfer fee record – everyone knows just how good the midfielder is, and he is definitely a brilliant marquee signing for Mikel Arteta’s side.
What’s realistic for the Gunners in 2023/24?
With all that said, Arsenal look sure to enjoy a strong season – but it is hard to see them beating Manchester City across the span of eight months. Arsenal will likely finish as runners-up by the end of this gruelling campaign, which would still be an improvement from last season if coupled with a strong run in the UEFA Champions League.
By the 2024/25 season, it should be time for Arsenal to start seriously contending for the league title. It is an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan: with full trust in Mikel Arteta, his staff and the squad, the club looks to be in safe hands and destined to lift some silverware, or have an excellent season at the very least.