Arsenal: Arteta’s plan begins to take shape

It only took four games, but Arsenal are on the board, finally getting their first league goal and win of the season against Norwich on Saturday. With five new signings in the starting XI, we are beginning to see the club’s long-term plan take shape.

Let’s be clear; yes, it was only Norwich. On paper, we may not have an easier fixture in the league all season. Furthermore, it was far from comfortable, as Arsenal struggled to seriously threaten the Canaries before eventually taking the lead midway through the second half.

Perhaps more noteworthy than the result, however, was the youthful-looking team sheet, featuring five of the six new summer signings.

Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu made their first Premier League starts for the Gunners, and they were joined by fellow newcomers Ben White, Sambi Lokonga, and Martin Odegaard. These five were brought in to bolster a squad already containing the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Kieran Tierney, and the two Gabriels. That’s a lot of exciting talent, all aged 24 or younger.

With five summer signings in the starting lineup against Norwich, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal plan is beginning to take shape

In Ramsdale, Arsenal hope to have discovered their new No. 1 goalkeeper for many years to come; he’ll be delighted to have started things off with a relatively comfortable clean sheet. As for the defense, Mikel Arteta will look to blend White’s technical ability and Gabriel Magalhaes’s physical prowess into an effective partnership, somewhat akin to Manchester City’s pairing of Stones and Dias.

We also badly needed a new right-back, and Tomiyasu fills that void, bringing versatility and some much needed aerial ability to the backline. Elsewhere, we all hope Lokonga can ultimately be Granit Xhaka’s successor in midfield, while Odegaard will help Saka and Smith Rowe shoulder the burden of creativity in attack.

The two biggest questions now are whether Arteta is the right man to take this project forward, and whether our senior players can effectively lead this younger group. The Arsenal manager can have no more excuses now; he has clearly been backed in the transfer market. This is his team. While this squad has been constructed to maximize long-term potential, he must deliver enough results in the immediate short-term to inspire confidence and keep his job.

In terms of senior players, the four who stand out are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey, and Xhaka. If we want to achieve anything this season, this core four will need to provide the leadership, maturity, and end product to supplement the raw potential in our squad.

For starters, it’d be nice to have Partey consistently available; we look like a completely different team with ‘The Octopus’ patrolling the middle of the field, and Xhaka seems to be less prone to disaster alongside him.

Most importantly, though, we need our captain to get back to his old self, confidently banging in goals with a smile on his face.

Of course, this is only the beginning, and there will undoubtedly be growing pains along the way with such a young group of players. It will likely take multiple seasons before we can fairly assess the 2021 summer transfer window. But the potential is so obviously there, and it’s now on Arteta and our experienced players to do their part in supporting and unleashing our talent.