You’d have to go back to Arsene Wenger’s pomp to find a time when Arsenal Football Club was as united as it currently is.
Mikel Arteta has certainly divided opinion since he was appointed manager back in 2019, with such division only being exacerbated and perpetuated by the toxic world of social media. For all its brilliance, Twitter, in particular, has engineered and hastened disunity among football supporters, especially Gooners – the pioneers at utilising tribalism and unfiltered emotion for entertainment, clout and cash.
For many years, the Emirates was not exactly the warmest of homes. Arteta had inherited a poisoned chalice, with the task at his disposal a daunting one. The club’s issues lay deeper than on the field. This was cultural, existential almost. Arsenal were headed in the wrong direction and the vast majority didn’t truly believe that Pep Guardiola’s former assistant was the man to untangle the knots, steady the ship, and steer the Gunners in the right direction.
Yet here we are. The foundations have been laid for Arteta’s Arsenal to attack the 2022/23 season head-on. For technical director Edu, who’s also played a key role in facilitating the boss’ desired culture shift, the upcoming campaign is when he’s expecting the project to boom.
“We are probably in the middle of our project,” he said.
The excitement at Arsenal is palpable – and rightly so!
Over the past 12 months, it’s become abundantly clear what Arteta and Edu are trying to achieve and despite last season’s late collapse, the Gunners are primed to build on their promising 2021/22 campaign.
We’ve got a coach in Arteta whose system is a facilitator of sustained success. He’s following his mentor’s model of all-out control, but the inexperience of his Arsenal side and incompetence of some squad members have meant the manager has previously been hamstrung in inculcating his ideals. The Gunners teased their potency last season when Arteta had his ‘best’ XI available. Remember those 45 magical minutes at home to Manchester City?!
Such performances should be expected to arrive at greater regularity in 2022/23 – even against the very best the Premier League has to offer – as a result of the club’s summer business. The manager is now just one or two players away from having his team.
The squad is deeper, and serious qualitative improvements have been made in a couple of key areas. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus will transform Arsenal in every sense of the word, with the latter starring in pre-season. The Brazilian scored his first hat-trick for the club in Saturday’s Emirates Cup triumph as Sevilla were blown away by the rampant hosts.
Julen Lopetegui’s undercooked Rojiblancos were no match for a side that look almost too ready for the start of the new season. Arsenal’s preparation has been stellar this summer. They look as fit as they’ve ever been, and the early signs suggest the Gunners will emerge as a pressing juggernaut in 2022/23. Sevilla were completely overwhelmed by an athletic, agile and relentless front line out of possession.
Now, we can’t get too excited by Arsenal’s two final pre-season performances. But, there’s no doubting that they look as ready as ever for the opening game of a Premier League season. New signings have assimilated rapidly, while Arteta’s system has been tweaked, refined and bolstered by some Brazilian swagger to ensure the Gunners dominate contests from minute one.
Just how far Arsenal will be able to go in 2022/23 is up for debate. A return to the Champions League has to be the primary goal, but if Arteta manages his squad wonderfully and he has 15 or 16 core players available to him every week, there’s no reason why the Gunners can’t put their name in the hat for a potential title challenge. If Antonio Conte’s Spurs and Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are considered outsiders to break the Liverpool and Manchester City duopoly, then why not Teta’s Gunners? Don’t sleep on ’em.
Bumps in the road are inevitable, but we can only hope that this young squad has learned from last season’s mistakes and subsequent heartbreak. Perhaps we’ll need to see a newfound resilience on Friday night as Arteta takes his side down to Selhurst Park for their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace.
It’s an opening match that many labelled ‘tricky’ once the fixtures were released earlier this summer, but the feeling heading into the contest isn’t one of trepidation, no. It’s of overwhelming excitement.
How many seconds have we got until kick-off? I can’t wait.