Mikel Arteta wants to build his very own Noah’s Ark in north London.
Don’t worry, folks, a flood isn’t imminent, nor will you have to fret about the potential of a pair of lions marauding the Emirates.
The Arsenal boss has lofty expectations for his project; one that almost catapulted the Gunners to Premier League glory in 2022/23. In the end, injuries and a lack of squad depth allowed Manchester City to waltz to their third-straight title. It’s these pesky Cityzens whom Arteta is trying to emulate.
It took Pep Guardiola a season to acclimatise to his new environment in Manchester, but the riches available to him meant by the start of the 2017/18 season (his second), the Spaniard had fulfilled his squad-building utopia.
“It’s a tremendous squad – we’ve got two players for every position,” former Sky Blue Fabian Delph commented in September 2017. That was it: Guardiola had two reliable options for every role in his system, and City’s 2017/18 side is regarded by some to be the finest in Premier League history as they became the competition’s first-ever ‘Centurions’. City have continued to follow this squad-building model despite the reshuffling of personnel, with many of the personnel for City’s first title win under Guardiola absent for their most recent, and they’ve been able to dominate the English game as a result.
It’s a model that relies upon financial might and savvy recruiting, but it’s one Arsenal are attempting to follow in a bid to eventually usurp Guardiola’s great City side.
Mikel Arteta explains why Arsenal signed David Raya
The club’s move for Brentford goalkeeper David Raya raised plenty of eyebrows. Given Aaron Ramsdale’s rise in north London, GK wasn’t seen as a priority position in the transfer market. However, Raya’s situation intrigued the Gunners, who eventually made a move after Man Utd and Tottenham hesitated and turned to alternatives.
The Spaniard was one of the best-performing keepers in the division last season, one who has the potential to beat out Ramsdale for a starting spot. Given the finances involved, Arsenal haven’t comprised their ability to strengthen elsewhere before the end of the window if they need/want to, and Raya’s arrival also brings Arteta another player closer to fulfilling his City-inspired ‘two players per position’ ideal.
Explaining why the club moved for Raya, the Arsenal boss said last week: “[He has] better qualities for our game model, very simple. We want two players per position – you saw what happened to Jurrien [Timber], it can happen to our goalkeeper, it happened to [Thibaut] Courtois. We have to be prepared and be proactive.”
If Arsenal are going to compete and beat the almighty City for the title, their squad must be as deep as it can possibly be. A lack of quality numbers saw their 2021/22 and 2022/23 campaigns falter down the stretch. It simply can’t happen again.
While Matt Turner is a fine goalkeeper, the American has probably found his level at Nottingham Forest. He was never going to beat out Ramsdale for the starting spot, which perhaps hindered Ramsdale’s form at times last season. Complacency over his status might’ve crept in. That simply can’t happen now with Raya breathing down his neck.
The Spaniard is an excellent fit for the Gunners given his bravery and talent with the ball at his feet. If Ramsdale does endure a blip or succumbs to an injury, Arsenal’s system won’t malfunction with Raya in the side. It’s a necessary addition if Arteta’s men are to survive the rigours of a Champions League return and a potential title race.
While I suspect City *might* endure a minor drop-off given the current size of their squad – they’re certainly relying on fewer options in attack than they ever have – Arsenal, in my opinion, might be a couple of players light. I’m concerned about the depth behind Bukayo Saka, and Jurrien Timber’s injury leaves the right side of the defence vulnerable.
Mikel Arteta’s squad is almost there, however, and the addition of Raya was another indication of their ambition.