The 2021-22 Premier League season can be best described by Arsenal fans as a rollercoaster.
What started as what could be a season to forget following three losses in the first three games without finding the back of the net was soon filled with optimism and hope as the Gunners maintained their charge for a place in the top four to ensure qualification for this season’s UEFA Champions League.
However, following the March international break, losses to Crystal Palace, Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion soon cast doubts about their ability to get their noses over the line.
Belief was soon restored following wins against Chelsea, West Ham United and Manchester United but a loss at St James’ Park in the final week of the season put their fate out of their hands and it was confirmed their dream of playing with Europe’s elite was effectively dashed following Tottenham Hotspurs’ victory against Norwich on the last match day.
Although most Arsenal fans felt disappointed and pained looking at how things unfolded – some never gave the young team a chance to compete the way they did.
Heading into his second full season in charge last term, Mikel Arteta assembled a young team with signings like Martin Ødegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares as his side was the youngest in the Premier League, totalling an average age of 24 years and 308 days.
Now, preparing for his third season at the Emirates, Arteta has moved swiftly in the transfer market.
19-year-old Brazilian winger Marquinhos was the first to arrive from São Paulo FC as technical director Edu looks towards the future of the club.
Fabio Vieira have joined from Portugal, to give extra creativity and depth in midfield.
The 2021 U-21 Euros player of the tournament helped Porto to the Portuguese top flight title, netting six goals and providing 14 assists last season.
American shotstopper Matt Turner has also been brought in as cover for Ramsdale with Bernd Leno expected to secure a move to Fulham or Leicester City, as a make weight in possible player plus cash deal for Youri Tielemans soon.
Last season, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette’s lack of goals was a major problem for Arteta’s Arsenal. The former was exiled to a winter deadline day move to Barcelona while the latter has returned to Olympique Lyonnais following the expiration of his contract.
Arteta has now turned to a familiar face. The Spaniard was key to the arrival and signing of Gabriel Jesus – who he worked with during his time as assistant coach at Manchester City.
The 25-year-old Brazilian international registered 13 goals and provided 12 assists as Manchester City held back Liverpool’s ghen ghen pressing to win the league. He is already becoming a fan favourite due to his pre-season performances as he has already netted seven goals in five pre-season outings.
The Gunners were also in the market for another left-back as it was internally decided to let Nuno Tavares leave on loan for more exposure and due to Kieran Tierney’s injury record, Lisandro Martinez was a target but the Argentine would finally reunite with Erik ten Hag at Manchester United.
Arteta once again needed to turn his attentions to the Etihad as a deal was struck with Man City for Oleksandr Zinchenko.
The Ukrainian captain who can also play in central midfield and attacking midfield has though revealed his primary role in North London will be at the left-back position.
Edu and Arsenal might not be done yet in this window as it has been reported that they are in the market for a right winger and could also wrap up a deal for Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans depending on the outgoings in the department.
Players like Bukayo Saka, William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli have also been reported to be in line for a new contract with the club.
Arsenal are working on several departures as Leno is set to join Fulham following a reported £8million agreement. The German is set to follow Folarin Balogun out the door as the England youngster is set for a loan move to Reims.
Other players who have moved on loan are Tavares – as the Portuguese completed a switch to Olympique Marseille and Arthur Okonkwo to Crewe Alexandria.
More exits are expected with Lucas Torreira, Pablo Mari, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nicolas Pepe all reported to be available for sale.
No fanbase has shown more confidence ahead of the new season than Arsenal’s in the last days and weeks — following the team’s performance in their pre-season games.
Outstanding displays and wins against Ipswich Town, FC Nürnberg, Everton, Orlando City, Chelsea and Sevilla saw Arsenal claim both the Florida Cup and Emirates Cup.
No doubt, Arteta would be pleased at the chemistry his side has shown in those games with Jesus fitting in seamlessly with the likes of Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah – also Saliba’s return gives a much-needed depth in defence, alongside Zinchenko’s versatility.
Arteta has always preached passion, dedication and commitment in his current spell as boss at the Emirates with the former Arsenal captain showing zero tolerance for indiscipline.
His side’s displays in pre-season also shows what he has been demanding for. The high press, intensity and build up play, particularly against Chelsea and Sevilla was top-notch and he would hope his charges can continue their pre-season form when they visit Selhurst Park to open the 2022-23 Premier League season.
An impressive display at Palace – where they lost 3-0 last season – would definitely give the doubters second thoughts and leave a good impression on how the side have learnt from their mistakes.
All the talk of Arsenal’s rebuild under Arteta has been about building a young team to challenge in the next few years. Now, this Arsenal team now looks like Arteta’s plan all along.
A youthful side mixed with satisfactory experience – however, following Arsenal’s heavy spending in the last two windows, the pressure is on Arteta, with a top four finish now a must with the added task of winning trophies which has also been voiced out by Edu and the new captain, Ødegaard.
Following the start of last season, what looked like what was going to be at least a multi-season rebuild to get Arsenal competing at the top again, now looks like the future is now for Arsenal and Arteta