Photography: Lukas Barth/Reuters
Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are “ready to go to a different level” this season, suggesting the arrivals of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City will add a winning lead to a team that finished fifth in 2021-22.
Arsenal are looking for a return to Champions League football on the sixth time they ask and kick off their campaign on Friday at Selhurst Park, where Crystal Palace have made their lives distinctly uncomfortable in recent years. They come from an extraordinarily serene preseason in which the early XI was visibly strengthened and no sagas around key players occupied the narrative. Although they fell agonizingly short of the top four last season after a late slump, Arteta feels they are ready to improve amid a crowded field of contenders.
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“We are ready to go to a different level, and I am convinced of that,” he said. “What the other teams are doing is obvious; others already had a much stronger squad than we did, and even recruited four or five, or some of them seven players.
“This isn’t going to get any easier, so we can just focus on what we’re trying to do, what we can do, because we can’t do everything at once. We are confident that we will be able to do so.”
Jesus was a long-term target for the Arsenal striker role and has been prolific this summer, scoring seven times in a warm-up calendar that included landslide wins over Chelsea and Sevilla. He and the versatile Zinchenko, who plays at left-back with Kieran Tierney returning to fitness, cost a total of around £75m; seems like a shrewd deal in today’s market, given that both players are still only 25 years old and have won four league titles each.
Chelsea 2 Hull 1
August 15, 2009
Stephen Hunt’s touch gave the visitors Hull a surprising lead, but a fine one-two from Didier Drogba (pictured right) – a 25-yard free-kick and a deft finish – ensured a last-gasp triumph for Chelsea.
Man United 1 Swansea 2
August 16, 2014
Ki Sung-yueng scored first for Swansea, finishing off a wonderful team play. Wayne Rooney’s header restored equality, but Gylfi Sigurdsson’s winning goal sealed United’s first home defeat in 42 years.
Hull 2 Leicester 1
August 13, 2016
Newly promoted Hull, with just 13 first-team players, shocked defending champions Leicester as Adama Diomande’s shot and Robert Snodgrass’ low shot secured an incredible victory at KCOM Stadium.
Arsenal 4 Leicester 3
August 11th 2017
Alex Lacazette and Shinji Okazaki scored straight away, before Leicester went through twice with two goals from Jamie Vardy, two goals from Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey respectively, before Olivier Giroud decided in the end.
Brentford 2 Arsenal 0
August 13, 2021
In their first Premier League game, Brentford overcame an Arsenal side, with goals from Sergi Canós and Christian Norgaard heralding an unforgettable night for the home side. Joel Mians
“Yes, and that was the goal,” Arteta said if this trophy experience was instrumental in acquiring them. “These players were inspired by top players, top professionals, relentless winners for many years, and they were looking to them. Now it’s their turn to do the same and inspire the youngest players we have in our squad to do the same: show them what it takes to win and the level of detail, hunger and dedication you need to keep winning.”
Another new signing, Portuguese star Fábio Vieira, returned to training on Thursday after a foot injury and could be on the bench. Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu were also involved, but Emile Smith Rowe is not ready to come back from a blow that saw him miss much of Arsenal’s preparations.
Tomiyasu’s lack of fitness means Ben White will likely start at right-back, with William Saliba making his Premier League debut at centre-back. Saliba purred during pre-season after a highly successful loan spell at Marseille and the 21-year-old adds quality depth in an area where he was lacking.
“Playing the amount of minutes he played [on loan] and from the way you could see that he was growing and developing, he gave us a lot of reasons why he could be the player we need,” Arteta said. “And in the last few weeks he’s given us every reason to believe we made the right decision, lending him out for a year because now he looks ready to go.”
Arsenal lost 3-0 at Selhurst Park on 4 April, putting on a disastrous performance that set the tone for last season’s collapse. “I hope we learned a lot of lessons that day,” Arteta said. He suggested Arsenal’s transfer business for this window is far from over: they are light up front and on the wings, and squad players such as Héctor Bellerín and Pablo Marí are among those likely to move on. “Everything is still open,” he said.