Arsenal 2021/22 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

Arsenal are ready to take on the big boys of the Premier League, as Mikel Arteta takes charge of what looks like a promising season ahead.

Arsenal will open the Premier League season against Crystal Palace, with Mikel Arteta tasked with a tricky trip to Selhurst Park. Their most recent fixture to the Croydon-based outfit will be fresh in the memory of the Gunners fanbase as they were beaten 3-0. But there is a sense of optimism going into this particular campaign.

The reason for the optimism is Arteta, who has reshaped the squad and made this once incompetent team into a force to be reckoned with. Arsenal seem very much different to the team that the Spaniard took over 30 months ago. The change hasn’t happened overnight, as Arteta and director Edu Gaspar have worked hard to put together a team in place.

While pre-season form may mean nothing when the actual Premier League campaign begins, the Gunners have shown they are ready to compete at the highest level.

In addition to some brilliant transfers, the Gunners have shown a different level of sharpness, hunger and desire to succeed. The new signings surely make them stronger, but it’s Arteta’s integration of discipline and strategy and turning the mood around this squad will prove vital heading into the new campaign.

The Hard Tackle now looks at Arsenal’s upcoming season through the lens of opening fixtures, transfers, strategies, and how Arteta plans to shape this squad.

Arsenal’s squad is competent but far from complete

Arsenal instantly elevated the squad quality with Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Fabio Vieira, thus solving some problematic areas on the roster. The former Manchester City duo are sure starters after a successful integration in pre-season, although the Portuguese midfielder is yet to participate actively.

Arsenal were quick to jump at opportunities and bring in their preferred players. They might have lost out on Raphinha and Lisandro Martinez, but those misses do not change Arteta’s plans for the season. Bringing in a striker was necessary, and Jesus fits like a glove.

Marquinhos and Matt Turner give the team depth in vital areas. While both are not expected to play significant roles next term, their presence is valuable nevertheless. Meanwhile, Vieira will provide the extra spark in attacking midfield and already looks like an elegant signing to compete with new Gunners captain Martin Odegaard.

While Arteta may have hinted at his preferred starting lineup for the Palace clash, there is more work required to complete the entire squad. Taking potential outgoings into account, the Gunners need a few more signings to strengthen this group.

A new midfielder may be considered the priority, while signs point towards Arteta wanting a wide attacker after missing out on Raphinha. However, a somewhat underrated requirement would be a new left-sided centre-back, as the club lack quality depth in the position, with Pablo Mari and Rob Holding not considered good enough to cover for Gabriel Magalhaes.

Opening fixtures present a great opportunity

When the Premier League announced the fixture list, Arsenal fans were worried about seeing their team playing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park under the lights in the first week after their most recent fixture against the Eagles was a dreadful evening, which began derailing their Champions League aspirations.

However, considering the signings, pre-season form, and generally, how ready Arsenal look right now, it’s safe to expect a top-quality performance from Arteta’s men. Defeating Crystal Palace is never an easy task, but what follows the game brings a sense of optimism.

Arsenal play two of the newly-promoted sides in the first five games and only meet a top-six side on matchday six, an away trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. However, unlike last season, losing each of their first three games without scoring is not a scenario fans envisage, as there’s plenty of optimism to go around.

These first five games against Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth, Fulham and Aston Villa are crucial in their quest for a top-four place. Considering Arsenal’s pre-season form, fans are already thinking of maximum points from the first five games.

Despite a few injuries to key players, Arteta probably has his starting eleven sorted for the Crystal Palace clash. Considering the performances in the friendlies against Chelsea and Sevilla, the team picks itself for Selhurst Park, and Arsenal will be hoping to generate key momentum before a top-six meeting.

Players to Watch

Gabriel Jesus is the obvious choice considering his terrific impact in pre-season. The Brazilian adds tremendous value to Arsenal’s attack, coming in to replace the somewhat ineffective Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The former Manchester City star and Eddie Nketiah could have a significant impact on the Gunners’ season.

While there are youngsters like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who are expected to have a big season, there’s also William Saliba, who will be followed closely by the fans.

The loan spell at Marseille has helped him become a formidable defender. Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White laid the foundations of the current Arsenal defence last season, which should Saliba to integrate easily. His pre-season form has been promising, and fans will be hoping for a level of consistency from the 21-year-old.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is another player fans will be keen to keep an eye out for. The Ukrainian can play in multiple positions and will provide solid solutions to problem areas like left-back and midfield, mainly when injury-enforced absences occur.

Lastly, new Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard will also be a man in focus. Arteta trusts the midfielder to be the leader on the pitch, and the Norwegian has not disappointed with the task during pre-season. After finishing the last season on a high, Odegaard will be key to Arsenal’s attack. He is the orchestrator in chief, as his creative influence is key to the Gunners’ style in the new campaign.

Notable mentions: Aaron Ramsdale, Fabio Vieira, Emile Smith Rowe

What would constitute as a success for Arsenal this season

Champions League qualification is a must for Arsenal, who cannot afford to miss out on the tournament for the seventh year running. Finishing outside the top four would lead to utter disappointment, diminishing the newly-established optimism and faith among the fanbase.

Building a project is one thing; Mikel Arteta has integrated the fans into it. It has been a commendable effort from the Arsenal manager, considering how broken the Emirates crowd has been since the last years of the Arsene Wenger era. The stadium selling out for the Sevilla friendly is a testament to the Spaniard’s work, and he will be hoping for a long continuation.

The Premier League is a ruthless place to be complacent, and Arsenal will have to keep the momentum from pre-season heading into the new season. But, for now, the Gunners look ready and seem like a team prepared to take on the big boys of the Premier League.

Arteta is steadily showing signs of an elite manager with the signings he has made and the ethos he has managed to build. Arsenal’s immediate future under the Spaniard looks secure and bright, but they would need a solid start to the season to keep momentum on their side when things get tricky.

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