Arsenal 2023/24 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

Arsenal are yearning to get back on the pitch ahead of the season opener as we preview the Gunners for the 2023/24 Premier League campaign.

If the 2022/23 season showed us anything, it was that Arsenal are a serious club again. The Gunners were not wavered by the criticism for the smallest of actions and marched on under the guidance of Mikel Arteta. They may have fallen short of the title but certainly did not ‘bottle it’ as many had suggested during that period.

Arteta has decided to move on and take the shortcomings as an experience to help his squad evolve to the pressure of winning things. It is not easy, but the club owners have backed the Spaniard to their best and will hope he will allow the fans to dream again.

The Gunners’ boss had laid out his plan right at the end of the 2019/20 season after beating Liverpool. He particularly mentioned raising the levels of the team, and since then, he has done exactly done with this Arsenal squad.

The fact that the club had paid off several high-profile players makes so much sense now. In turn, they have invested heavily in the squad, and at present, this Arsenal side looks complete to an extent. There are still minor gaps to plug, but nothing that will give Arteta sleepless nights.

The overall quality was evident last season when they went toe-to-toe with Manchester City, but as expected, Pep Guardiola took the title. That City squad is a complete product, and there were hardly any surprises when they realised their potential to win the treble.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have done considerable business in this window and have been the highest spenders so far this summer. Will that reflect on a good season remains the question, but there are hardly any doubts over their challenger credentials.

Here we look forward to a few key aspects of this Arsenal side ahead of the 2023/24 season, as fans will enter the Emirates on August 13, full of optimism to watch their team challenge for the Premier League title again.

The Prelude

If there were any questions about the maturity of this Arsenal squad, Arteta and his players gave a fitting response with their performances last season. Despite ending the campaign without any honours or silverware, it was still monumental for where their quality has upgraded and how the fans now perceive the club.

Gone are the days of making terrible market decisions and bringing in players who may have been outdated before they stepped on the pitch. Arteta has been ruthless in his approach, and together with Edu Gaspar, the duo are creating a machine of a squad that could very well dominate English and continental football in the coming period.

The 2022/23 season has put Arsenal among the big boys again, and they achieved their primary target of a top-four finish. Finishing second is only the bonus, despite the Gunners occupying the top spot for around 247 days of that season.

Returning to the Champions League is a welcome boost for their morale, stature and financial aspects. The next step would circle maintaining the levels to consistently finish in the top four and remain part of the continental elites in the European top-tier competition.

One thing that stood out from last season was the consistency of performances from a core of young players under the tutelage of Arteta. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli stood out in the attack, while William Saliba was a defensive general at the back despite his relatively young age.

The experience showed where it needed to, with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka showcasing how beautifully they can help this young team out. Then the winning mentality brought in by the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus had a transformative effect on the entire process, as everything worked out for the club.

Things have certainly improved ahead of the new season with key additions. But more importantly, one must understand this is a more mature team now. If certain players did not have the experience at the top, they do now, and the likes of Saka, Martinelli and Saliba are all coming into the new season with more hunger and knowledge on how to win games.

Even throughout last season, there were lingering doubts about the young trio committing their future to the club. They eventually did sign new deals, and it is the first time in a long time that Arsenal entered a new season without any drama behind the scenes and uncertainty about the futures of their most important players.

Overall, there’s optimism in the air around north London, and fans will want this squad to show its full quality on the pitch when they kick-start the season against Nottingham Forest. Last season, Arsenal showed they had the grit and personality; now they must unleash their power and start dominating this league.

Squad Update

If the 2022/23 squad came inches from lifting the Premier League title, the 2023/24 version has all the elements to go the distance. Arteta and Edu have worked tirelessly on their preferred targets for a long time. In an article in The Athletic, they mentioned that Arsenal did not have a Plan B when it came to Declan Rice, and his arrival shows how strong their groundwork had been since January.

Similarly, once they went for a player, the club had absolute confidence that the star wanted to come here, and that’s how it transpired. Many of those on X (formerly Twitter) identified that Bayern Munich have lost out to each of their key targets to Arsenal and that nobody wants to join them apart from Harry Kane.

Jokes aside, Arsenal have shown serious intent in the transfer market and paid £105 million to sign Declan Rice as their headline summer act. Not only do they have an established England international. But in signing him, they also beat Manchester City for the player.

It may come across as a small fact, but it is a big thing for a club like Arsenal to assert their serious nature in this market. The addition of Jurrien Timber also spoke volumes about Arteta’s ideas. The Dutchman can help with his versatility and occupy different roles in this fluid system.

During the pre-season tour of the US, Timber played right-back, centre-back and left-back in three games, thus showcasing his ability to adapt to any challenge. Similarly, there are question marks over Kai Havertz’s exact role on this side, which is a welcome dilemma rather than doubting him as a player.

Havertz can occupy many attacking roles and is essentially the ‘Timber’ of the final third. With the trio and the potential arrival of David Raya after links with a move, Arsenal have created top-level competition for places in this squad, which could only aid the club’s development.

The defence looks complete, while the midfield is stronger, and the attacking setup will have the security of Martinelli and Saka playing here for years to come. Overall, this Arsenal squad looks complete in many ways. But there is still room for key additions if required and departures to deflate a somewhat bloated-looking squad.

Key Fixtures

The main reason for Arsenal excelling during the 2022/23 season was that they built a strong base by opening five or six fixtures, winning each. Going by how their season transformed, the ability to take one point out of their fixtures against the Merseyside and Manchester clubs showed where they should improve.

They have some testing fixtures in the upcoming season very early, with Manchester United in Gameweek Four, albeit at the Emirates. Before that, Arteta must ensure they take maximum points against Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace and Fulham. Following the game against the Red Devils, they could have their first real test of character with a trip to Merseyside to face Everton.

After that, they have the North London Derby and the clash against Manchester City in quick succession, and up until then, they must perform at the highest levels. In the current climate, the next big test could be at Anfield in December, although between that, they do have some tricky fixtures against Chelsea, Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion.

We need not look beyond the new year for now, as by then, Arsenal may or may not cement their status as title credentials. There are some tough games before January, and Arteta will hope to have a solid half-season until then.

Key Players

Bukayo Saka

The 21-year-old phenomenon has more gears to shift in his quality and career as he prepares for a new season. During the US tour, there was increased emphasis on his performances, as Saka steadily became the main point of this Arsenal attack.

After a stellar 2022/23 season for Arsenal and England, Saka has renewed expectations to perform even better. Personally, he would want his name alongside some of the top players in world football, like Mohamed Salah or Vinicius Junior, as he has the ingredients to become one of the best in the business.

Declan Rice

The record signing for Arsenal will become one of the major attractions for the Emirates going crowd at the start of the season. There are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic about Declan Rice, as he is joining a group that will help take his game to levels nobody has seen before.

Moreover, he’s the future of Arsenal and England, while together with some of his England colleagues, Rice can become the centre-piece of this English core development at Arsenal. He is a signing for the club that will help them improve their levels and become champion material in the upcoming campaign.

Season Expectations

As far as expectations go, it is clear Arsenal have to win the Premier League or at least give a close challenge for the top prize. There is optimism that they will do so, but those are minimum requirements with this squad. If the 2022/23 season was a challenge, this upcoming campaign will be a test of character for Arteta and his young Arsenal squad.

The Gunners also have a squad with enough depth to manage Premier League and Champions League proceedings. Hence, this time around, Arsenal may not have any excuses left in the tank if they fall short of their goals, including finishing in the top four to keep playing Champions League football.

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