Arsenal addressed the issues with squad depth, with the likes of Fabio Vieira, Emile Smith Rowe, and Marquinhos tipped for a huge role this season.
A brief look at the post-Wenger era will show Arsenal’s shortcomings right at the end of the road. A lost Europa League Final and semifinal, two closely contested but failed top four pursuits among others. The reason is the lack of depth, where Unai Emery or Mikel Arteta could not call upon players to replace injured or absent preferred starters.
Last season and the campaign before that, Arsenal lamented the absences of Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey, which cost them the Europa League in 2020-21 and a top four place in 2021-22. The club has addressed a few of those issues, but there’s still some way to go before the squad could be deemed complete.
It's easy to forget what Arsenal had with Tomiyasu last season because of how well Saliba has done at centre back and Ben White at right back. However, Tomiyasu is a lockdown 1v1 defender who excels technically on both feet.
That profile + his ability to play CB is SO valuable. pic.twitter.com/zqQ3BWanaj
— EBL (@EBL2017) September 13, 2022
Edu Gaspar and Arteta used the summer window properly by bringing in the first team and squad players. The signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko stood out, but acquisitions of Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner, and Marquinhos should be considered equally important.
The trio are by no means complete articles or sure starters just yet, but they offer something missing from previous Arsenal sides of the last few years. Squad depth has been addressed appropriately and this could go a long way in helping Arteta unburden some of his key stars until January at the very least.
Let’s look at how the squad players can play a crucial role between now and January as Arteta aims to keep a tight grip on the league and European commitments.
Arsenal lack a central defender, but the squad can cope without one.
Arsenal achieved their primary objective of signing a striker and a left-back during the summer but ignored the need for a new left-sided centre-half. It may have been on Arteta’s mind when the club chased Lisandro Martinez, but never went back in for another player after losing the Argentine to Manchester United.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 28, 2022
The return of William Saliba and the acquisition of Zinchenko has transformed the backline, but they certainly lack a left-sided central defender. However, Arteta may have felt the need to postpone such a signing to next season, as he currently has enough quality to act as cover.
For instance, had it not been for Cedric Soares’ absence from the Europa League clash with Zurich, Takehiro Tomiyasu could have started centrally. Due to the Portuguese not being available, the Japanese international was kept in his preferred left-back spot, while Gabriel continued in defence.
Once Cedric is back, Arteta could ponder using Tomiyasu centrally. Rob Holding will certainly play these Europa League group games and other cup games until the World Cup, although he may not have any chance to start in the Premier League unless there’s an injury crisis.
Meanwhile, with Zinchenko in the team, Arteta could rotate the left-back slot occasionally while allowing Tierney to use the cup and European games to further modify his game. Hence, in defence, Arsenal should not have a problem, as even Matt Turner has proved his mettle as a worthy deputy to Aaron Ramsdale.
Central midfield is the problem area, as Arsenal look a bit short.
Partey’s absence has always hurt Arsenal’s chances, as the Ghanaian offers something unique to this team. Sambi Lokonga was earmarked as a natural successor to the influential midfielder, but the Belgian has different qualities, which may not support playing in the holding position long term.
Xhaka & Partey reunited on Sunday? pic.twitter.com/SSJQHcYXID
— UpYourArsenal?⚪?⚪♥️ (@UPYOURARSENAL04) September 12, 2022
Additionally, the significant injury to Mohamed Elneny also reduced Arteta’s options and forced the inclusion of Lokonga and Granit Xhaka against Zurich. Arsenal did make a late dash to sign Douglas Luiz but Aston Villa remained firm on their stance and rejected at least three offers in the hours leading to the transfer deadline.
Partey has to remain fit at least until the break for the World Cup. If Arsenal’s objective is to challenge for the title or finish in the top-four, they must manage the Ghanaian’s fitness better. Elneny will return before January, but he is not the player suitable to hold the midfield long-term.
The Egyptian is reliable, but Arsenal cannot bend towards him to achieve their objectives this season. Signing a new midfielder is imperative for Arteta as this is the area they desperately lack in options.
Vieira could be a fantasy option to cover in the absences of other stars, but the Portuguese is more suited to Arsenal’s attacking play than in central midfield. Hence a new arrival would take the pressure off Xhaka and Partey and allow Arteta to rotate and rest his first-teamers regularly.
How would Marquinhos and Fabio Vieira fit in?
Marquinhos wasn’t a serious first-team signing by any stretch of the imagination. The Brazilian looked more like an opportunistic acquisition, with the highly-rated youngster considered a perfect player for developmental purposes.
With Fàbio Vieira making his Premier League debut and his first start on Thursday night, Partey close to returning to full training while Xhaka and Ødegaard are able to rest from the postponed fixture this weekend.
What midfield three would best suit our fixture against PSV?! pic.twitter.com/n8nZTDa31g
— Arsenal Editor (@Arsenal_Editor) September 10, 2022
Arteta wanted a ready profile, so the club chased Raphinha before watching him join Barcelona. There were other names, such as Cody Gakpo or Moussa Diaby, on their list, but having observed Marquinhos, they might have called off their pursuit for the time being.
The Brazilian is a powerful player with the right physical attributes to suit Arsenal’s style. Despite the only time Arsenal fans saw him in the Europa League fixture last week, the winger has certainly left a lasting impression on many.
He can certainly play instead of Saka or Gabriel Martinelli in these Europa League games or English cup competitions. Marquinhos might be shipped off on loan in January, although the move will depend upon Arsenal bringing in another wide attacker in the winter window.
Meanwhile, Vieira is also an interesting option and the overview says he’s the ideal backup for Martin Odegaard. In reality, the Portuguese can take up multiple positions in central areas, wings, and behind the striker. His qualities are immense.
Vieira is a mysterious quality, but Arteta are seemingly convinced of his qualities. In addition, there’s also Smith Rowe, whose fitness issues have plagued him since the end of last season. Once he gains full fitness, the Hale End graduate will provide excellent quality from the bench, particularly when Arsenal need players to change games in their favour.
What to expect from Arsenal this season?
The consistency Arsenal have shown from pre-season until now certainly places them as outside challengers for the Premier League title. The season is long, and despite the Gunners sitting narrowly at the summit, the kind of squad depth Arteta has may end up helping the team in a big way.
The problem with this Arsenal side is the lack of experience across the pitch. While the players are young and hungry for success, this project is inching closer to a finished article, but until that time, the Gunners will still be considered outsiders, with usual suspects Manchester City and Liverpool tipped to battle it out at the top.
While there has been no indication from Arsenal about any faltering form, their recent history may paint a different story. In hindsight, the Gunners have a squad capable of challenging some of the big boys, but keeping the players fit will be the most important job for Arteta this season.
For now, their squad looks good and full of quality in most parts. However, key injuries like the one to Partey may expose their weakness. They might be considered challengers if they carry on their momentum until January and add a midfielder and a wide attacker.