How Arsenal could line-up next season with Rice, Havertz and Timber

By on June 29, 2023

After going so close to winning the title for the first time since 2004 last season, Arsenal are determined to push-on and build a squad capable of competing on all fronts. Mikel Arteta has done a tremendous job since arriving as manager three years ago. He’s created an excellent relationship between the club and the fans, and built a young squad packed with talent that’s hungry for trophies. Nobody expected Arsenal to be battling it out with Manchester City for the Premier League last season. Most tipped us to finish fourth at best, so it was a welcome surprise to see us sitting top of the table for almost 250 days and showing we can compete against the very best again.

At one stage, Arsenal were eight points clear and fans were dreaming of the title. It was impossible to buy tickets for the final few home games as supporters anticipated when we’d be lifting the trophy at the Emirates. However, in the end, Arsenal came up short and lost out on the title to City. Undoubtedly, a disastrous four-game run in April derailed our title push as we picked up just three points against West Ham, Liverpool, Southampton and Man City. That run handed the initiative to Man City and they took full advantage to win their fifth title in the last six years.

Many have tried to dissect where it all went wrong for Arsenal. We had the youngest squad in the league so a lack of experience in key moments could have been a contributing factor. Many feel Man City were just too good and Arsenal were never really going to stay the course over a 38-game season against the best team in the world. However, many fans feel it was injuries to key players and a lack of adequate depth in the squad that ultimately cost us the title.

William Saliba’s untimely injury against Sporting Lisbon in March was a huge turning point. Our defence collapsed without the Frenchman and it’s no coincidence our poor run came just after Saliba got injured. If Arsenal had a suitable back-up for the centre-back, Saliba may not have started against Sporting and Arsenal may have gone on to win the league title. We’ll never know, but Saliba’s season-ending injury was certainly a huge contributing factor behind Arsenal’s late season collapse and Arteta is determined to make sure it won’t happen again.

Thomas Partey has been hampered by constant niggling injuries since he joined Arsenal from Atletico Madrid and his poor form during the run-in was also costly for us. Granit Xhaka was excellent for much of last season in a new No.8 role but his lack of athleticism in the middle of the park left Arsenal exposed at times. And the Swiss seemed to run out of gas towards the end of the campaign.

Gabriel Jesus was another key player who suffered a serious injury last season. The striker was ruled out for 3-4 months after picking up a knee injury while playing for Brazil at the World Cup in December. Arsenal coped reasonably well without him, but a lack of options up front was another issue that many fans and pundits highlighted as a problem for us.


So, heading into the summer, Arteta knew exactly what he wanted. A new versatile defender, a top class defensive midfielder and a versatile attacking midfielder. The Gunners boss identified his targets and Arsenal have wasted no time in going after them, backed with a sizeable war-chest signed off by the clubs owners.

Jurrien Timber

Arsenal’s priority in defence is Jurrien Timber and he’s set to join in a £40m deal from Ajax. The young Dutchman has excelled in recent years at centre-back but he’s also comfortable at right-back and can drift into central midfield when Arsenal are in possession – much like Oleksandr Zinchenko does on the left. Timber is expected to be mainly used at right-back by Arteta which means Ben White’s place is under threat, while it also casts doubt over Takehiro Tomiyasu’s future at the club. However, Timber will also be an option in central defence if Saliba is out or needs a rest, while White can also play more in his favoured centre-back role. Overall, Timber provides Arteta with another top class, and versatile, option in defence that was desperately needed last season.

Declan Rice

Arsenal first choice transfer target this summer is Declan Rice. Arteta has worked hard to convince the England international to join Arsenal and the 24-year-old has snubbed a move to treble winners Man City in favour of coming to the Emirates Stadium. A club-record £105m deal has been agreed with West Ham and Rice is set to complete his move over the coming days.

Signing Rice is a huge statement of intent by Arsenal, especially as we’ve been able to beat Man City to his signature, but he’ll also be a sensational addition to the team. He’s developed into one of the best central midfielders in Europe and his stats show he’ll be a big upgrade on Arsenal’s current set-up. Partey is top drawer when he’s fit and on top form, but he’s been too injury prone and inconsistent for Arsenal, so you can see why Arteta felt he needed an upgrade. Rice is a superb signing and should prove to be pivotal for the club over the coming years.

Kai Havertz

Perhaps the most surprising signing of the summer has been Kai Havertz to Arsenal. The German has been hit and miss for Chelsea since joining two years ago but Arteta saw enough talent to spend £65m on his signature this summer. Havertz mainly played up front for Chelsea last season and is capable of being a ‘false 9’ as he’s deceptively good in the air and with his back to goal.

However, Arteta has suggested that he plans to use Havertz in a deeper attacking midfield role with many expecting the 24-year-old to replace Xhaka in the No.8 position. Xhaka is expected to join Bayer Leverkusen and it looks like Havertz is his replacement. It’s going to be interesting to see how he fits in, but we have to back Arteta’s judgement on this one. Havertz also gives us a versatile option in attack as he can play up front or on the wings, so he’ll be a useful addition to the squad.

How Arsenal will line-up

With three new signings on board costing over £200m, you’d expect all of them to be regulars next season. Timber should slot in at right-back alongside Saliba, Gabriel and Zinchenko in defence ahead of goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. Rice will take the defensive midfield position with Havertz and Martin Odegaard ahead of him. The front three will be the same as last season with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli supporting Jesus.

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Will this be good enough to wrestle the title away from Man City? Only time will tell, but at least Arsenal are showing ambitions to establish themselves as serious challengers.