Arsenal look strong as pre-season begins, early transfer business could be crucial

By on July 10, 2023


After going so close to winning the Premier League title last season, Mikel Arteta knew he had a massive summer ahead of him. Arsenal’s lack of squad depth was a major factor in our late season collapse and Arteta made it clear the club had to ‘nail’ their summer transfer business to get the squad strong enough to compete on all fronts next year. We’re back in the Champions League and there is no way we could cope with those extras games and compete for three domestic trophies if we didn’t strengthen the squad this summer.

Many fans point to William Saliba’s untimely injury in Arsenal’s Europa League game against Sporting Lisbon as the turning point in the title race. Even Gabriel Jesus alluded to it in a recent interview. Rob Holding is a great bloke and popular amongst the players, but the drop off in quality when he came in for Saliba was huge and it cost Arsenal important points. Takehiro Tomiyasu also picked up another injury against Sporting which meant Arteta didn’t even have the option of moving Ben White into the middle of defence and recalling the Japanese international at right-back.

We conceded far too many goals once Saliba and Tomiyasu got injured and defence is an area Arteta clearly felt we needed to improve. Jurrien Timber soon emerged as Arsenal’s prime target and the Dutchman is set to join in a £35m deal from Ajax. Timber has already completed his medical and will be unveiled as an Arsenal player soon. The 22-year-old made his name as a right-sided centre-back at Ajax and he’s known for being extremely comfortable on the ball. However, he is also more than capable of playing at right-back and Arteta reportedly wants Timber to play on the right side of his defence where he can drift into midfield when we’re in possession – much like Oleksandr Zinchenko does on the left.

Timber’s arrives to add more depth on the right side of defence. He’s basically a copy of Ben White, so Arsenal now have two top class players who can play right-back of in place of Saliba in the middle when needed. Tomiyasu adds more depth as he can play anywhere across the backline so Arsenal now look packed with quality in defence heading into the new season.

Xhaka/Partey replacements

Many Arsenal fans also felt we needed an upgrade in midfield as we lost control of games during the run-in that cost us valuable points. Thomas Partey’s form dropped off a cliff late on last season and he’s tipped to leave Arsenal this summer. It would be a real shame as I’m a huge fan of the Ghanaian’s, but he’s now 30 and if we can get a decent fee, it makes sense to sell considering he’ll no longer be a first team regular next season.

That’s because Arsenal have agreed a £105m deal to sign West Ham star Declan Rice. The England international has already undergone his medical and agreed personal terms, so we’re just waiting for official confirmation of the move. Obviously Arsenal aren’t paying £105m for a player who won’t be a guaranteed starter, so the expectation is for Rice to replace Partey in the holding midfield role.

The 24-year-old will be a sensational signing for Arsenal and he’ll form a new-look midfield after Granit Xhaka sealed a move to Bayer Leverkusen last week. Xhaka’s departure leaves a big void needing to be filled, both on and off the pitch. Rice will replace his leadership, but Arteta has opted for a controversial choice to take over the reigns in the No.8 midfield role.

Not many saw Kai Havertz as the answer to Arsenal’s problems but Arsenal have spent £65m to lure the German international away from Chelsea. Havertz has been playing as a No.9 for club and country recently but it has widely been reported that Arteta wants him to play in a deeper midfield role at Arsenal. The 24-year-old has all the qualities needed to be a terrific box-to-box midfielder and his ability to play in multiple positions will be very useful as Arteta loves multi-functional players.

Pre-season begins

Havertz is expected to make his debut against Nurenberg on Thursday while Rice and Timber should travel with the squad on our pre-season tour of the US next week. So it looks like Arsenal have secured their three main transfer targets in time for pre-season, which is a huge boost. Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko settled so quickly last season because they were signed early and had a full pre-season to get used to Arteta’s system. Let’s hope the same happens with Havertz, Rice and Timber.

If all goes to plan, we could see Rice and Timber making their debuts against an MLS All-Star XI in Washington DC on Thursday 20th July. This will be the first game on our pre-season tour of the US and two days later we’ll face-off against domestic rivals Manchester United. The game will be played at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on July 22nd, and it will give Arteta the perfect opportunity to see how his squad compares to one of their nearest rivals in the league.

Arteta will then get the chance to pit his wits against a European heavyweight when Arsenal take on the La Liga champions on July 26th. You can already get Arsenal vs Barcelona tickets for the game at the SoFi Stadium in LA, and it’s sure to be an entertaining match. Arsenal may be drawn to face Barca in the Champions League next season so it will be interesting to see how we get on against the Spanish giants.

We then fly back to London to take on Monaco in the Emirates Cup on Wednesday August 2nd before taking on Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on the 6th August. This will be a massive game for Arteta as he’ll want his players to avenge last seasons title and prove Arsenal can match City heading into the new campaign.

The signings of Rice, Timber and Havertz should certainly take us a lot closer to having the depth needed to stay the course with City over a 38-game season. However, Arteta may want a couple more signings later in the summer if we’re to have a squad capable of challenging on all fronts next season so I wouldn’t rule out more new additions over the coming weeks.

However, the chances are Arsenal will now focus on selling players such as Nuno Tavares, Rob Holding, Cedric Soares, Partey and Nicolas Pepe before making any moves for new signings. Either way, Arsenal are already looking in great shape as we head into pre-season.