Soccer

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal are ready to go up another level

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal are ready to go up another level after surrendering a top-four finish last season… but several crucial questions are still lingering overhead

  • Arsenal start their 2022-23 campaign against Crystal Palace on Friday night
  • But there are several crucial questions lingering overhead that need answers
  • Sportsmail have rounded up the red flags before Arteta’s side get underway

Dawn is breaking on a new campaign and what feels like another new era for Arsenal.

On Friday night Mikel Arteta takes his side to Selhurst Park, with several crucial questions lingering overhead.

Chief among them: which clip or comment will prove most haunting should this season begin like the last? Take your pick.

Dawn is breaking on a new season and what feels like another new era for Arsenal and Arteta

From pre-season, when technical director Edu revealed that, in the club’s five-year plan, now is the time when everything begins to click.

From this week, when Arteta himself declared: ‘We are ready to go to a different level, I am convinced.’

Or from the small-screen documentary that aired on Thursday. Already, All or Nothing is proving catnip for the manager’s critics: ordering his players to rub their hands together to capture ‘energy’ in the changing room. Blasting You’ll Never Walk Alone around the training pitch to prepare for Anfield.

Technical director Edu revealed that now is the time for everything to start clicking as he discussed the club’s five year plan for the future 

Arteta was heard ordering his players to rub their hands together to capture ‘energy’ in the changing room during Amazon’s All or Nothing series (players pictured at the premiere)

It is hard to escape the sense that Arsenal are tempting ridicule at a time when pressure was already swelling.

Sure, they have had plenty to shout about recently – on the pitch and in the transfer market.

But for a club, and a manager, usually so careful about saying too much – or anything at all – they have been strikingly open and optimistic.

By 10pm on Friday night, we will find out whether that caution has been thrown straight into a south London whirlwind.

Crystal Palace away on the opening night. Has any fixture felt so ripe for another Arsenal implosion?

Arsenal began 2021-22 with young signings including Aaron Ramsdale, who faced abuse

At least since last year, when another Friday evening trip across London ended with Brentford putting Arsenal on course for their worst start for 67 years: after three matches, they sat bottom. No points. No goals. No route back for Arteta in the minds of many.

Arsenal had been the Premier League’s biggest spenders last summer, too.

This year, once more, Arteta has been backed with around £120million. If only Amazon had waited – this feels like a defining season for the manager, and a club whose fans who tend to yoyo between two extremes: all or nothing.

‘Watching the pressure that I had last year after one game I don’t think it’s going to be bigger than that!’ Arteta said on Thursday. We’ll see about that.

Ahead of the 2022-23 campaign Arsenal have brought in the likes of Gabriel Jesus

Arteta hopes bringing in the likes of Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko (pictured) will bring a ‘contagious’ winning mentality to an inexperienced dressing room

Arsenal began 2021-22 with a host of young signings including Aaron Ramsdale, who faced vile abuse. A dismal pre-season only heightened the sense of foreboding around north London. Twelve months on, expectations abound.

‘I think we are all enthusiastic. We’ve had the pre-season that we wanted – well organised, good results, good performances,’ Arteta said. ‘We are with a level of energy and ambition to have a successful season and we have to show that on the pitch.’

Six wins from seven friendlies and five new faces secured by the end of July. Gabriel Jesus (£45m), Oleksandr Zinchenko (£32m) and Fabio Vieira (£34m) all tick crucial boxes: they are young, versatile and versed in victory.

‘The new players have been unbelievable,’ defender Ben White said this week. ‘They’ve added so much quality and hunger to the team and also competition – everyone has upped their game.’

Arsenal will be captained by 23-year-old Martin Odegaard for the upcoming season

The hope is that players such as Jesus and Zinchenko will bring a ‘contagious’ winning mentality to an inexperienced dressing room.

‘Those players have been inspired by top players, top professionals, ruthless winners for many years,’ Arteta said. ‘Now it’s their turn to do the same and inspire those younger players… to show them what it takes to win, and the level of detail, hunger and dedication that you need to keep winning.’

The deep clean is virtually complete, too. For the first time in a while, Arsenal’s squad appears free of factions and problem players.

‘You feel that now the players we have are more specific and better for the way we want to play,’ Arteta added.

Underperforming older heads on big contracts have made way for a younger, more humble breed. Captained by Martin Odegaard, 23, and potentially anchored by 21-year-old William Saliba.

Arsenal may even be anchored by 21-year-old William Saliba who returned from his loan spell 

The centre back joined Arsenal for £27million in 2019; Friday should bring his competitive debut at last.

Saliba returned from loan this summer carrying senior France caps and a cultish devotion among many supporters. His composed, classy displays during pre-season have only seen expectations spiral. ‘In the last few weeks, he’s given us every reason to believe that we made the right decision,’ Arteta said. ‘He now looks ready to go.’

The manager’s challenge is to harness the promise of this squad with the added burden of Europa League football.

It would have been the Champions League, had Arsenal not suffered a late collapse in last season’s top-four race.

Among the matches that cost them? A 3-0 defeat at Selhurst Park in April.

And so, the omens point two ways. Towards two very different results. Both seem written in the stars.

‘It’s great that people are excited,’ Arteta said. ‘We want to be at the top of the table.’ Friday night at last, the talking will stop.




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