Arsenal got back on track with wins against Sevilla and Burnley, but their weaknesses were exposed once again away at Newcastle the other week. The Gunners are still yet to properly click into gear this season, despite spending over £200m in the summer.
Arsenal are joint-second with Liverpool in the table and the reality is that they do not look any closer to knocking Manchester City off their perch. Mikel Arteta really needs to acknowledge where his team are going wrong, to prevent the gap between the two clubs increasing once again.
Kai Havertz has become the biggest talking point. He was brought in to replace Granit Xhaka in Arsenal’s midfield trio and this has turned into a waste of money so far as the player has offered very little to the team. The club invested £65m for his services and Mikel Arteta has kept trying to fit Havertz into his side, but they have continued to look disjointed as a result.
With the jury still out on Jurrien Timber due to his unfortunate ACL injury he suffered shortly after his arrival at the club, it is fair to say that Declan Rice has been the only success story from Arsenal’s summer window. Their £105m club-record signing has instantly hit the ground running at the Emirates.
Rice has arguably been Arsenal’s standout player so far this term with his outstanding work rate in the centre of the park, and has also chipped in with a couple of crucial goals. However, he is playing in a team that no longer has the same balance as it did last season.
Losing Xhaka has turned out to be a huge miss for the Gunners, as they have missed his technical quality and steel in midfield. The player was an enforcer defensively, but he also recorded 14 goal contributions in the league last term, and Havertz clearly doesn’t match up as a replacement. Mikel Arteta is also having to make do without the injured Thomas Partey, who is expected to be out for the remainder of 2023.
For much of last season, Arsenal were the best team in English football, with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard leading the charge. They shared 44 goals between them, which helped to cover for the injury absence of Gabriel Jesus after he was sidelined for three months. Jesus still contributed 11 goals and eight assists for the Gunners in 2022/23, but by the end of the campaign it became clear that more cover was needed up top.
Arsenal did not welcome Jesus back until the end of August, and although he returned with four goals in 11 matches, the striker soon found himself back in the treatment room. He has missed the last four games, with Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard drafted in to fill his spot.
William Saliba is the only man in the squad who has largely managed to maintain the same high standard this season, but has not had a consistent partner at centre-back this time round. Gabriel Magalhaes has fought his way back in the side, but the manager has also experimented with Ben White and Jakub Kiwior alongside Saliba – with mixed results.
Plus, the uncertainty caused by the battle between David Raya and Aaron Ramsdale in goal has clearly filtered through to the defence. This version of Arsenal are very beatable, with a lack of cohesion threatening to disrupt their campaign even at this early stage.
While it is still early in the season the indications are this could be a three-horse title race between Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. However, Mikel Arteta needs to recognise where the team are falling short and make the necessary changes, as the Gunners must improve if they are to win the Premier League title.