Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Arsenal unrecognisable from Emery days but is Arteta far off dream 22-man squad?

0

MIKEL ARTETA may have guided Arsenal to yet another Premier League title charge, but the Spaniard insists there remains a lot of work to be done.

This Gunners squad is unrecognisable from the one Arteta took over from Unai Emery in December 2019, with several big names sold, axed or released and young blood and fresh faces brought in.

Mikel Arteta admitted he still feels improvements are needed for his Arsenal team

7

Mikel Arteta admitted he still feels improvements are needed for his Arsenal teamCredit: Getty
The Spaniard wants two top options in every position

7

The Spaniard wants two top options in every positionCredit: Getty

With the arrivals of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, David Raya and Jurrien Timber last summer for around £215million, Arteta took another step towards having his perfect squad to compete for silverware on a consistent basis.

However, in an ideal world, Arteta revealed this week that he wants a squad of 22 elite players he can constantly rotate throughout a campaign, which he believes would get the best out of his group with their own positions always under threat.

He said: “I would love that – to have 22 instead of 18, where we change and one is better than the other.

“The week after, the other is better than the other one.

“That raises the level and for sure you would win more games.”

Arteta cited his old mentor Pep Guardiola as being able to do just that with Manchester City over the past few seasons, culminating in last term’s historic Treble.

So, how close are Arsenal to having a squad with two high-quality players in each position? How many more players do they need to make this a reality?

SunSport’s Jordan Davies has taken a look…

BEST FREE BET SIGN UP OFFERS FOR UK BOOKMAKER

GOALKEEPER

First choice: David Raya
Second choice: Aaron Ramsdale

There were more than a few murmurings of concern when Arteta brought in Raya from Brentford on loan with an option to buy, with a view to having two competing No1s.

While Ramsdale’s stock has fallen, along with his performance level when given a rare chance to start, Raya has risen to the occasion and proved Arteta right in many respects.

What happened to Highbury?

However, this partnership is due to break up come the season’s end with Ramsdale expected to leave in search of a No1 gig. Newcastle and Chelsea are interested.

That means Arteta will be forced to splash out on another Raya competitor in the summer, one with similar attributes who can slot in seamlessly when needed. Easier said than done.

RIGHT-BACK

First choice: Ben White
Second choice: Takehiro Tomiyasu

While Tomiyasu is an extremely flexible player – one who can play across the whole backline – he is most suited to right-back, a position that White has nailed down.

But Tomiyasu is a player that Arteta values greatly, so much so that the Japanese international has recently signed a contract extension until 2026 with a 12-month option.

This is a position of great strength at Arsenal, and although White is the preferred choice, Arteta could rely on Tomiyasu to give a solid performance when called upon.

At 26, White – who also signed a new deal until 2028 last month – should provide clarity at right-back for many years to come at the Emirates.

David Raya has taken the No1 jersey from Aaron Ramsdale

7

David Raya has taken the No1 jersey from Aaron RamsdaleCredit: Getty

RIGHT CENTRE-BACK

First choice: William Saliba
Second choice: N/A

The one area of this Arsenal squad that needs urgent reinforcements. Tomiyasu could fill in here in an emergency, but this is not a long-term solution Arteta would be happy with.

Should Saliba – one of the best young defenders on the planet – succumb to another injury, Jakub Kiwior would be the most suited to replacing him.

But the lack of depth behind him is worrying. During Gabriel’s time out of the side at the start of the season, Ben White filled in with Thomas Partey forced in at right-back.

Arteta is keen to have four capable centre-backs in his squad, and with Rob Holding departing for Crystal Palace last summer, a new face should be a priority.

Ben White is the first-choice right-back while Jakub Kiwior provides versatile cover

7

Ben White is the first-choice right-back while Jakub Kiwior provides versatile coverCredit: Getty

LEFT CENTRE-BACK

First choice: Gabriel
Second choice: Jakub Kiwior

Despite starring at left-back for the past few months, Kiwior was signed by Arteta last January primarily as a central defensive back-up, so that is where we will use him right now.

Earlier this campaign, the Polish international was perhaps close to being deemed surplus to requirements, yet his versatility has proved himself invaluable to Arteta.

Gabriel has had one of his best seasons in an Arsenal shirt since signing from Lille in 2020, forming a formidable duo with pal Saliba.

Whether Kiwior could fill the void if Gabriel is injured is another matter, but has so far had limited opportunity to play as a natural centre-back this season.

LEFT-BACK

First choice: Jurrien Timber
Second choice: Oleksandr Zinchenko

He may have played just one Prem game this season before rupturing his ACL in August, but Timber is destined to be Arteta’s starting left-back.

Arteta has spoken glowingly of the Dutchman ever since he arrived from Ajax last summer, even throughout his slow recovery.

There is a belief Timber will be a game changer when fit – which could be in the next few weeks.

And behind him, there is an extremely capable back-up in Zinchenko – a multiple Prem winner with City and natural leader. Another area of strength in the squad.

Let’s not forget Kiwior too, who has sparkled at times as a makeshift left-back, especially in big games this calendar year against Liverpool and City.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER

First choice: Declan Rice
Second choice: Thomas Partey

It is hard to think of a new player who has hit the ground running better at Arsenal – Rice is Arteta’s Mr Reliable whose impressive injury record remains intact.

But should Rice ever need a rest, Partey can step in. The Ghanaian is a different sort of midfielder to Rice, but still has the physicality and the engine to do a job.

Will Partey be happy playing second fiddle? Unlikely, and with the 30-year-old’s contract up next summer, Arsenal may look to cash in on a player who has suffered with injury issues.

This is the one place on the pitch Arteta could risk not having a back-up, knowing Rice will play the majority of games and consistently produce, but it would be a gamble.

There is unlikely to be space for Thomas Partey when Declan Rice is fit

7

There is unlikely to be space for Thomas Partey when Declan Rice is fitCredit: Reuters

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER

First choice: Jorginho
Second choice: Fabio Vieira

This is an area of concern. Vieira has a lot of promise but has missed the majority of the campaign with a groin problem.

The Portuguese midfielder, 23, still has not fully adapted to the Prem after his 2022 switch from Porto, and it remains to be seen whether Arteta is willing to be patient.

And then there is Jorginho – expected to sign another one-year extension with his contract up at the end of the season, but at 32, he is not the future.

As good a job as he has done for Arteta, his body and fitness require management, something Arsenal are not able to do with ease right now.

ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

First choice: Martin Odegaard
Second choice: Emile Smith Rowe

Hailed as one of the saviours of Arsenal during Arteta’s early reign, Smith Rowe’s meteoric fall sees him currently on the bench unable to force his way back in.

He has averaged just 23 minutes per Prem game this season. It is clear Arteta does not trust the 23-year-old to contribute to a title-winning team.

Is the Hale End academy product’s time up at Arsenal? If so, a back-up for skipper Odegaard is necessary, even if the Norwegian plays most minutes and rarely gets injured.

However, it will be tough to find someone with the pressing ability, monstrous engine and eye for a pass to match Odegaard, unless Arteta takes a risk with a young up-and-comer.

Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah remain on the fringes under Arteta

7

Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah remain on the fringes under ArtetaCredit: Getty

RIGHT WINGER

First choice: Bukayo Saka
Second choice: Reiss Nelson

One of Arteta’s most trusted enforcers, Saka has started plenty of matches this season despite not being 100 per cent fit – that’s how valuable he is to the side.

But there will be times when the England star needs a breather, and Nelson in the past has shown to be a decent step-in – including last year’s injury-time winner over Bournemouth.

But this season, Nelson appears to be another fringe player that Arteta is losing faith in to make an impact at the highest level – he has averaged just 13 minutes a game in the Prem.

Another top-quality winger to keep Saka on his toes would be ideal, and could push Nelson even further towards the exit door.

LEFT WINGER

First choice: Gabriel Martinelli
Second choice: Leandro Trossard

Another area of real strength and depth. At times, Arteta has been torn between who to start, especially with Martinelli not hitting the heights of last season.

Trossard has shown his class in big moments, but is yet to prove that he can do so over a 38-game league season for Arsenal.

Martinelli meanwhile was hitting his stride before a foot cut hampered his progress.

Both players came on in the second half of their 0-0 draw at the Etihad last weekend, both with flexibility to play across the front line when required.

STRIKER

First choice: Kai Havertz
Second choice: Gabriel Jesus
Third choice: Eddie Nketiah

It would be a huge shock with Nketiah decides to stick around in North London beyond the end of this season, making just ten Prem starts and averaging 44 minutes per game.

So, that leaves Arteta with a dilemma – two players who have starred down the middle for Arsenal yet are not natural No9s.

After a slow start, Havertz has shown his worth with a flurry of goals while his aerial ability and work rate up top has impressed Arteta.

A troublesome knee has disrupted Jesus’ flow but the Brazilian appears to be over that now. He played well out on the left against City, offensively and defensively.

Despite currently having the option of Havertz and Jesus in that striker role, Arteta will opt to bring another a more traditional forward soon, perhaps pushing Havertz back into a midfield role that brought varying success before the new year.

Kai Havertz and Gabriel Jesus have led the line this season

7

Kai Havertz and Gabriel Jesus have led the line this seasonCredit: Getty
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.