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It has been another dramatic season in the Premier League, with each team experiencing the highest highs and lowest lows along the way.
Arsenal have undergone a testing campaign, being thrilling for the most part and heartbreaking as the record played out to the silence of summer.
Back in August, not many would have predicted that the Gunners would’ve led the title race for 248 days of the season but fast forward to May, and Mikel Arteta’s side fell just short of Manchester City.
Was finishing second a matter to celebrate or mourn for Arsenal?
The period between August and April was a time for Arsenal fans to relish, as it looked as though the side were on track to claim their first Premier League title since the famous invincibles side of 2004.
The Gunners’ form from the start of the season to the break for the World Cup was formidable, with a new found energy and monstrous aura surrounding the north Londoners.
Something was unlocked this campaign by the Spaniard, whether it be psychologically in his team or the level in performance rising above what was perhaps expected. Regardless, Arsenal were the team to beat for the majority of the term.
As the unfamiliarities of the winter break came to a close, usual service returned as the conversation began to get louder regarding Arsenal’s true threat to winning the league. The squad didn’t seem to tire and had an answer for all doubts, winning confidently on the road and consistently rising to the occasion when the opportunity came their way.
Going back to August and no one could have predicted how good Arteta had his side playing and going back to April, no one could have predicted how quickly things would end.
When William Saliba was injured in March, it triggered a wave of anxiety at the Emirates, and his absence became a flood that Arsenal could not tread. Arteta’s side’s win percentage dropped astonishingly from 78% to 44% in the Frenchman’s absence, and goals were leaking in.
Arsenal away from home in the Premier League this season WITH William Saliba:
▪️9 goals conceded
▪️9 clean sheets
Arsenal away from home in the Premier League this season WITHOUT William Saliba:
▪️9 goals conceded
▪️1 clean sheet
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) May 20, 2023
Three consecutive draws ultimately lost Arsenal the league, and their dominance that had ruled for over eight months was stripped away in 270 minutes ahead of the crucial trip to the Etihad.
The first half at Anfield was arguably the last glimmer of the side we saw all season, as Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus put his side 0-2 up at a ground that many fear. The Gunners used their two-goal cushion as insurance which induced complacency; they conceded two and the points were shared.
The following week was a carbon copy but against a lesser opponent. Jesus and Martin Odegaard put Arsenal two goals ahead against West Ham, but complacency kicked in and the points were shared.
Then the pattern became evident, complacency was a bug on the field and it knocked the league leaders for six, as Southampton claimed a point at the Emirates on a bizarre Friday night in North London.
City then welcomed Arsenal to the Etihad and toyed with their ambitions of being champions, in what was a lesson into how to be feared from Pep Guardiola to his scholar Arteta. Football is brutal, but the Gunners ultimately only had themselves to blame in taking no room for error to Manchester.
The way that the dominance slipped from the Gunners’ grasp and the games in which they crumbled tainted the joy, however, there’s no basis to doubt that Arteta’s side can’t replicate their prior success again with reinforcements and a fully fit squad.
Arsenal’s player of the season: Gabriel Martinelli
In a year where Arteta showcased the talents in his squad, 21-year-old Martinelli shone in an attack that was bursting with electrifying names. The left-winger contributed to 20 goals, scoring 15 himself and assisting five in 36 appearances, with an average match rating of 7.17 – as per Sofascore.
15 – Martinelli
15 – Odegaard
14 – Saka
11 – Jesus
7 – Xhakapic.twitter.com/vZc9W4HcqS
— Sam Dean (@SamJDean) May 29, 2023
The youngster’s form never seemed to dip and he posed as a constant threat on the flank, playing in fearless fashion whenever given the opportunity, managing to stand out in a campaign that saw Saka and Odegaard also thrive.
His performances were rewarded in February with a new contract keeping him in north London until 2027.
Transfer talk: A strong show in the recruitment sector aided Arsenal
The introduction of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko gave Arsenal a winning spark and the pair were undoubtedly the best bit of business that was seen in north London this summer
Fabio Vieira was also signed in the summer, however, he was unable to cement his authority on the starting eleven, coming across as a player that may bloom when he becomes adjusted to the physicalities of English football.
Jakub Kiwior, Leandro Trossard and Jorginho arrived at the Emirates in January, with Trossard leading the way in terms of being the most impressive, securing eight assists and a goal in his first spell at the club.
Selling the likes of Hector Bellerin and Alexandre Lacazette and replacing them with Jesus and defensive marshalls such as Saliba, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Zinchenko, showed the club’s direction in wanting to improve in all areas.
Ahead of next season, Arsenal have been linked with a move for another Manchester City player in Ilkay Gundogan, and a big-money move for Declan Rice as Arteta looks to bolster his midfield.
A look to the future: Arsenal are a few tweaks away from being champions quality
It’s undeniable that Arteta is building a strong squad at the Emirates, centred around his young side that are hungry to deliver greatness.
The shortcomings of this season have highlighted the lack of depth in Arsenal’s squad, which can be easily resolved in the summer window with added quality and personnel to provide competition for places.
Squad fitness is unpredictable and therefore the need for a vast squad with the quality to match is essential in order to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League.
Recruitment is key this summer, and if the club gets it right, there could be no limit to Arsenal’s development and success going forward.
Words by Rosie Tudball
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