The 2022-23 season was kind to Arsenal fans - until it wasn't. For months it seemed that the Gunners' wait for a Premier League title would be coming to an end. However, a run of just three wins in their final nine games saw them dramatically fall away, with Manchester City crowned champions in their stead.
Arsenal spent little time sulking this summer, though, moving quickly to strengthen Mikel Arteta's squad with a string of exciting additions. It's not just another prospective Premier League title challenge that Gunners fans have to get excited about either. Arsenal are also returning to the Champions League this season, giving them a chance to rub shoulders with Europe's elite once again.
Technically, their season has already begun, with Arteta's side lifting the Community Shield in dramatic circumstances on Sunday. However, the proper action is just around the corner now, so GOAL has taken an in-depth look at how things might pan out for the north Londoners...
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It's not unfair to expect Arsenal to be firmly in the Premier League title race this season. They spent a record 248 days sitting pretty at the top of the table last campaign, before falling away at the business end. They've spent heavily - and smartly - on strengthening the squad since then, so there's no reason why they cannot at least replicate what they achieved during 2022-23.
Away from domestic matters, Arsenal are also returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2016. It's been a painful wait for supporters desperate to see the Gunners at European football's top table and it's difficult to know how they'll fare. Premier League success does not always translate to the continental stage and Arsenal should be afforded a teething period as they get back to competing with the best of the best.
Winning the Premier League. It's that simple. If you offered Arsenal fans the title and an underwhelming Champions League run before a ball is kicked, 99 percent of them would surely take it. Arteta himself would likely take pleasure in preventing his former mentor Pep Guardiola becoming the first manager to secure four successive Premier League trophies, too.
If the Spaniard was being greedy, he'd likely ask for a domestic cup final on top of league success. But clinching that first title since 2004 will be his main priority.
Crippled by the extra workload of the Champions League and weakened by key injuries, Arsenal's title hopes are extinguished before Christmas and they are narrowly beaten to fifth place by a resurgent Tottenham.
Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but the Premier League is a merciless place. Manchester United, Newcastle, Chelsea and Spurs are all stronger, Liverpool have looked ominous in pre-season, while Aston Villa and Brighton will be aiming to spring a surprise.
It's not entirely inconceivable that Arsenal drop out of the top four if a lot of things go against them this season. That's just how ludicrously competitive the Premier League is these days.
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Refreshingly perhaps, this Arsenal team is lacking a bonafide superstar that attracts more attention than their team-mates. William Saliba was a rock at the back last season, Oleksandr Zinchenko is a joy to watch in his unique role, while Gabriel Martinelli can be unplayable when he's on his game. Meanwhile, skipper Martin Odegaard is pivotal in making the Gunners tick and has added goals to his game recently too.
Standing narrowly above all others, though, is Bukayo Saka. Football fans across the globe dream of a player like Saka. An academy graduate, he is capable of winning games on his own and has not missed a single Premier League match across the past two seasons.
It'll be tough to improve on his 14 goals and 11 assists from last season, but if anyone can do it, Saka can.
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Arsenal have recruited really well this summer. Arteta let the board know which players he wanted and they were signed in time to enjoy a full pre-season with their new team-mates. Other clubs should take note.
Jurrien Timber adds much-needed depth to the backline, with Arsenal forced to field Rob Holding as Saliba's replacement towards the back end of last season, while Kai Havertz is gifted and has a point to prove after underwhelming at Chelsea. David Raya should be confirmed as a Gunner soon too, with the Spaniard set to compete with Aaron Ramsdale for a starting spot.
The marquee arrival, however, was Declan Rice. Negotiations were protracted, and West Ham extracted a British-record transfer fee for the midfielder, but Rice is worth it. Many of Arsenal's rivals were also interested, including Manchester City, and the fact the England international chose the Emirates Stadium as his new home speaks volumes of the incredible job Arteta has done rehabilitating the club's reputation over the past few seasons.
Rice will offer plenty to the Gunners midfield. As well as being an elite defensive presence, he has come on leaps and bounds as a progressive passer and dribbler recently. Make no mistake, his arrival is absolutely huge for Arsenal.
Wonderkid to watch
Expectations are high for Arsenal's latest batch of Hale End wonderkids, with the Under-18 side making it to last season's FA Cup Youth Cup final before being slapped 5-1 by West Ham. Flying winger Amario Cozier-Duberry, dynamic midfielder Myles Lewis-Skelly and free-scoring forward Omari Benjamin are among those who impressed during that run, but none have a Premier League appearance to their name.
Ethan Nwaneri has tasted first-team action, however. Nwaneri became the youngest Premier League player in history when he was subbed on during the Gunners' 3-0 victory over Brentford in September 2022. Since then, Nwaneri has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Chelsea, but he did end up signing scholarship terms at the Emirates. If he continues to impress in the youth team, Arteta could be tempted to hand the attacking midfielder a few more minutes this season.
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Feeling the pressure
"It's been tough man. Definitely the hardest season of my career so far," Emile Smith Rowe told Sky Sports back in April. At that time, Arsenal were still very much in title contention, but Smith Rowe had watched the majority of the action from the bench. After shining during the 2021-22 campaign, he did not start a single Premier League game last season.
Injuries played their part, with a groin complaint ruling Smith Rowe out for an extended period around the World Cup break, but it was also clear that he had slipped some way down the pecking order in north London.
He is not admitting defeat yet, though, telling The Times recently: "It was tough, a long season. I won’t lie. Arsenal are my club and I’m not going to give up until [Arteta] says he doesn’t want me. But that’s not the case. He wants me as part of the team and I want to fight for my place and get back in the team."
If he continues to be frustrated, he could wave goodbye to his boyhood team in the January transfer window. Smith Rowe won't want that and it's up to him to force his way back into the line up this season.
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Calling the shots
Arsenal deserve huge credit for sticking with Mikel Arteta through the tough times - and there's been plenty of those since he took over at the Emirates Stadium in December 2019. But even after successive eighth-placed finishes, the Gunners 'trusted the process' and were rewarded in scintillating fashion last season. This year will all be about taking that final step and becoming Premier League champions.
Arteta has been well backed in the transfer market, getting all of his top targets and as a result, Arsenal will be expecting another title challenge. It won't be easy, but the Spaniard overcame several tough moments last season, proving what a talented coach he is.
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Gaps to fill
Thanks to Saka's impeccable fitness levels over the past few seasons, Arteta has never had to deal with the issue of replacing his goals, assists and general attacking thrust. Should his starboy go down this season, there are a few concerns over who could fill his boots.
Leandro Trossard has been pretty sensational since arriving from Brighton in January, underlining his importance to the team with a crucial equaliser in the Community Shield, but it's debatable whether he'd be quite as effective down the right.
Reiss Nelson, the other option to replace Saka, showed promise last season, but it's still a significant downgrade. In an ideal world, another right-sided forward would arrive at the Emirates before the transfer window closes, but it's not likely.
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Probable line up
Almost out of nowhere, Arsenal's goalkeeping jersey is up for grabs, with Ramsdale running the risk of being usurped by new arrival Raya. When everyone's fit, the defence largely selects itself, but Ben White will be pushing Timber hard for a start.
It's not yet certain if Havertz will be deployed in midfield when Gabriel Jesus returns up front. That's likely to happen against lesser teams, but Thomas Partey should feature alongside Declan Rice in a 4-2-3-1 in tougher matches. Elsewhere, Trossard will push Martinelli hard for minutes in the frontline.
(4-3-3): David Raya; Jurrien Timber, Gabriel, William Saliba, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Martin Odegaard; Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli.
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GOAL's Hot Take
We all know Arteta is prone to a bit of over excitement on the touchline. Indeed, he became the first Premier League manager to be booked this season after being cautioned for his protests during the Community Shield.
And with the PGMOL unveiling new rules that plan to punish managers who leave the technical area, it's unlikely to be the last time that the Gunners boss falls foul of the officials this campaign.
Adjusting to this new way of conducting himself could prove difficult for Arteta. In fact, don't be surprised if he racks up the most red cards out of any coach or player this season.
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How it will go
On paper, Arsenal are extremely well placed for another shot at the Premier League title this season. This young Gunners side was pretty much flawless until the final months of the 2022-23 campaign and their transfer business means Arteta has a much better squad at his disposal.
How it all turns out depends on how that squad reacts to the disappointment of last season. The Community Shield victory over top dogs City will have done them a world of good in giving them the belief that they can go toe to toe with the very best - even if they didn't get the job done in normal time.
The Champions League adds another challenge for Arteta to deal with, but all in all Arsenal are looking pretty good. If City cannot replicate the perfection they've exhibited in recent years under Pep Guardiola, Arteta and Co are best placed to lift the Premier League trophy this season.