Can Arsenal break back into the top four this season?

It’s sometimes hard to believe that it has now been seven years since Arsenal last finished in the top four in the Premier League and qualified for the Champions League. During that time, they have endured three fifth-placed finishes, a sixth-placed finish and two eighth-placed finishes.

Not the sort of form you would expect from a club of Arsenal’s stature.

They have, however, shown signs of improvement in the past couple of seasons and are starting to reap the benefits of sticking with manager Mikel Arteta, despite him leading the side to eight-placed finishes in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

The 56 points they achieved in 2019-20 was the lowest points tally they had achieved since pre-Arsene Wenger times when they managed just 51 points in the 1994-95 season before they would go on a run of finishing in the top two for eight consecutive seasons under Wenger from 1997 to 2005.

Arsenal fans must be hoping that Arteta can have the same impact on Arsenal as Wenger and if the start of the 2022-23 season is anything to go by, Arsenal fans have every right to be optimistic as we head into the new season.

Shrewd Transfer Window

Like many sides that have had success and seen it disappear, a lot of a side’s success can be put down to recruitment. Getting the right players in has always been a challenge for Arsenal. They are often forced to work with much smaller budgets than the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea and this certainly put them at a disadvantage.

Since Wenger left, and even in his final season, there seemed to be a big disconnect between the players they were bringing in and the requirements of the manager.

In Wenger’s final season, they signed Alexandre Lacazette for a then club-record transfer fee, and six months lantern they broke that record again to bring in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund.

Were those players required?’

Whilst both had successful spells, they never really had a consistent run in the team and you wonder whether a big part of that was to do with the fact that they didn’t really fit with the manager’s plans.

A season after Wenger departed, Arsenal smashed their transfer fee again to bring in Nicolas Pepe, apparently against then-manager Unai Emery’s wishes.

Arsenal fans had long been discontent with the lack of investment in the team and it felt like these transfers were to appease the fans rather than to build a team that could compete for the title once more.

It is perhaps no surprise that Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe are no longer at the club and this is a sure sign that they were never part of the long-term plans of the club.

This season, however, it looks like Arteta has finally had a say in the players being brought in. The strategy in the transfer market looks much clearer under Arteta. Older players are being pushed out and replaced with younger players who are ready for the first team or certainly ready to play an important role in the squad.

New recruits

This summer has been one of the biggest transfer windows in Arsenal’s history and with a week still to go, there could yet be more new signings before it closes.

The five players brought in so far, however, have certainly hit the ground running. Gabriel Jesus, Matt Turner, Marquinhos, Fabio Viera, and Oleksandr Zinchenko have cost the club in excess of £110 million making them one of the biggest spenders in the Premier League for the second season running.

Having won their first three games of the season – the only side in the Premier League to do so – it could be argued that they don’t need any further additions to their squad, however, this is a season like no other and a deep squad will be more crucial than ever.

With Arsenal fighting on four fronts – the Premier League, Europa League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup, it will be important for Arteta to mix up his lineups to ensure he keeps his players fresh for the biggest games.

Throw into the mix the mid-season break for the World Cup from November to late December, and it is impossible to know how players will come back from that World Cup and what the New Year will look like for many teams.

Arsenal are still being heavily linked with moves for two Premier League players. Wolves winger Pedro Neto and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans have been strongly linked throughout the window and it would be no surprise to see Arsenal make a move before the transfer window closes. Signing these two players would take Arsenal’s spending close to £200 million, whilst also raising the expectation levels this season.

Currently, Arsenal are 13.00 with Betway Sports to lift the Premier League title this season and whilst this may still be a long shot, they are well placed for a run at a top-four finish with both Manchester United and Chelsea looking vulnerable in the early fixtures of the season.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and the end of the season and the transfers that take place between now and the end of August could have a huge bearing on how the season plays out.

One thing that is for sure is that Arsenal head into this season with their strongest squad for a long time and the optimism of their fans is not misplaced.

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