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Is this the season Arsenal return to the top four?

When Arsenal lost 5-0 to Manchester City in August 2021, they were languishing at the bottom of the EPL table, with three losses in three games.

To make things worse for the Gunners, they had scored zero goals in the season till then.

Arsenal’s director of football Edu Gaspar almost had to do some damage control in an interview with Sky Sports, defending his squad and manager Mikel Arteta, stating that this squad could not be judged until the first-choice starting XI played together consistently.

By Matchday 10, Arsenal had found their way into the top six and would miss out on a Champions League spot by two points. Despite the Gunners having the equal third-most wins in the league, they lost 13 games and drew only three matches.

There were two key factors that caused Arsenal to miss the Champions League: a lack of squad depth where the injuries of Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey weakened the Arsenal backline and midfield massively, while a lack of killer instinct in front of goal saw no Arsenal player score more than 12 goals in the season.

Thomas Partey

(Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

In the summer window so far, Arsenal has made five signings.

•Goalkeeper Matt Turner from New England Revolution
•Winger Marquinhos from São Paulo FC
•Midfielder Fabio Viera from FC Porto
•Fullback/midfielder Oleksander Zinchenko from Manchester City
•Striker Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City

Each signing provides different options for Mikel Arteta to choose from, but the transfer of Gabriel Jesus is what is making Arsenal fans extremely excited for the season.

The striker provides exactly what the Gunners need – goals, and lots of them. During pre-season, Jesus has scored seven goals in five appearances. Alongside his goal-scoring capabilities, the Brazilian striker has made an impressive partnership alongside Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah.

While Arsenal’s attack is set to improve from last season, one cannot forget how crucial it is to remain solidified at the back. And that is exactly what the likes of Zinchenko and William Saliba bring to the Arsenal backline.

Zinchenko has effectively pushed Kieran Tierney from a possible captaincy candidate to a back-up. The Ukrainian international is a certain starter for the Gunners at left-back and provides cover for Thomas Partey as a defensive midfielder if required.

Saliba comes back to the Arsenal senior squad after a loan spell at Marseille – and what a loan spell it was for the young centre-back. His performances for Marseille would earn him a call-up to the France national team.

During pre-season, Saliba never conceded a goal during the minutes he was on the pitch and made life hell for opposition strikers. Having signed for Arsenal from St Etienne during the 2019-20 season, the Frenchman is set to make his Arsenal debut at the age of 21 after spending time in his native country on loan deals.

A huge part with Saliba involved in the Arsenal XI is that Arteta can shift between Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ben White at right-back (even though the duo are preferred as centre-backs at international level).

Another huge reason that this season should be the one where Arsenal break their Champions League hiatus is the winning mentality that his signings bring. Viera spent his senior career till date at Porto – where the standards are high as league titles are a must, as is a deep run in the Champions League.

And I don’t think I need to mention what Jesus and Zinchenko have achieved as Manchester City players under the maestro that is Josep Guardiola. The trio have tasted success in their careers and in a young squad that will definitely learn on how to cope pressure after last season, Viera, Jesus and Zinchenko have arrived at the perfect time for the Gunners.

After two-and-a-half seasons of clearing out those who were not convinced with his project, perhaps this may be the first time Arteta can truly call this Arsenal squad his squad.

But it is crucial for Arsenal to get a result when they travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace on the opening night. After all, a 3-0 loss to Palace away last season began the derailing of Arsenal’s season.

However, there is a sense of positivity around the Emirates between the players and the fanbase. Only time will tell if that positivity can translate into results and Champions League qualification.

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