This season Arsenal will be back in the Champions League for the first time in seven years and they’ve made some ambitious moves in the transfer market to build Mikel Arteta a squad worthy of elite European competition.
Last term, Arteta’s Gunners came agonisingly close to lifting their first Premier League trophy since the Invincibles of 2003-04. They’ll be hoping that the £200million worth of new faces will be enough to push them one better this year.
The Community Shield – 2023-24’s curtain-raiser as we’re contractually obliged to call it – will give us a good look at Arsenal’s new additions. But how have the summer signings fared in pre-season so far? We’ve taken stock.
Arsenal’s first signing of the summer was an eyebrow-raising one.
Germany international Havertz famously scored Chelsea’s match-winner in the 2021 Champions League final but his overall record of 32 goals and 15 assists in 139 appearances was far from sparkling and he’s departed Stamford Bridge with a point to prove.
The 24-year-old did little to shake off his reputation as a flakey finisher by missing every single attempt in a cross-and-volley challenge in Arsenal’s pre-season tour of the United States. But he’s since found the back of the net as the Gunners stuck five past both MLS All-Stars and Barcelona.
There are question marks over where Havertz will fit into a side that already boasts Martin Odegaard as a playmaker behind a front three of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus – and Arteta has spent Arsenal’s summer friendlies integrating the new signing to try and answer that question.
In a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United, Havertz featured in midfield alongside Declan Rice and Odegaard.
Go on, make some more jokes about Kai Havertz not being able to volley a ball.
He dares ya.pic.twitter.com/4QNhqmWKPr
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) July 20, 2023
The midfield partnership of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka was a bedrock of Arsenal’s title charge last season. But Xhaka has departed for Bayer Leverkusen and there are question marks over Partey’s future.
The early signals – with Havertz being played alongside Odegaard – is that Arteta might look to take the shackles off and use marquee addition Rice as a single pivot at the base of a more creative, attacking midfield.
That’s a lot of responsibility on the England international’s shoulders – but that’s what you expect for £105million. Only Enzo Fernandez and Jack Grealish have cost more.
Rice made his long-awaited Gunners debut off the bench, replacing Jorginho in the 5-0 victory over MLS all-stars. He made his first start in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United and looked a little exposed in defensive transition in Arteta’s new-look midfield.
In Arsenal’s final pre-season friendly against Monaco, Rice featured alongside Partey in Xhaka’s old role and looked more comfortable. He added real thrust from midfield and almost scored on his Emirates debut.
“I do know about him because I watched him and followed the way he played at Ajax. Also, I played against him for the national team,” Oleksandr Zinchenko told Arsenal’s official website on the versatile defender signed from Ajax.
“So, I know about him as a player – what amazing qualities he has – and, now, I know him off the pitch. He’s a great guy, another incredible signing for Arsenal who will help us a lot.
“Maybe he is [a similar type of player] but maybe better than me. I’m sure he is 100% going to show us what he can do and will really help us.”
The 22-year-old has made the majority of his appearances at centre-back or right-back, but he’s predominantly featured on the left side of defence in Arsenal’s summer friendlies so far.
Timber was arguably Arsenal’s best player in the 1-1 draw with Monaco, looking instantly at home playing under Arteta. He showed some nice link-up with Rice and got fans off their seats with his electric pace going forward.