The long and winding road

Mikel Arteta

The new Premier League season has just begun with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool all showing their title credentials with respective wins over Leeds (5-1), Crystal Palace (3-0) and Norwich (3-0).

The big game of the weekend comes today with Tottenham hosting champions Manchester City. The big talking point of this showdown is the ongoing saga of star Spurs striker, Harry Kane.

Harry Kane

City are keen on bringing the England captain to the Etihad Stadium, reportedly for an improved offer of £125m but the Spurs executives are standing firm, saying that Kane is going nowhere!

But the biggest surprise of the opening weekend was newly promoted Brentford’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal at the Brentford Community Stadium on Friday evening.

Brentford have not been in football’s top-flight for 74 years and it took them a promotion play-off to get there. But Thomas Frank’s men punched above their weight and produced and excellent performance to outmuscle, and outplay their more fancied opponents.

To put the picture into perspective, Nicholas Pepe (£70m) cost more than the entire Brentford squad – think about that!

When Arsene Wenger reached the end of his days at the club he helped shape, many fans were optimistic with new arrival Unai Emery, saying that Wenger’s style had become predictable.

Emery though, just 18 months later, was summarily sacked following a poor run of results. Then, former captain and Manchester City assistant coach, Mikel Arteta, was unveiled as the new head coach, signing a four-year deal through to 2023.

On his appointment, Arteta stated, “I want people to take responsibility for their jobs and I want people who deliver passion and energy in the football club. Anyone who doesn’t buy into this, or that has a negative effect or whatever, is not good enough for this environment or this culture.”

The start to his managerial career was looking promising, including a 2-0 league win over Manchester United, an FA Cup semi-final 2-0 victory over Manchester City and then a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the final, making Arteta the first person to win the FA Cup as both a captain and manager of Arsenal.

The Spaniard started the 2020-21 season with victory over Liverpool, on penalties, in the FA Community Shield at Wembley and then was promoted from head coach to manager.

But despite leading Arsenal to the semi-finals of the Europa League, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Emery’s Villarreal, Arsenal limped to 8th place in the Premier League, losing out on European competition for the first time in 25 years.

And so began the new 2021-22 season with Arsenal losing several players through loan expiries. Dani Ceballos, Mat Ryan and Martin Oedegaard all returned to their parent clubs.

David Luiz’s contract expired and he moved on while Dinos Mavropanos (Stuttgart), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille) and William Saliba (Marseille) were loaned out.

Joe Willock, who had a fantastic loan spell at Newcastle at the end of last season, was eventually sold to Steve Bruce’s side for just over £20m.

Ben White

Who did Arsenal sign? Defender Nuno Tavares from Benfica for an undisclosed sum, midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht for £15m and a massive £50m on central defender Ben White from Brighton.

Arsenal are believed to be in talks with Real Madrid on signing Odegaard on a permanent basis, in a deal worth between £35m and £40m.

The Gunners are also still in search of a goalkeeper but their advances on Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United have been met with a strong bond of brick and mortar.

Arsenal’s pre-season – often filled with victories – was a mixed-bag of success and disappointment.

Arteta’s men opened up their pre-season with a 2-1 defeat to Scottish side Hibernian, followed by a 2-2 stalemate with Rangers.

They closed off July with two 4-1 victories over Millwall and Watford respectively but was followed by two defeats to London rivals Chelsea (2-1) and Spurs (1-0) before the ignominious defeat to Brentford.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal were without premier strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. But just 24 hours later, news broke that Arsenal had put Aubameyang up for sale.

The season ahead does not look bright for the North London club, with Spurs, Chelsea, United, City and Liverpool all looking like title contenders while at the Emirates, Arteta seems to be scratching his head, trying to find the right combinations and passion within his squad almost two years into his stint.

The road ahead seems long, dark and lonely for many Arsenal fans.

Author: Brendon

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