A Look Back On Arsenal’s Successful Pre-Season
With the start of the Premier League coming at the end of the week, how should Gooners approach the season? Perhaps a starting point is look back Arsenal‘s very promising pre-season campaign. The 2022-2023 pre-season tour has spanned Germany, the United States, and back to England with Mikel Arteta’s squad highlighting new faces, a impressive overseas London derby and even some “silverware” along the way!
The New Boys
With the transfer window far from over, at the time of writing Arsenal have completed five transfers so far this Summer.
Gabriel Jesus and Oleksander Zinchenko both joined from reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, bringing a bucket load of success and experience with them, while the highly rated 21-year-old Fabio Vieira made his switch to North London from FC Porto, having come off the back of a double winning season with the club.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner also joined from across the Atlantic, leaving MLS side New England Revolution – potentially the worst kept secret since January, and Brazilian youngster Marquinhos left his boyhood club Sao Paulo to join the Gunners.
Finally William Saliba saw out his first full pre-season with the Gunners after completing development loans with multiple clubs in France.
All in all, Saliba, Jesus, and Zinchenko, showed exactly why they will have impact in the starting XI right from the first whistle of the season. Marquinhos featured sporadically and showed why perhaps he is “one for the future.” Turner for his part showed that he still needs to get acclimated to his team and how they want to play however, its too early to tell whether or not bringing him in as a number 2 was smart or not.
The only signing who did not feature at all this pre-season was Fabio Vieira who is likely to be slowly integrated into the squad while he recovers from a nagging leg injuiry picked up early in training.
The team is incomplete and both Arteta and Edu have said that they are still looking for opportunities to do something if the deals are right.
Arsenal officially kicked off their pre-season tour back at London Colney in a behind-closed-doors friendly, where Eddie Nketiah picked up where he left off last season, netting a hat-trick as the Gunners ran out 5-1 victors over League One side Ipswich. Folarin Balogun and Albert Sambi Lokonga scored Arsenal’s two other goals in the match.
It was then over to Germany where Arsenal were set to play Zwei Bundesliga side Nuremberg at the Max-Morlock-Stadion. Coming on as a second half substitute to make his debut, new boy Jesus bagged a brace as his side overturned a 2-0 deficit, eventually going on to win the match 5-3. Fan favourite Mohamed Elneny scored a rocket to level the score, as two Nuremberg own goals helped Arsenal to secure their second pre-season win.
The Gunners then began their tour of America, flying across the pond to their first destination of Baltimore, where Frank Lampard’s Everton awaited them. Arteta’s side made light work of the Toffees, with new striker Jesus continuing to impress by giving Arsenal the lead, before Bukayo Saka doubled their advantage to secure a solid 2-0 win.
Arsenal then travelled to Orlando where they took part in the Florida Cup and were scheduled to play MLS side Orlando City, and London rivals Chelsea. Goals from Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and Nketiah helped Arsenal to a 3-1 win over Orlando in their first game of the competition, before facing off against familiar rivals Chelsea. Both Thomas Tuchel and Arteta named strong starting XIs when their sides met at the Camping World Stadium, but the Gunners brushed Chelsea aside with relative ease, overcoming the Blues 4-0 thanks to Jesus’ fifth goal of pre-season, as well as captain Martin Odegaard, Saka, and Lokonga, who all rounded off the scoring. That result meant that Arsenal lifted the eighth iteration of the Florida Cup, their first silverware of the season.
In their most recent game, the Gunners fell to their first loss, coming up against fellow London and Premier League side Brentford in another behind-closed-doors friendly at London Colney. Nketiah bagged his fifth goal in as many games, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Thomas Frank’s Bees.
Arsenal closed out the pre-season at a sold out Emirates stadium where they continued their impressive form, dispatching La Liga side, Sevilla 6-0 in front of a raucous home crowd.
Both Nketiah and Jesus have impressed so far and caught the eyes and plaudits of many fans, with the two strikers scoring a plethora of goals throughout Arsenal’s warm-up games. Jesus highlighted why he was Arteta and Edu’s prrimary target. Throughout each game he played, he was significant influence both on and off the ball. Either acting as the first defender in what looked like an improved press or the goal scoring outlet, Jesus is every bit the money spent to bring him to Arsenal.
Likewise, Nketiah he showed like he did at the back end of last season, that his off the ball movement and pressing is a fantastic attribute, and one he shares with his new teammate. Much was said about whether Arsenal keep Nketiah. There were plenty of discussions whether or not the young forward was “goods enough for Arsenal.” While pre-season can still leave some questiopns marks, Eddie clearly showed why he fits here and that he still has a tremendous upside.
When assessing the forwards Arsenal now have, both strikers look set to have a fantastic season and will be eager to improve upon the lack of scoring from up front that plagued Arsenal all last season.
While many youngsters unfortunately weren’t given much of a chance to shine in the first team throughout the American tour, one which did was defender Reuell Walters. The 17-year-old must have made a strong impression on his manager, being the only player from Hale End to be included in the squad which travelled to the United States where he didn’t really put a foot wrong. His pre-season will put him in a good position to earn some minutes for the first team this season, however he needs to keep up his level of performance throughout the year, with high competition from the likes of Brooke Norton-Cuffy and other academy players almost a certainty.
It’s easy to get caught up in the success of Arsenal’s pre-season. It has been a long time, since around 2015 when the Gunners looked this impressive in pre-season. There is still a word of caution when looking back at what pre-season means. For the most part it is about fitness and development of core team structures.
Given the intensity of Arsenal’s pressing and the fluidity of the attack, especially the front three of Saka, Martinelli and Jesus its hard not to speculate that Arsenal look fit and their team is clicking as they head to Selhurst park this Friday. That is when the real test begins, when the Gunners of today face off against Gunner of yesteryear Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace side.
Something feels different about this Arsenal side. It feels like the vision that has led us to this point is finally coming to fruition. For many however, this is the first time in a long time that they look ahead to the season with hope and promise then fear and trepidation.