Mikel Arteta’s most pressing job over the summer was to analyse where his side went wrong in their pursuit of Premier League glory. The Gunners did, after all, spend 248 days at the summit of the table and had an eight-point lead over Manchester City going into the final stages of the season; their eventual reward was to watch Pep Guardiola’s men lift the Premier League. It was a brutal end to a campaign in which Arsenal had otherwise been excellent.
Arteta’s summer of reflection
Arteta’s aforementioned summer remit has been to ensure that his team doesn’t ultimately fade away into Premier League folklore as ‘imploding nearly men’ but rather come back and go one better during the 2023/2024 season.
Tellingly, the most recent outright Premier League football winning odds price the Gunners at 5/1 to win the 2023/2024 season while City are at just 4/6. These contrasting odds suggest that Guardiola’s team hold a psychological edge over Arsenal. Chiefly, this is down to City’s unfaltering brilliance under intense pressure; a trait the Gunners sorely missed with the finish line in sight.
There is a limit to what money can buy
Possessing the composure needed to win titles is a trait that can’t be bought with players instead having to develop the required temperament. An elite mentality is often cultivated in times of extreme disappointment with hard lessons learned that will benefit players in the long run. Cast your mind back to City’s Champions League final loss in 2022 against Real Madrid before returning in 2023 to beat Inter Milan in Istanbul.
This should be encouraging news for Arsenal yet the only worry is that Arteta does too much in his quest to produce a team that can improve on their second-place finish. At least, the winning blueprint is there already, these aren’t the same players that he began the 2022/2023 season with; they would have developed immeasurably after the title race baptism of fire they were plunged into.
This isn’t to say that summer reinforcements aren’t needed because they always are to keep a training ground from going stale. Arsenal have outlaid £208 million on new recruits. So far, it has been money well spent but with David Raya having agreed personal terms with Arsenal, there is a concern now that last season’s number one Aaron Ramsdale will be jettisoned.
Understand David Raya has reached an agreement in principle with Arsenal on personal terms 🚨🔴⚪️ #AFC
Brentford have been informed by player side that he wants to join Arsenal — and talks between clubs over formula/price are now expected to accelerate. pic.twitter.com/jnUlQsXyDU
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 1, 2023
It is an extraordinary sentence to write after Ramsdale only signed a contract extension in May but bringing Raya to the Emirates Stadium will be a costly affair – money that wouldn’t typically be set aside for a backup goalkeeper.
A change of goalkeeper would set Arsenal back
In many ways, it is irrespective of whether Arsenal sign Raya or not, the takeaway is that the club are actively looking for what appears to be a new goalkeeper in the wake of events at the end of last season. This leads you to believe that at some point over the summer, Arteta identified the position as the one which cost his side the chance to win the league.
The reality is that at one stage or another, every member of this Arsenal side crumbled under the weight of expectation last season – not just the goalkeeper who was without a doubt at fault for a calamitous pass seconds after kick-off against Southampton in a fixture that was the straw on the camel’s back. Looking back, there were also penalty misses, penalties given away and uncharacteristically poor defending during the spring implosion.
Crucially, these individual instances of being responsible for passing up precious points include Arteta too whose game management in a 3-1 loss to Manchester United in September 2022 gifted the hosts two breakaway goals through overly aggressive substitutions when Arsenal were comfortably on top. The wider point is that no one is without blame but significantly, everyone at the club would have learned from the role they played in Arsenal’s failed title charge.
SuperRam to the rescue 🦸 pic.twitter.com/j27wbNDbxP
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 10, 2023
Perhaps no one would have learned more than Ramsdale, discarding his now invaluable experience of what it takes to win the Premier League for any other goalkeeper other than Ederson or Alisson would be a mistake.