Arsenal win but leave questions
Mikel Arteta continues to build a team in London in the image of Manchester City. Logically, to match Pep Guardiola’s style, Mikel Arteta needs a comparable transfer budget at Arsenal. However, according to the old football truth, money doesn’t play football.
Over €132 million has been spent by Arsenal on summer transfers. This has even enabled the top USA bookmakers from the official bookmakers list to write this team into the top 4 favourites of the EPL season. But things are far from clear-cut as proven by the opening game of the 2022/23 league season.
How the newcomers fit in
Arteta’s idea was to turn Arsenal into a team capable of dominating with the ball in their feet. To this end, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko were signed for a combined fee of over 80 million euros in the summer of 2022. The Brazilian forward, despite his controversial role at Manchester City previously, managed to net one goal in three games for the Citizens. The hard-working Ukrainian, however, carried the informal nickname ‘Pepa’s favourite’ for his diligence and ability to clearly carry out coaching instructions.
Mikel Arteta’s willingness to rely on players bought from Man City was evident in the first leg. Both Zinchenko and Jesus featured in the starting line-up, playing prominent roles on the pitch. Most of Arsenal’s attacks against Crystal Palace before half-time were launched through Alexander. Not surprisingly, he was the author of the goal.
Problems that haven’t gone away
What has distinguished the Canaries’ game under this coach in the past is their habit of failing at certain points in the game. There was also a lack of reliability in the centre of defence, which was particularly evident in the second half with the scoreline in their favour. At least Gabriel Magalhaes made a number of errors, and on one occasion nearly sliced the ball into his own net – saved by Ramsdale.
The Arsenal goalkeeper also cleaned up positional mistakes of his partners in the centre of defence. For example, as in the episode with the introduction of Eze one-on-one in the opening stages of the second half. In fact, Wilfried Zaha managed to bring down the entire Canaries’ back four with just one clever cut-back pass.
Zinchenko’s periods of activity
After a strong first half, Zinchenko’s activity dropped off sharply, touching the ball just once in the first 20 minutes of the second half, making only 67% of his passes accurately. Oleksandr was also unimpressive in terms of direct defensive action, regularly releasing opponents behind his back, allowing them to run down the flank. In the end, the left wingback from Ukraine was even substituted with the scoreline still miniscule in his team’s favour.
On August 13, Arsenal will have their second leg match against Leicester. It is the first home game of the season, so the psychological pressure will be felt again. At the same time, a coherent picture of the game in all lines from the wards of Arteta is still not visible, and the team largely relies on the individual performance of their players and luck.
There are still rivals to be seen, with Arsenal’s own first impression very skewed. The capital team, as of August 2022, does not leave the impression of being ready to fight for the top 4 and the long-awaited return to the Champions League.