The second half of the Premier League starts now. Mikel Arteta rearranges the chessboard, changes and polishes a few pieces and knows what to play with.
After the January transfer window, what he has, especially with Gabriel Jesus and Emile Smith Rowe returning to fitness, will be more or less available in every game, deeper than the first XI that Arsenal worship the fitness gods.
When Arsenal drew their first match against Newcastle United on 3 January 2023, their reserves consisted of one goalkeeper, three defenders, four midfielders, four league starts this season and lone striker Nathan Butler-Oyeji. , a 19-year-old who won the Papa John’s Trophy and has just gone on loan to Accrington Stanley. Now they have a stronger base to choose from, more cap space for important players and the ability to upgrade things.
Time will tell if it’s enough to raise title contention, or at least re-open the door to the Champions League. Last spring, Mikel Arteta explained that his ideal squad would have three goalkeepers and 22 outfield players. It’s still a bit less overall. However, Arsenal have strengthened themselves nonetheless.
A window of attention requires flexibility. Their main focus is on players who will be useful both now and in the future. Ensuring an impact this season, as well as having the X-factor integral to the next step in Arsenal’s ambitions, has been a dream ticket. The main targets are Mykhailo Mudric and Moises Caicedo – players who can theoretically do both.
They had to turn around in both cases, so it was no surprise that they turned to the proven Premier League. With Arsenal leading the pack at the halfway mark, it is no surprise that Arteta has been tempted to bring in players who know the league well, know what is required and don’t need much adaptation. . Jakub Kivior, Spezia’s left-back, is a slightly different scenario. But Trossard and Jorginho are expected to be in contention to play from day one.
Trossard has already shown fearless attack with a crucial cameo to help Arsenal beat Manchester United and Manchester City in the FA Cup. Jorginho is ready to take the load off Thomas Partey, with concerns that playing too much in such an important role could lead to injury. The Ghana international has not started a Europa League or Carabao Cup game and has played in just one Premier League fortnight this season. From now on, the graph is stronger, so it was necessary to choose a slot.
In the summer of 2021, at the start of the rebuild that has brought them to this point, Arsenal brought in seven young players, the oldest of whom was 23-year-old Ben White. Of those, White is the only one to come straight from the Premier League, along with Aaron Ramsdale. played at such a level the previous season. Since then, they’ve made seven more first-team signings – four of whom have come with plenty of insight into what to expect in the department. It may have been a bit of a coincidence – because in an alternative football universe Jesus, Aleksandar Zinchenko, Trossard and Jorginho could have been Dusan Vlahovic, Lisandro Martinez, Mudric and Caicedo. But Arsenal’s season so far has shown that the second-choice, reaction gambit can be very clever. One can only hope they feel the same about Trossard and Jorginho at the end of the season.
Welcome to Arsenal, Jorginho 👊 pic.twitter.com/jHXqAUBKKQ
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 31, 2023
The arrival of Zinchenko and Isa, and their worldwide influence in fostering ambitions, felt a shift far wider than the field of play. It proves to Arteta just how powerful a mix of a group can be. The experienced players share a winning mentality with the youngsters, and the passion of the youngsters gives the experienced ones a lively boost.
There is something tried and tested as a means to lift Arsenal, to push them forward, something Arteta sees as a shortcut for his young team to achieve their goals.
Mohamed Elneny’s injury has put pressure on Arsenal to make a quick decision to sign Partey. Jorginho’s ability to fill the void is something Arteta feels comfortable with. Some fans need some convincing. The reservations are emotional and with some justification – the list of Chelsea’s senior players in the autumn of their careers doesn’t read much. It never worked out as happily as it might have seemed, with William Gallas returning and bad memories of the title as captain trying to get off the pitch before the end of a tense game at Birmingham City. .
It scratches old wounds. But in an era where the faith and unconditional support of fans has fueled the season so much, they need to put aside their worries and try to focus on the present rather than the past.
January was very busy. Seven points from nine in high-octane contests against Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United, an FA Cup tie that somehow bolstered anyone’s confidence, albeit a mixed team for Manchester City, and transfer stories almost melting the internet. . It seems from another age that Arsenal fans are analyzing Mudric’s gym gear and slippers in his Instagram posts.
If there is a moral to this window for Arsenal, apart from the need to protect their sanity rather than living on heightened alert to events every day, they should learn not to be led down the garden path by some of the mediocrity. . Arsenal have absorbed a few things about others and themselves. There are aspects of the current market that they dislike and find unproductive.
In the end, they did exactly what they failed to do last January. It may not be a window to their imagination, but they haven’t left a huge hole in the squad.
Arteta and his players can now focus on what lies ahead.
(Top photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)