Arsenal News: The Gunners have had a mixed bag season, amidst the high expectations of their loyal fans.
However, it should in no way deviate any one from the fact that the young squad led by their young manager is certainly heading in the right direction.
Whether they can challenge for the top-4 depends on the players they sign in the summer transfer window. The Gunners are linked with strikers and midfielders.
Arsenal News: Is there a reason to be optimistic about Mikel Arteta’s young squad?
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Since the past three seasons, Arsenal have improved their points tally each year, ending the 2021/22 season with 69 points. Another fascinating factor to consider is that Mikel Arteta fielded the youngest team in the Premier League an incredible 20 times.
The prime quartet of Bukayo Saka (11 goals and 7 assists), Martin Odegaard (7 goals and 4 assists), Gabriel Martinelli (6 goals and 6 assists), Emile Smith-Rowe (10 goals and 2 assists) along with the resurgent Eddie Nketiah (5 goals and 1 assist) combined for an average age of just over 21 years.
Speaking of their calibre, the young brigade, helped by a few players returning from injury, enjoyed an eight-game unbeaten spree in the first half of the season. That included a convincing 3-1 win over their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur, hence, compelling the Gooners to a new level of expectations.
Arteta’s young Arsenal team always had destiny in their own hands
The Gunners had a pitiable start to the season with three consecutive defeats where they failed to score even once. They went through a similar alarming patch in the final stretch of the season. In-between, Arsenal earned more points per game than any other team except the eventual title winners Manchester City and runners-up Liverpool.
Late into the season, losses to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United rubbed off their chances of playing in the Champions League. For sure, Arsenal always had destiny in their own hands up until then.
After spending around £150m on notable summer signings in Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Martin Odegaard and Albert Sambi Lokonga among others, Arsenal did look to have a concrete plan for the future under Mikel Arteta.
While Ramsdale became the fan-favorite for his exceptional display in the first half of the season, White and Tomiyasu enhanced their backline. Odegaard fitted well into the team. There is no doubt that Mikel Arteta brings about a well-defined style of play.
The pitfalls in what could have been Mikel Arteta’s dream season at Arsenal
Injuries played a defining part in their season. Key players Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey missed as many as 16 and 14 games respectively. Tomiyasu’s calf injury kept him out of the crucial months of the season, adding further woes to the team.
The backups were nowhere near their level and hence, Mikel Arteta’s decision to not make any signings in the winter transfer window backfired.
Arsenal played only 45 matches in all competitions in 2021/22, the fewest since the 1988/99 season. One can imagine the level of impact those injuries could have had in an absorbing schedule.
But to even compete for the Champions League spot till the final day of the season with the youngest squad in the Premier League has given a very good reason for the fans to back Arteta’s future plans and this young bunch of incredibly talented footballers. This season is further a testimony that the ceiling of this team is very high and it is indeed heading on a more sustainable path.
Could this be Arsenal and Mikel Arteta’s most important summer break?
The lack of incomings in the January transfer market did raise a few eyebrows. But Arsenal’s business during that period went under the radar. Releasing the underperforming Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari and their huge wages turned out to be the right decision in hindsight.
Now having qualified for Europa League next season, Mikel Arteta and the management will have to cope with additional pressure come August. A good summer transfer window to strengthen the squad should definitely be in his plans.