ARSENAL’S £205million summer spending spree has given Mikel Arteta a few selection headaches ahead of Saturday’s big Premier League kick-off against Nottingham Forest.
With Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber already signed and keeper David Raya on his way from Brentford, a number of the players who helped the club finish second in the title race are suddenly sweating on their places in the starting line-up..
GettyEmile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson celebrate winning the Community Shield[/caption]
Here’s the Arteta plan for the new season.
Who plays in goal, Ramsdale or Raya?
The move for Raya has come completely out of the blue so soon after Aaron Ramsdale signed his lucrative new contract.
But Arteta wants serious competition for every position and didn’t feel that back-up keeper Matt Turner was putting enough pressure on Ramsdale.
England international Ramsdale remains Arsenal’s first choice for now but he knows Raya is better with the ball at his feet so will have to improve his playing out from the back.
Raya comes highly recommended by goalkeeping coach Inaki Cana, who worked with the Spaniard at Brentford.
But for now at least, the new arrival is going to have to bide his time.
What about the back four? There are so many options
Arsenal’s title challenge fell apart the minute William Saliba was injured last season and Arteta wants to make sure that never happens again.
The signing of Jurrien Timber in a £34.5million deal from Ajax means none of the defence will be expected to play every game as was too often the case last season.
Timber played as a centre-half for Ajax but will play either as a full-back for Arsenal and is equally at home on the right or left.
That means he can rotate with Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko on a regular basis, with White also moving into the middle if Arteta wants to rest Saliba or Gabriel.
But it’s unlikely that Timber and Zinchenko will start too many games together because both like to step into midfield when the team is in possession and that could leave the team short at the back.
Jakub Kiwior, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding are all on hand to provide defensive back-up.
Surely Declan Rice starts every week considering his £105million price tag?
Not necessarily. Arteta seems to have realised that his team are more solid with Thomas Partey in the central holding role.
Declan Rice stayed on the left of the Arsenal midfield against Man City
Thomas Partey was all over the park at Wembley
Martin Odegaard was the most advanced of the midfield three
When Rice played inside Martin Odegaard and Kai Havertz during the 2-0 pre-season defeat by Manchester United, Arsenal looked a big lightweight in midfield.
That doesn’t mean those three will never play together because Arteta believes Havertz is more of a midfield player than a forward and is confident the £65million German will have a major impact.
The signings of Rice and Havertz mean Arteta can now change his midfield trio every week without weakening the team, particularly as he also has Jorginho, Emile Smith Rowe and Mo Elneny waiting in the wings.
But at least the front three picks itself?
But Jesus is currently recovering from a minor knee operation and no-one expected Havertz to lead the line ahead of Eddie Nketiah during Sunday’s Community Shield victory over Manchester City.
When everyone is fit and available, it’s clear that Arsenal’s strongest attack is Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli out wide and Gabriel Jesus through the middle.
Bukayo Saka was busy against Man City with 50 touches of the ball
Kai Havertz led the line at Wembley and had just 26 touches of the ball
Leandro Trossard is also very highly regarded by Arteta and is really pushing Martinelli for a place in the starting line-up.
Reiss Nelson will be a useful option off the bench after signing his new contract but is unlikely to start in many big games.