It would be fair to say that the Arsenal fanbase in general showed a lack of faith and a fair amount of concern at the end of the Transfer Window. The worries concentrated around a lack of depth in central midfield and also on whether the squad had cover to rest and rotate an over worked Bukayo Saka.
A few weeks on and perhaps some of the anxieties have eased as squad members have stepped up nicely and new signings have been belatedly blooded. So, as the Gunners sit proudly at the of the Premier League, ahead of the International break, it is a good rime to freshly assess the squad and ask the question – Do Arsenal have the depth required until January and do they actually have 2 players for each position?
In the keeping department, we have only had a minimal look at Turner, as Ramsdale’s understudy but he looked far more accomplished in Zurich. He is a full USA international and the more he plays the stronger he will become.
The full-back areas are interesting with Ben White currently the man in possession and Tomiyasu his understudy. Both are tuned into the right back role, and will touch in comfortably, when our left back advances to make a back three. We still have Cedric, a full international if required, if White is needed centrally. On the left there is some concern with Zinchenko and Tierney seemingly injury prone, but what a lovely dilemma for Arteta when both fit. The Japanese is highly comfortable with his left foot if both first choices are injured in tandem.
Centrally, Arteta has settled on the Saliba, Gabriel combination at present and the partnership is thriving. In truth, Ben White will be cover for the young Frenchman, over Rob Holding, who despite his popularity and leadership qualities, is not quite quick enough or an accomplished enough passer for this team. I have more concern at left centre back, as with Mari departed, Gabriel is the only leftie, and we know Arteta likes his central defenders on their natural foot if possible. I imagine in the event if injury to the Brazilian, Saliba, having played left centre back in France would be asked to move across. The alternative is to switch to a three and utilise Tierney there, where he plays for Scotland. The lack of a left footed understudy, however, is a weakness and I am sure Auston Trusty’s loan progress at Birmingham City will be closely monitored.
Albert Sambi Lokonga has certainly stepped up in Partey’s absence and played very well at the base of the midfield, allowing Odegaard and Xhaka to stay advanced. I think, given his manager’s obvious concerns over the Belgian, playing Elneny ahead of him in the spring, that Lokonga has answered his critics to some degree and proved a worthy understudy to the Ghanaian. Time will tell, but I cannot see a January move for Douglas Luiz, if Sambi thrives in Europe, in the Carabao and covering Partey in the league.
At Brentford we saw a first start for Fabio Vieira who despite his slight frame, acquitted himself extremely well. The Portuguese offers different attributes and style to Odegaard and Xhaka and can certainly be used alongside or instead of either. The greater concern is the ongoing fitness problems for Emile Smith Rowe. The England star is an obvious alternative ‘8’ as well, more of a dribbler than a passer, which offers great energy and variety to the other three, but he needs to stay healthy. If Smith Rowe returns fit and well, all well and good. If not, this might be an area for concern.
We already know that Eddie Nketiah, can play alongside Jesus and compliment him, or deputise for him. The England U21 record goal scorer has risen to the challenge and looks as if he will positively impact the match when he is brought on. When Nketiah comes on centrally, Gabriel Jesus can move wide as we know but the greater concern was who might provide respite for Saka. Arteta has expressed his faith in new signing Marquinhos, and he certainly impressed deputising on the right wing in Zurich, with a goal and an assist. The young Brazilian looks technically gifted, physically developed beyond his years.
Another minor concern is the fact that with Smith Rowe struggling, Martinelli is having to play virtually every minute, which is a situation that cannot continue. That said like Smith Rowe, and as with the likes of Rosicky, Hleb and Nasri under Wenger, technically gifted and creative players can adapt to playing wide so we might see Vieira tried there.
The last point on technical ability, is key for Arteta and Edu, alongside flexibility. The new players are comfortable receiving the ball in tight areas and accomplished in distribution but equally they can play in more than one role. We have seen this already in 22/23 with White, Zinchenko and Tomiyasu at he back and I feel Smith Rowe when fit and Vieira will offer that high level adaptability further up the pitch.
I am sure the club will be closely watching the slight areas of weakness and how the new additions perform in the cups, but with better fortune on injuries and less matches before the January window due to the World Cup, Arsenal squad is looking strong and flexible, the latter being crucial.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.