With the hours ticking down to the start of the 2023/24 Premier League season, fans up and down the country, and across the world, are pondering what the next nine-and-a-half months may have in store for their clubs.
While football is loved for its unpredictability, there is certainly enough information to preview the season ahead. VAVEL has you covered with everything you need to know about Arsenal, from reflecting on last season's progress, to the club's transfer activity, as well as previewing their prospects for campaign ahead.
Last time out
Before the start of last season, had you offered Arsenal a second-place finish, most would have bitten your hand off. But despite achieving exactly that, there was a real sense of disappointment amongst the fans come May.
This disappointment largely stems from the fact that, with just nine games left to play, Arsenal had pulled eight points ahead of Manchester City before succumbing, quite spectacularly, to the eventual champions.
Mikel Arteta's side had got off to a flying start, winning all of their first five games and failing to win just twice in the second half of 2022 in the league. Though they suffered some disappointing results in the cups, like their 3-1 home defeat to Brighton in the Carabao Cup, the team were flying in the league and had some questioning, at an early stage, whether they could go all the way.
As has often been the case with Arsenal over the years though, injuries got the better of them. While the good results were still coming in, they suffered a significant blow when Gabriel Jesus suffered a knee injury ahead of the FIFA World Cup, which sidelined the 26-year-old for 15 games.
The Gunners' season suffered yet another setback in March, during the Europa League playoff second leg against Sporting CP, at the Emirates. Takehiro Tomiyasu was forced off with a knee injury, which ended the Japanese international's season.
Things went from bad to worse for Arteta's side just 12 minutes later when William Saliba had a seemingly innocuous collision with his own goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale. While fans were optimistic about his recovery, the Frenchman also did not feature again that season due to the resulting back injury.
All of this, along with some tricky fixtures for Arsenal, contributed to Man City accumulating their 5-point lead, which culminated in them winning the Premier League - a bitter blow for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal.
The transfer window so far
Arsenal have, by all accounts, had a very successful transfer window in terms of their signings. It should be noted, however, that there is still work to be done with regard to outgoings before the window closes. Arteta had this to say about the size of his squad during pre-season:
"We have 30 players here which is unsustainable, and obviously the market is still open."
The first departure of the summer saw academy graduate Ainsley Maitland-Niles released at the end of his contract, after 20 years at the club. He had spent last season on loan at relegated Southampton, and it has to be said that he didn't impress consistently - though it was a difficult situation to walk into for any player. The former England international has now signed with French side Lyon.
Pablo Mari has also played his last game for The Gunners after making his loan move at AC Monza permanent for just under £5m. The Spaniard only made 22 appearances during his time in north London, having initially joined the club on loan from Flamengo in 2020.
Next out the door was former captain Granit Xhaka, who had an eventful Arsenal career, to say the least.
Following an altercation with the home crowd after being substituted in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in October 2019, the majority of people thought that the Swiss' Arsenal career was over.
Though he was stripped of the captaincy, he rejuvenated his career under Arteta's reign, becoming one of the most important players at the club. Having wanted a longer contract at the club, he has now joined Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen in a deal worth a reported £21.5m on a 5-year deal.
Another departure has seen American defender Auston Trusty join recently-promoted Sheffield United for £5m - just 18 months after making the move to Europe from Colorado Rapids, also owned by Stan Kroenke's KSE. The defender never made a senior appearance for the Gunners, having returned to the MLS on loan before spending last season on loan again, this time at Birmingham City.
The most recent sale for the Gunners sees another American international leave the club, as Matt Turner has made the move north to join Nottingham Forest. The deal has been reported to be worth in the region of £7m, which would represent a minuscule profit for Arsenal - having signed him for an initial £5.5m in last summer, while also owing 10% to his former club, New England Revolution.
A number of youth players have also departed the club this summer. Matt Smith joined Wigan Athletic on a free transfer, Tom Smith made his loan move to Colchester United permanent upon the expiry of his Arsenal contract and Ben Cottrell joined NS Mura on a free transfer too. Elsewhere Mazeed Ogungbo and Nikolaj Möller made permanent moves to Barrow and FC St. Gallen respectively.
There have also been a handful of youngsters sent out on loans, while Zach Awe, Joel Ideho and George Lewis are all without a club after seeing their contracts expire.
Arsenal's first signing of the summer window came somewhat out of the blue, as they poached Kai Havertz from London rivals Chelsea. The German has had a torrid time at Stamford Bridge, but his £65 million switch across the capital offers an opportunity to revive his promising career.
The next face through the door at London Colney was Jurriën Timber, who joined for £34.3 million from Dutch giants Ajax. The versatile defender, who can operate anywhere across the back line, offers a new depth to the squad and fits how Arteta wants to play to a tee.
Arsenal's latest, and biggest, transfer of the window was former West Ham captain Declan Rice, who became The Gunners' record signing for an eye-watering £105m. The England international adds solidity and leadership to the midfield and will be an asset for the club in years to come. It took a while to complete the deal, and Man City threatened a late hijack, but Rice's decision had already been made.
The boss has not always had it plain sailing since arriving at The Emirates, but has won the vast majority of fans over by now. He's adopted a clear style of play and his signings so far this summer only further show this direction.
It remains to be seen how he intends to use Havertz once competitive games begin though. Given his large transfer fee, you would expect him to start consistently. There have also been reports that the manager envisages his new man as a number 8, though this would be different to anywhere he has played regularly before.
It goes without saying that Arteta has earned time, trust and respect from fans, the players and the board - and there is little doubt that he will succeed. However, he will be under increased to do so now, given the large investment that he has been backed with.
Strongest starting XI
Ramsdale; Timber, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Rice, Ødegaard; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli
Perhaps the biggest compliment that you can give the current Arsenal squad is that there is no clear best 11. There is depth in every position and could be multiple iterations of the team with different tactical configurations and a similar level of quality.
Fans will no doubt see the likes of Ben White, Kieran Tierney, Kai Havertz and Leandro Trossard, among others, accumulate plenty of minutes over the course of the season, which can only be a positive for The Gunners' chances in the upcoming campaign.
Is Gabriel Jesus good enough?
Since arriving at Arsenal last summer, Jesus has had a very mixed experience. The striker amassed 11 goals and 6 assists last season - despite missing 15 games through injury. Despite this, some Arsenal fans are questioning whether he is the man to lead the Gunners to success.
Those who are critical of the 26-year-old often point to his 16 big chances missed in the league last season, but, while it would be great to see him convert even more chances, it is not a big problem. For reference, Erling Haaland had 28 big chances missed during the last campaign.
One area that could be of concern though is his injury record. Having suffered another setback to his previous knee issue, it has led some to suggest that the club need to look elsewhere for a striker.
There's no doubt that Jesus has the quality, but only time will tell if he can produce the goods consistently to fire Arsenal to the very top.
Where does Havertz fit?
Havertz has become Arsenal's 3rd most expensive transfer of all time, having left Chelsea for £65m earlier this summer. But despite this, it is not immediately clear where he fits in at the club. Having lacked much success during his time at Stamford Bridge, where he played in a variety of positions, some fans have been left confused by his signing.
Since joining Arteta has played him both in the midfield and as a striker - with the latter making him look somewhat isolated and out of the game.
There's no doubt that there is real talent in Havertz, but Arteta has a big job ahead of him to unlock it.
Is Aaron Ramsdale the answer?
Rumours are hotting up about Arsenal signing David Raya from Brentford. While he is unlikely to walk into a starting place, questions are being asked by fans about whether Ramsdale can, and should, keep his place in the side this season.
Although the England international has made more mistakes in recent months than before, he has still been very good for Arsenal and on Sunday put in a top display, including a penalty save, as Arsenal won the 2023 FA Community Shield.
Raya undoubtedly strengthens Arteta's side, but it may be a while until the future of Arsenal's goalkeeping situation becomes clear.
Expected finish - 2nd
The Gunners have recruited well. Rice and Timber provide a new level of depth and a different dynamic to the existing options at the club, while Havertz offers a different option in attack and during the build-up. With this in mind, there is no realistic chance of Arsenal doing worse than they did last season, even with the UEFA Champions League to navigate.
In fact, there is definitely a scenario where they win the league, but Man City will always prove to be a problem. Given that the title, and treble, holders have already splashed the cash on Joško Gvardiol to bolster their defence, and with at least 1 more quality addition likely before the window ends, most people can't see them falling away just yet.
But with their new-found depth and added quality, it should be a season to remember for the Gunners and, who knows? They may even come out the other side with some form of silverware to show for it!