Despite sitting atop the Premier League table for a record-breaking 248 days, the Gunners ultimately fell short in their bid to claim a first title in 19 years. City were relentless in the pursuit of Arsenal and that pressure eventually told as an untimely run of poor form saw Pep Guardiola’s side take a commanding control of the title race and in the end secure their third Premier League crown in as many years.
While Mike Arteta’s side were left empty-handed come the final whistle, their efforts were herculean. The brand of attacking football the team played last season under the Spaniard was a joy to watch and gave life to a title race that for the longest time looked like a foregone conclusion.
As disappointing as it was to watch the North London club’s title charge unravel in the manner it did, they managed to exceed all expectations by amassing a massive 84 points, their highest points tally since the Invincibles in 2003/04, all while having previously been billed as nothing more than a top four contender.
Now bolstered by the invaluable experience of a nail-biting title race many expect them to replicate their good form in 2023/24. None of this would’ve been possible without the immense contributions of their midfield. Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Jorginho and Bukayo Saka all had landmark seasons at the Emirates last term and with Arteta having further upgraded his engine room this summer, there is a great chance they will enjoy similar levels of success again.
But how does the Gunners’ midfield shape up against the competition? And will it finally propel the club to an elusive Premier League crown next season?
If there is any doubt that Arsenal’s midfield can help the club compete for a title again next season you need not look any further than the stats accumulated over the course of last season. Martinelli with 15 goals and five assists, Odegaard with 15 goals and seven assists, Saka with 14 goals and 11 assists, Xhaka with seven goals and seven assists, they collectively combine for 51 of Arsenal’s 88 goals last campaign and 81 goal contributions, a truly astonishing feat and an example of how Arteta’s philosophy is paying off. In terms of collective statistics, very few, if any, can hold a candle to the Gunners’ midfield from last season.
It was the platform from which the team launched their title charge and it will likely launch another one in 2023/24 if things continue to progress the way they are. Licensed new betting sites are offering odds of 6/1 for Arsenal to dethrone Man City next season.
Now the 41-year-old boss is looking to upgrade the midfield further still with the imminent arrival of England international Declan Rice alongside new signing Kai Havertz. The pair have been brought in to replace the now departed Xhaka and push Partey onto the bench as a backup option. While the pair were brilliant for long spells of last season, a poor patch of form at a crucial interval prompted the wheels to fall off of Arsenal’s Premier League title contention.
Rice comes in now to offer more creativity in attacking situations than Xhaka did and more defensive capabilities than Partey has too. He recycles the ball like no other and has the knack of snuffing out counter-attacks before they get going. It’s also worth noting that the former West Ham skipper possesses immense leadership qualities having led the Irons to Europa Conference League glory all at the age of 24-years-old. As for Havertz, he is a player that offers excellent movement, fantastic spacial awareness and perfect timing of his runs, making him a potent threat in attack for Arteta to utilize effectively in a role either just off of or in behind Gabriel Jesus. This Arsenal midfield will be a force to be reckoned with next campaign and one that can compete with not only the Premier League’s best but Europe’s best as well.
As for how they compare to the other top tier midfield lineups in England’s top-flight, it’s not much of a contest for most teams. Chelsea’s midfield were a shambles last season, as were their whole team for that matter. While they possessed the necessary star power and squad depth to challenge for trophies, what they lacked was the direction to put it all together on the pitch.
Recent signing Enzo Fernandez was the only one who made a notable impact last term, the rest were left picking up the pieces of the worst-performing Chelsea side in Premier League history. One up from them were North London rivals Tottenham but they hardly had much joy themselves. A season that began with so much buzz fizzled out into another lackluster campaign with no trophies and Harry Kane once again bailing them out to save the club any further embarrassment.
Liverpool’s downturn from the season before has been well-documented as several key personnel failed to match the standards set in the previous campaign that saw them fall just short of securing a famous quadruple. Jurgen Klopp has made positive steps in rebuilding his midfield with the additions of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai but it is too soon to tell whether they have turned their fortunes around in that department.
As for Manchester United, they have taken massive strides since the arrival of Casemiro. The Brazilian might be entering the final years of his playing career but is clearly still making an impact. Bruno Fernandez on his day can be one of the best midfielders in the league and alongside Christian Eriksen as well as new signing Mason Mount they have a formidable lineup.
However, they still lack the strength in depth by comparison as without Casemiro or Eriksen on the pitch there is a marked drop-off. Realistically, the only midfield that can match up is City’s. In Rodri they have one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, in Bernardo Silva they have unrivaled workrate and creativity, and then there’s arguably the best passer in world football in Kevin De Bruyne.
To back that trio up are Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and now Mateo Kovacic; it’s an embarrassment of riches and with Pep Guardiola’s system City just about have the edge in this debate. However, while they might have walked away with the title last time, it would be ill-advised to underestimate the possibility of the Gunners’ midfield turning up for the books once again next season to challenge the Cityzens every step of the way.