Break The Bottle: Arsenal Are Buying Like A Club With Something To Prove

City's closest challengers last season could be their conquerors this term
09:00, 18 Jul 2023

By the time Manchester City lifted the first of three major trophies they would hold aloft last season, people had made their minds up about Arsenal. The phrase 'bottlers' trended far and wide, with the Gunners having led City by eight points at various points during the season before succumbing to Pep Guardiola’s title-winning machine. 

Was it a fair assessment? Yes and no. Arsenal’s performance levels had dropped off, allowing City to rather comfortably lift the crown after an earlier scare. By that reductive definition, the Gunners did 'bottle' the title. But factor in the fact that they led the league for much of the season against a team who would eventually lift their fifth Premier League title in six seasons. This team pushed Guardiola’s men all the way, there’s no question about it.


Did Arsenal bottle it? Yes. Were they better than anyone else in the division apart from City? Yes. Did they put up a greater title challenge than any team not called Liverpool has in a very long time? Yes they did.

Perhaps most thrillingly of all for neutrals or simply those bored of City’s almost Bayern-like dominance of England’s top club prize, Arsenal don’t plan on stopping there. Mikel Arteta is building a side not content with second place. The Spaniard enters his fourth season as Arsenal boss gunning for it all. Next stop: the Premier League title he so narrowly missed out on last term.

Arsenal are certainly recruiting like a team targeting the biggest honours. Kai Havertz has joined from Chelsea for £65 million. A talented but inconsistent presence, Arteta sees something in the German that others don’t. Reportedly he hopes to use Havertz as a number eight alongside Martin Odegaard, with a holding player sitting in behind. Usually a number 10 or often a miscast striker in the goal-shy Chelsea set-up, Havertz it seems will now be employed in a slightly deeper role. He is still likely to be the most attack-oriented of that midfield three but it does suggest a change in focus. The hefty fee speaks to Arteta’s confidence that Havertz can adapt to it.

But what of the as-yet unnamed figure functioning in the deep-midfield role? That would be one Declan Rice, the £105m man from West Ham United. If Havertz’s fee portrayed Arteta’s confidence this British record sum can be seen as a statement of intent. A player seemingly every A-list club has been linked with is now a Gunner.


Even a year ago this transfer would have seemed unlikely. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea were always mentioned when Rice’s next move was discussed. Options in La Liga and the Bundesliga too. But not Arsenal. Twelve months ago, they were preparing for a sixth consecutive season without Champions League football. A title challenge seemed remote at best.

Now Rice joins as the central figure in a genuine attempt at lifting that trophy. Rice is the sort of midfield lynchpin this gifted but occasionally fragile Arsenal team needed. A reliable, galvanising leader in the centre of the park capable of making them tick. There is no shortage of quality in the front line. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli will see to that. In Aaron Ramsdale the club has its most reliable goalkeeper in years. There is quality in defence too, with the likes of Ben White and Gabriel about to be joined by another new face.

Jurrien Timber has signed from Ajax for a reported fee of £34m. A quality passer of the ball from defensive positions, he adds another dimension to Arteta’s favoured build-up play. Another player who has appeared on some big-name radars, Arsenal have pulled off another major transfer coup. 

The north London club have done their business efficiently and with maximum ambition. These are players bought for a title challenge and nothing less will do. Arteta’s men might just pull it off too. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are in transition. Liverpool are selling players at a faster rate than they can buy them, with the Saudi Pro League circling. Newcastle United have bought well but aren’t the finished product just yet. Manchester United’s need to sell before buying and the fact they’re notoriously bad at doing so could hamper them. Arsenal are the best-placed team to challenge City’s utter dominance. It will be fascinating to see if Arteta and this ambitious group can put a lid on the bottle this time.

epl outrights 23/24*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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