London: Mikel Arteta will hope the tried and tested quality of two players he once worked with at Manchester City will rub off on his Arsenal squad this season as he attempts to build on the steady progress he has made in north London.
Arsenal’s young squad capitulated in the final games of last season as they watched arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur snatch fourth place in the Premier League.
For all the eye-catching football Arsenal played at times last season, it exposed weaknesses in the squad that Arteta has moved to banish during an encouraging summer.
As transfer coups go, the signing of Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus and Ukraine fullback Oleksandr Zinchenko for a combined 75 million pounds was a real statement of intent.
While champions City clearly felt the pair were surplus to requirements, few would doubt the quality they will bring to the Gunners as they seek a return to the top four.
Jesus, who is still only 25, was sometimes overshadowed at City and played in a wide role, but he scored 95 goals in 236 appearances in all competitions and played an important role in four Premier League titles in five seasons.
Arteta knows what the Brazilian can bring to his side, having worked with him while assistant to Pep Guardiola, and is likely to use him as the fulcrum of the attack.
“I believe 100% in Mikel,” Jesus said after joining. “I had a very good time with him before, he’s a very good guy and a very good coach as well. He helped me a lot.”
Zinchenko was another often unsung City hero, and will offer versatility on the left, and like Jesus, a winning mentality.
Another of Arteta’s summer signings, Fabio Vieira from Porto, can fulfil several midfield roles.
There have been times during Arteta’s Arsenal reign when his blueprint for how he wants his side to play has been undermined by not having the correct tools at his disposal.
But with the new signings complimenting burgeoning talents such as Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Arteta appears to have the jigsaw puzzle almost complete.
The signs in pre-season have certainly been encouraging with a 4-0 hammering of a strong-looking Chelsea side in the Florida Cup final particularly impressive as Jesus, Saka and Odegaard were all on the scoresheet.
The question now for Arsenal fans is whether this is another false dawn or the start of a bright new era at a club which has not secured a top-four finish since 2016.
Arsenal’s hierarchy clearly believes in Arteta’s plan, handing him a contract extension to 2025 in May, but the Spaniard knows there can be no excuses this season if they fail to at least secure Champions League qualification.