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How Will Arsenal Line Up Next Season?

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

After their disappointing collapse towards the end of last season, it was inevitable that Arsenal would have to spend significantly and strengthen their squad if they were to sustain a more convincing title challenge in the 2023/24 campaign.

The club has certainly delivered in this respect, spending a little over £200 million on acquiring Jurrien Timber, Kai Havertz and Britain’s most expensive player in the form of Declan Rice.

The signing of Havertz is exciting, as doubts remain about how he will be used and precisely how the Gunners will line up with the German next summer. We've explored this in more detail below.

Will Havertz Play in Midfield?

For much of his time at former club Chelsea, Havertz was deployed as a number nine, scoring 32 goals in 139 games for the Blues. However, he made his name as a precocious attacking midfielder for Bayer Leverkusen, and the sense remains that Mikel Arteta will play him a little deeper at the Emirates too.

In fact, it’s well known that Arteta’s shape and tactics have been heavily influenced by his mentor Pep Guardiola, with the Spaniard preferring to deploy a single midfield pivot and one inverted full-back who steps into the middle of the park during attacking phases of the game.

This releases two attacking midfielders to play in the half spaces and higher up the pitch, with the departed Granit Xhaka and Martin Ødegaard fulfilling these roles with distinction for much of last season.

Given this and Arsenal’s pre-season set-up, it appears as though Havertz will take Xhaka’s role on the right-hand side of Arsenal’s midfield three. Sure, there may be occasions where Thomas Partey could come into the side to create a more defence-oriented outlook, but this tactical tweak is likely to be an exception rather than a rule.

How Will This Affect the Gunners’ Midfield?

This will introduce a completely different dynamic to the Arsenal side, with Havertz considerably more attack-minded than Xhaka and less adept at tracking runners and covering space during in-game defensive and transitional phases.

This will place greater pressure on Declan Rice, who will become Arsenal’s sole midfield pivot and be supported by an inverted fullback (in the form of either Timber or the Ukrainian left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko).

Remember, Rice will already have to adjust to a completely new set of challenges at Arsenal. Aside from the media scrutiny and pressure created by his record £105 million transfer fee, Rice will have to cover a much larger distance given the inclusion of Havertz and the Gunners’ attacking philosophy, while setting the tempo for his team when they’re in possession.

At West Ham, Rice typically played in a compact and low defensive block, operating within a much tighter space and with more support in central areas. The Hammers usually played on the counterattack too, so there was less focus on dominating possession or playing forward passes into tight and congested areas.

So, Rice will have to adjust to his new surroundings, and the speed and efficiency with which he does so will have a huge impact on Arsenal’s chances of success this


The Last Word

There’s no doubt that Rice could adapt seamlessly to his new role, while at 24 years old he has ample time to improve and develop his skills.

However, this is by no means guaranteed, and doubt does remain about Rice’s largely unproven ability to dictate the flow of a game and play cute, forward passes at the requisite tempo (especially against deep and well-organised low blocks).

This could create an issue for the Gunners, who look set to line up with Havertz in an attacking midfield role as part of a revamped team. With Timber also new to his surroundings, it will be interesting to see how Arsenal fare and if they’re able to make the same superb start as last season.

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Who will win the 2023/24 Premier League title?

  • Arsenal

  • Man City

  • Man Utd

  • Liverpool



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