Arsenal must back up pre-season promise against Crystal Palace in early test under the lights

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·3-min read
Arsenal must back up pre-season promise against Crystal Palace in early test under the lights
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If the cameras at Amazon were following Arsenal this pre-season as opposed to last, they would have found the mood music at the club totally different.

A year ago, Arsenal went into their opening game in chaotic fashion, with a Covid outbreak and a lack of new signings leaving them underprepared.

Brentford duly beat them 2-0 and the fallout rumbled on throughout August to the extent the Gunners finished the month with no points or goals.

The feeling around the club on the eve of this season is totally different.

There is a buzz inside and outside of Arsenal, and a genuine belief they can return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Five wins from five in pre-season has led to that optimism, while exciting signings and their transfer business basically being done already has generated real optimism.

For all that excitement, though, tonight’s trip to Crystal Palace will provide a litmus test of where Arsenal really are.

Selhurst Park will be rocking under the lights, just as it was when Arsenal were comfortably beaten there 3-0 in April.

Their former captain Patrick Vieira, now Palace manager, showed no mercy that night and he would love to kick off the season with another win against his old side.

“The preparation, the pre-season that we had, it was a different context [to last year],” said Arteta. “We are really excited, we are really looking forward to the new season, we will try to start it in the best possible way, and this is how we have focussed our preparation.”

If Arsenal are to get off to a fast start, then Gabriel Jesus is likely to be key.

The Brazilian completed his £45million move from Manchester City before pre-season started, meaning he has been able to bed into the team.

His seven goals in friendlies, including a hat-trick against Sevilla last weekend on his first appearance at Emirates Stadium, has raised excitement levels and the belief at Arsenal is that Jesus can take their attack to the next level.

At times last season it stagnated and that was certainly the case at Selhurst Park in April, with Vieira revealing after the game that Palace worked out they could stifle Arsenal but pressing Alexandre Lacazette.

Palace could do that because they had little fear of Lacazette running in behind, but it is a different story with Jesus. His pace makes him a dangerous opponent and, if Palace’s defenders try to get touch-tight, he could easily spin them.

But can Jesus be the leading man for Arsenal, a regular source of goals and the No9 they have craved for so long? It is a big ask and a real change in role for the 25-year-old, who scored just eight Premier League goals last season when he operated mostly on the right wing.

In Pictures | Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal on Pre-Season Tour in the USA: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal on Pre-Season Tour in the USA: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal unveil new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko: (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“When you bring top players, they are coming from top clubs and they have been extremely successful over the years, they’re going to expect that,” said Arteta.

“The role that Gabi has here is going to be very different to the role that Gabi had in his previous club. That needs some adaptation and some time.”

The rest of the Arsenal side looks very settled, with the midfield of Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard and Thomas Partey gelling well.

The defence has been reinforced this summer. Last season, Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu being injury doubts (as they are tonight) would have been a nightmare, but the arrival of Oleksandr Zinchenko (left) and return of William Saliba changes that.

Suddenly, Arsenal look like a more rounded squad and one that can deliver Champions League football after their late collapse last season.

Arteta will know, though, that the mood can change quickly, which makes a win in south London tonight even more desirable.

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