Arsene Wenger has confidently backed Arsenal to secure a place in the top-four this season and says Mikel Arteta’s men could be the Premier League’s ‘surprise package’ after the club ‘bought well’ in the summer transfer window.
Arteta – who steered Arsenal to FA Cup glory and an eighth-place finish after picking up the pieces from Unai Emery last season – demanded reinforcements in defence and midfield in order to improve on what was a promising debut campaign as manager.
The Gunners reached a £27million agreement with Rennes for centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes at the start of last month but supporters were made to wait for a new signing in the middle of the park.
Arsenal identified Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey and Lyon’s Houssem Aouar as their two primary targets but looked set for disappointment as deadline day approached.
However, Arsenal made a last-ditch move to sign Partey and got their man after activating a £45m release clause in the Ghanaian’s contract at Atletico Madrid, much to the relief of Arteta and technical director Edu.
Wenger predicts Arsenal could surprise people given their savviness in the transfer market and urged Arteta to have faith in his methods after an impressive start to the Spaniard’s tenure at the Emirates.
Asked whether he had any advice for Arteta in a Q&A with The Guardian, Wenger replied: ‘To continue to have a grip on the team, as he has at the moment, and to go to the end of his beliefs.
‘I think there is a good team spirit and they have a good chance to do well.
‘I believe it will not be very difficult to improve on the number of points they got last season.
‘But I’m convinced Arsenal can be in the top four, if not more. Why not more?
‘They can be the surprise package for me this year: they bought well, they strengthened the defence well. And they kept the players who were already there. In my last year I bought [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, they kept him.
‘They have every ingredient and no real weakness.’
Thierry Henry – widely regarded as the greatest player in Arsenal’s history – was one of eight candidates interviewed before Emery’s appointment back in May 2018 and Wenger believes his fellow countryman could return at some stage in the future.
But Wenger sees no reason why Arteta can’t be the man to take the club back to its former glory.
‘Well, I wish. I hope that Thierry Henry is successful in his career as a manager, and if he’s successful as a manager he might one day come back to Arsenal,’ Wenger said.
‘But I especially wish that we go back to win the championship before that happens.
‘For example, now we have Mikel Arteta in charge, why should we not do it?
‘And so it’s important there is a continuity on that front for me.’