Xhaka outlines Arsenal's aims for new Premier League season
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There is a pervasive feeling of positivity engulfing Arsenal at the moment after Mikel Arteta’s side concluded their US tour with a thumping win over Chelsea. The Gunners thrashed their Premier League rivals 4-0 in Orlando to claim the Florida Cup, as well as lots of confidence going into the upcoming season.
Arsenal have signed five players so far this summer to bolster Arteta’s squad and the early signs are good. Gabriel Jesus has scored four goals in as many games in friendly fixtures, while Matt Turner, Marquinhos and Oleksandr Zinchenko have all played their first games in an Arsenal shirt.
Fabio Vieira is yet to feature, due to an ankle injury, but the Portuguese midfielder’s unavailability is one of the few negatives in a wholly positive 10 days over the Atlantic. The thrashing of Chelsea was the perfect way to end the tour, with Jesus, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Albert Sambi Lokonga all getting on the score sheet.
Perhaps even more positive was the unified front the players showed following the victory. Jesus’ goal – a nice dink over Edouard Mendy – came from an incisive pass from Granit Xhaka, and he was quick to thank him with a message on social media.
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“Great to finish our US tour with a trophy. We worked hard together and we can feel progress already. Can’t wait for the new season to start now. Let’s go!” Xhaka wrote on Instagram. In reply, Jesus added: “Thanks bro…good assist. What a player.”
He was far from the only Arsenal player to compliment Xhaka’s performance in midfield against Chelsea. Saka sent a fire emoji and Odegaard a clap and heart emoji. “What a person,” added Hector Bellerin. “What a player!” wrote Pablo Mari along with some emojis. “Fenomenal [sic],” wrote Nuno Tavares.
This may seem like a minor point, but Arteta will be especially delighted with the comments from his players on social media. Leadership and unity in his squad has been a serious issue over the past few seasons and it appears the US tour has really helped his players to bond.
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Captaincy has been a lingering issue under Arteta’s management, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette all holding it for only brief spells while Xhaka was stripped of it by his predecessor, Unai Emery. Arteta is yet to name his captain for the 2022/23 season, but Xhaka and Odegaard appear the most likely picks.
Whoever does get the nod, it seems likely the players will get behind them. The fact that both Odegaard and Jesus sent messages to Xhaka shows the widespread content feeling within the group, which comes from three successive wins, with nine goals scored, in the US pre-season tour. It’s no wonder Arteta is delighted with how things are going.
“Yeah I’m really happy,” he said. “With the performance in general and with the tour. The attitude from a club perspective to show here, and all the work we have done and understand how big we are and the amount of support that we get.
“Then obviously the performance today is a really good example again, that we are moving forward, improving a lot as a team, but don’t get carried away. It’s a test match and there are still a lot of things to do to get better.”
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