If the first seven games of the new Premier League season are anything to go by then it has already become quite clear as to which Arsenal players Mikel Arteta will rely upon when fit.
After splashing out £120m to sign Marquinhos, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko in the summer transfer window, the question on many Gunners supporters’ minds were could any of the quintet be considered part of the Spaniard’s core group of undroppables heading into the campaign?
In truth, it was always going to be difficult for all five signings to come in and make an immediate impact, especially when taking into consideration Arteta’s decisions in pre-season all pointed towards him already knowing at least six players that would feature in his strongest starting XI week-in, week-out when fit and available.
At the start of the season, there was an argument that Gabriel Jesus would be assured a place in the starting XI regardless of the formation most weeks alongside goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, Thomas Partey, newly-appointed captain Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka.
In addition, due to Arteta’s preference for a left-footer playing as the left-sided defender to bring balance in central defence, Gabriel Magalhaes was a strong candidate to be included in this list and the Brazilian now holds the distinction of being one of three Arsenal players to have started every single game so far this season.
This coupled with team selections when the aforementioned players have been fit for a Premier League fixture this season indicates that six spots have been filled and it’s safe to say that the Gunners manager has added at least two more to the list whilst three other senior stars have a strong case too.
Firstly, the return of William Saliba following his successful loan spell with Marseille shook things up as the Frenchman was nothing short of sensational in pre-season and hasn’t looked out of place since being handed a chance by Arteta and has forged a solid partnership with Gabriel.
Next is Granit Xhaka. Now, the Swiss midfielder has always been regarded as an automatic starter under Arteta, but this was in doubt with Arsenal tipped to bolster the engine room amid links to Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans amid others before the transfer window closed.
Of course, with no arrival of a new midfielder, it means the 29-year-old can take his place amongst the core group of undroppables and his form so far this season suggests it will take a lot to displace him as he’s arguably been the Gunners’ standout player in their ascent to the top of the Premier League table.
With that in mind, Arteta is effectively three positions away from knowing his best Arsenal XI for the Premier League. For many supporters though, those spots have already been filled, but it’s important to remember that Ben White, Zinchenko and Gabriel Martinelli all benefitted from fitness issues within the squad at the start of the season.
Granted, the Spaniard has resisted the temptation to tinker with his side which has resulted in Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney having to wait for their chances. Now that the pair are fully fit, the next month or so should reveal who is the go-to full-back pairing in the Premier League.
In attack, with Emile Smith Rowe seeing just 45 minutes of action in pre-season, Martinelli has made the left-wing spot his own with three goals in seven appearances. Although considering Arteta has high hopes for the Gunners no.10, this battle should resume once he is over his fitness problems.