Jamie Carragher believes Arsenal and Manchester United are two “contrasting case studies” of how to build a club back up to its former heights.
Both sides fought well-remembered battles for the Premier League title in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since 2013, though, the pair have struggled to find and maintain that top form.
United and Arsenal have in fact spent seasons out of Europe since then – let alone fighting for top spot. As a result, assessing their efforts to return to former glories has been a key focus.
Man Utd have turned to Erik ten Hag following a dismal sixth-placed finish. Arsenal, meanwhile, have Mikel Arteta at the helm in his third season and just missed out on the top four last term.
Recruitment has again been a key watch this summer. Arsenal have removed deadwood and invested in youth. The Red Devils do have exciting young players, but their big recent signing is 30-year-old midfielder Casemiro for £70million.
Writing in a column for the Daily Telegraph, Carragher therefore claimed the two clubs are poles apart.
“There was a lot of debris to clear when Arteta took over at Arsenal, not unlike those who have been appointed at Manchester United over the last ten years,” the pundit wrote.
“The clubs make for contrasting case studies in how best to recover their former standing.
“United are persisting with their policy of pursuing established stars for big money and huge salaries, regardless of whether they have no sell-on fee.
“Casemiro may succeed where others have failed at Old Trafford. His recruitment still smacks of short-termism and is the opposite of how Arteta has decided to use his resources, albeit he too has spent big.”
Carragher backs Arsenal amid Arteta concern
Carragher added that Arteta’s “daunting” and “arduous” task to get Arsenal to this point “has to be” enough to make the top four.
Indeed, he branded it a “make-or-break year” for the Spaniard.
But he added that Arteta may not be able to get the best out of a squad which he has made “younger” and “hungrier” than when he took over.
“My fear for him is he has laid the groundwork for a successor to lead the club to the next level,” Carragher said.
“For now, Arteta is in position to reap the fruits of his own labours, guiding an exciting team.
“Whether it leads to the highest honours or not, the rebuild is advancing and this does not look like a false dawn. Arsenal fans are right to believe they are in for an entertaining ride.”
Carragher insisted that new signing Gabriel Jesus has proved the Premier League’s “best player” in the season’s first month. He added that centre-back William Saliba has “finally joined at the right time”.
Gunners face defining season
There is no doubt about it, the pressure is firmly on for Arsenal to return to the top four.
Last season, their inexperience ultimately cost them. Their young squad failed to cope with that pressure as they battled with Tottenham for fourth last term.
But in the same way as losing a final, Arsenal will be wiser for it. And in striker Jesus, they have a four-time Premier League winner who can lead from the front.
Those added factors could well be enough to get the Gunners over the line this term.
However, they will once again be watching how Man Utd, Tottenham and Chelsea get on. Matches against those three will help define their campaign.