Highbury hero Ray Parlour believes club-record signing Declan Rice and his old Invincibles midfield team-mate Edu could help Arsenal to end their 20-year wait for a Premier League title this season.
Parlour, who made 523 appearances for the Gunners in a trophy-laden 12 years, now works closely alongside Mikel Arteta’s squad as a club ambassador.
And he believes he has seen enough in pre-season to give him hope his old club can go one better than last season’s runners-up spot.
He explained: “Lots could happen, but after being lucky enough to spend some quality time in their company on the recent pre-season tour of America, I came away with a very good feeling about the chances of my old club.
“The lads looked very sharp out in the States and I suspect on the back of what I saw, we will see a really competitive game in the Community Shield against Manchester City.
“Pre-season form and fitness can give you indications of how things are shaping up, but the biggest game ahead, of course, is against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League next weekend. Mikel Arteta has a plan, he is sticking to it, and by the first game they should be ready to go.
“I hope and expect Arsenal to be fighting for the title again. With three good signings so far in Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber, Arsenal should be able to once again compete with City for the title.
“A big part of that plan obviously involves the record signing, Rice. He has all the physical and technical attributes of a top Arsenal player, but I was fortunate enough to also get an insight into his mentality.
“That convinced me he can cope with the £105m price tag and the demands of being an Arsenal player under pressure to challenge for honours.
“I spoke to him on the tour. He knows there is pressure. I’m sure he can deal with it.
“I think he’s looking forward to getting going now. It’s a really young squad, he knows a number of them from England which will help. He’ll be ready to go, it’s an excellent signing and as much as ability is important you need to look at characters – he’s a leader, West Ham’s captain.
“I didn’t think Arsenal could afford him but they’ve made it happen. I like what Havertz and Timber will bring, too.”
Parlour credits the impressive summer transfer window and general positivity about Arsenal’s squad to sporting director Edu.
He added: He knows what you need to be successful, he’s done a brilliant job and the club are backing the manager. If they can get a few more players out, then they may be looking at one or two more coming in.
“I always speak to Edu, he can’t give too much away obviously but I know he wants to get three or four players out – but they’re all under contract so he is working hard on that.
“If they can, maybe there’s room for more to come in. That’s the most important thing now, releasing a little bit of money.
“It’s exciting times now for Arsenal. The squad depth is so much better. They now have a good chance of pushing Manchester City and whoever else is at the top of the table so we can go one better next season.”
Ray Parlour was speaking in an interview conducted by NetBet: https://sport.netbet.co.uk/