It may be the pride and Olympic spirit still coursing through my veins, it could be the prospect of Piers Morgan fulfilling his promise to kill himself if Robin Van Persie leaves or I may be absolutely bloody hammered, but this is the first time for absolutely ages that I have entered a brand new football season full to the brim with optimism. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Arsenal supporter to feel this.
Sure, our captain and leading scorer from last year has decided to sell his soul to the (Red) Devil(s) – leaving behind potential ‘hero’ status with the fans and spitting on all the support offered to him through years of injury by Wenger – but this preseason has turned out to be one of the most positive preseasons for quite a few years.
While most Gooners are left annually hoping and praying right up until the end of the transfer window that Arsene will raid his savings and bring home some big hitters (usually without that being the case), Wenger has taken on board the negatives and bitter tastes left from last season and hit the shops very early.
For the first time in a while, Arsenal have that ‘plan B’ which has often seen them falling at the last hurdle.
While always maintaining that he never signed Lukas Podolski or Olivier Giroud as replacements for the departing Van Persie, there was that suspicion that Wenger knew Robin would be leaving. But while the Dutchman acclimatises the tropical northern weather, it’s safe to say there are some very talented strikers to fill his cash-laden boots.
Podolski is a proven striker who has netted prolifically in the German league for a number of seasons as well as for his national side; he’s speedy and can play in various positions in the final third of the pitch. Giroud is a complete opposite of the German – he’s a bulky and strong striker who is able to hold up a ball and feed it out into the paths of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervihnio. He’s the type of player Arsenal really haven’t had since the days of Alan Smith, as well as having twice the conviction of Nicklas Bendtner. Basically speaking, we have replaced a 29 year old with 11 months left on his contract with two very exciting – and very different – players. For the first time in a while, Arsenal have that ‘plan B’ which has often seen them falling at the last hurdle.
But even away from the Dutchman (who won’t be mentioned again), things are also looking very good. Wenger has strengthened an already stellar midfield by bringing in Santi Cazorla. While he doesn’t gain the attention or plaudits of his national teammates, the Spaniard is possibly one of the best signings Arsene Wenger has made since Henry; he’s able to pick out a pass from absolutely nowhere while dictating the pace of a game. Sticking Santi in a midfield that will contain the experience of Arteta and youthful exuberance of Oxlade-Chamberlain is a very exciting prospect for any Arsenal supporter.
But does this quiet optimism mean Arsenal are going to win the league? Probably not. There’s no hiding away from it that the two Manchester clubs have strength in depth and with Chelsea chucking around the millions again this summer, they’re also always going to be up there. There’s also the prospect of a relatively unchanged defensive line up who often looked shaky last year, this is only worsened with Sagna looking like he’ll be missing a large part of the new season.
It’s refreshing to head into a new season with all of our transfer ‘sagas’ already sorted and kicked into row Z.
However, as last season did show – Arsenal do have a willingness to fight until the end and still snatched the 3rd position while every member of the press was shouting and screaming for Harry Redknapp to be knighted.
It’s this base, built last year and combined with some experienced and talented signings, which will mean a top four finish looks quite likely. Of course, there’s a lot riding on how the new boys will fit in to the Premiership and the always worrying injury record, but away from that it’s very refreshing to head into a new season with all of our transfer ‘sagas’ already sorted and kicked into row Z.
Wenger must drill it into his players that a good start to this season is almost crucial to a great finishing position. The memories of last year’s awful start must be wiped from the memory ahead of Sunderland at the weekend; a team that can always give Arsenal trouble but will always be considered underdogs at the Emirates. Particular attention needs to be paid to the set-pieces of Sebastian Larsson.
On the whole though, there’s a lot pointing towards to a successful season ahead for the Gunners. While winning the league may not appear likely, cup competitions are surely a possibility for a team that are looking forward rather than backwards for the first time in a long while.
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