Before bombarding me with memories of last season’s injury – (I’m just going out, I might be some time) – which morphed from nothing major to a whole eight months of gloom, I merely write this with my positive hat on.
It has been an up-and-down season, though. The lows of the start of the league campaign (punctured by the respite offered by Champions League qualification) gave way to the highs of the five signings, which have since again been tempered by two of our spinal players being skittled for several months.
My guess though is that, despite the injuries, the signings will have really lifted the place. Their benefit will be seen straight away. Barring an unforeseen injury to Mertesacker – now that would be a hammer/major/devastating blow – he will slot straight in. Assuming fitness, we should also see certainly one and possibly both of Arteta and Benayoun. Possibly Santos too.
Will the addition of new players (and the sale of old ones), and the 8-2 defeat, in any way herald a change of approach? Time will tell but it’s a fascinating question. One of the pieces I read (damned if I can find it now) following the Old Trafford debacle and the transfer splurge was about us having lost, over the course of a few seasons, the ability to consistently do some of the fundamentals. So in addition to the obvious – set pieces and other defensive howlers – we had for some time lost the art of tracking back and harrying opposition when not in possession.
It is of course something many people have commented on in the past, but it’s a good point. As well as tightening up defensively, we need to start playing more collectively and upping the tempo of our play. When we do it – Chelsea and Barcelona at home last season were prime examples – it works. We just don’t do it enough.
So yes, I’m hoping that as well as strengthening the team in key areas, the new boys (and the pain of the 8-2) will herald some introspection, some honesty, and some tweaks to our approach. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction. We’ve not defended well for years. Our league form has been poor for months and months.
Add all these things into the mix and Saturday becomes fascinating.
I know I say this before every game, but I can’t wait.