Wheezing up to third

Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth

There’s a subtle difference between doing some pottering around yourself on a Sunday and watching someone else potter around on a Sunday. And by god, did Arsenal potter around in the second half yesterday. Shall I say potter again? Potter.

I’m not sure why. The first half was OK, and Luiz found time to be dangerous at the other end of the pitch by scoring his first goal for Arsenal (“a little flick of those locks,” said the commentator on Arsenal.com). Aubameyang rasped one past the post and Pepe curled one over. 

But the second half? I’m not sure if they ran out of puff, ran out of confidence or ran out of ideas, but it was tough going. And I suppose in that respect it was a good job we were playing Bournemouth. They’re no slouches but you couldn’t help but wonder what a more dangerous side could have done to us in that second half.

Insert Emery musings here

I’m far from the first person to wonder what to make of us under Emery – why we do what we do and what the masterplan is. But think of it from an Arsenal top brass point of view. He has one job this season (a job that will in all likelihood decide his future at the club): getting back into the Champions League. So long as we’re in the running for that, all grumbles about the brand of football will be ignored. There’s no way in the world he’s going anywhere sooner, short of Arsenal collapsing to tenth and looking incapable of competing. But we’re not doing that; far from it. We’re third and he’s fulfilling his brief.

This is especially true as we don’t even have our full squad. Tierney and Bellerin taking over from Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles/Chambers is just a matter of time. The return of Holding and the return to form of Chambers give us options in the centre too and may – may! – help Luiz and Sokratis focus.

So yes, I too wish there was more rampaging, and we were slicing through sides once we’ve got our noses in front, but outside the cups we’re not quite clicking. We’re hanging in there – one point behind City – and from an aesthetic point of view, we just have to hope the right system and the right first XI emerges that takes us up a notch. 

In the meantime, it’s grind-it-out time. We’ve got a great crop of young players, and they’re being given time. We’ve got an increasing amount of options all over the pitch. The ingredients are there. Just… but…. hmmm.

But onto more important matters

Ok, who’s messed with the bloody clocks? Either I’m extraordinarily unobservant (quite possible – actually, very possible) or have the stadium clocks started counting up to 45 minutes rather than down? If so, why? There’s a whole blog post that can be written about this, I suspect. It could be the tip of the iceberg and unearth yet more abuses of football tradition. It could make me as an investigative journalist. 

Or, it might just be that a) the clocks have always counted up and I’m as thick as a brick, or b) that it’s been happening ages and therefore I’m as thick as a brick. 

The young, the new and the repaired

Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest

I meant to post this earlier today but there were some technical gremlins… not that anyone will notice as it’s been so long!

It was a rare foray into the League Cup for me. But it ended up being rather more enjoyable than I’d anticipated, in part thanks to five good goals, in part because of Arsenal’s raft of young players and prodigal returning defenders, and in part due to the sweet miracle of a clean sheet.

Oh, and in part thanks to tickets in the east upper that cost just £10 for my kids and £20 for me. On the odd occasion I sit up in the gods, it always reminds me how much more of a grasp you get of formations and tactics, as opposed to being at about player chest height in row 8 of the north bank where I normally sit. There, things are a bit more 2D. I’ve been on intimate terms with the pitch since 1994, so as far as I’m aware we still play 4-4-2, knock it up to the tall striker (he’s got good feet for a big man) who’ll head it down to the little man for a goal. Things were better then, etc etc *looks at news, gawps*.

£5.70 for a pint of Hells (a marked improvement, even if the half-time beer queues remain stubbornly unfixed) is, regrettably, London prices, though for £5.50 you can get a pie too. I didn’t want a pie but for -20p, what’s a man to do? Have a pie, that’s what. Look after your pies and your pounds will look after themselves and all that.

Anyway, I’ve lost my track already. 

It was really fun. You often get games where someone new or returning is in the first XI and you try to keep an eye on them, but yesterday there were multiple narratives running simultaneously, so it was hard not to flit between them all. There was new boy Kieran Tierney, hailed like some kind of hero, who really caught my eye with his pace, ability to take men on and the kind of crossing that promises good times ahead. I’d bring him in now, frankly, though there may be fitness / match fitness reasons why that won’t happen.

Then there was Holding (you know), who was back looking assured and bagging himself a goal. There was Martinelli, whose happiness, joie-de-vivre, smile, boundless energy and killer instinct contrasts markedly with me. In my defence, I am in my late 40s. And not a footballer. And a miserable, battered cynic.

Bellerin, another returning hero, was lauded onto the pitch then provided an assist for Joe Willock. Reiss Nelson got his first ever goal. Chambers was aggressive and played with real intent – in two positions. Smith Rowe got clonked in the head but it was good to see him too. Overall, there were all sorts of things to be happy about, truth be told. Even Ozil was there, and I thought he was pretty creative to be honest, but that was some kind of world-class trudging he did when he was subbed off. He needs a bit of what Martinelli has. Don’t we all.

Hats off to Forest fans for travelling in such numbers, though their team barely showed up. The official attendance was 53,160, but that was suitably generous – there were large swathes of the upper tier empty, but given the biblical rain and travel problems, it was a good effort by all.

Overall, it was hugely enjoyable and offered welcome shelter from the wailing and angst that accompanies the structural chaos of our Premier League campaign. Some of these players must surely now be contenders for Man Utd away. When you think of it that way, the potential change afoot in the Arsenal first XI is really exciting.

And I still don’t *really* know what a Carabao is. 

Ooh ooh Tierney add-ons

So there I was in the shower, thinking about the permutations of Arsenal’s summer transfer needs. Oh come on, we all do it!

I was considering the ongoing saga of Kieran Tierney (is it a saga? Perhaps not yet) and I was ruminating on the way Arsenal were proposing to structure a deal (yes I am this boring in real life). By all accounts Arsenal are offering an up-front fee and a bunch of sweeteners contingent on various things happening.

And then this headline came to me, and it made me laugh – probably just me, I know. Normally, you’d think of something to write, write it, *then* think of a suitable headline. I’m flipping the norms here by thinking of the headline first, then writing nothing.

Have a good Sunday.

The pessimist’s guide to Arsenal’s away run-in

Anyone who knows me, or has read this blog over the years – an admittedly dwindling band – will know that I’m not one of life’s natural optimists when it comes to Arsenal. It would be fair to say that breezy positivity does not drip from my every pore. Mine deep enough and you will find some glistening nuggets, but if there was a new goldrush, and boundless confidence was the lucrative prize, folk would not hop onto their horses and head west to me.

It’s a defence mechanism of course. Expect something less, then when it happens you’re OK with it, because you’d steeled yourself already. Should something good happen, the high is that much better. It’s a lose-win or win double-win situation [needs more work – Ed].

That’s why, now that we’re at the business end of the season and for the first time in a few years we’ve got something to play for in league terms, a certain pragmatic pessimism kicks in. I know there are plenty of you out there who beam confidence about our away run-in, and I admire you, I really do. But I also know there’s a hefty percentage of anxious types who – even if they’re confident-ish – don’t want to jinx our run-in with needless chest-puffing.

This is for you.

Everton

I know we’ve beaten them a fair few times away over the years, and hit five past them last season at Goodison Park, but Wayne Rooney was really annoying when he was about 12 and scored against us and who’s to say something like that won’t happen again with the latest Everton wonderkid *checks Everton squad just in case*? We also lost there two years ago when Ashley Williams handed us nul points with an 86th minute header. They’ve only lost one from five.

Banana skin rating: 🍌🍌🍌

Watford

Watford used to be our bogey team, and I still haven’t forgiven them or John Barnes for beating us at Highbury in the FA Cup quarter-final in 1987. I’m not a bitter man, you understand, and nor do I hold grudges, but I’m still sour about that all these years later.

Oh, and we lost there last year with another heartbreaking late cave-in.

Banana skin rating: 🍌🍌🍌

Wolves

Have you seen Wolves! They’re a bit ropey away from home but they’ve literally nearly beaten practically everyone at home. They’d put four past Real Madrid if they were in the Premier League, probably. They’ve beaten Utd twice, Liverpool, Chelsea and we were lucky to get a 1-1 at the Emirates. Plus, I remember completing Wolves in my Panini ‘79 sticker book, and I’ve had great respect for them ever since. I’m concerned that Steve Bull might put us to the sword.

Banana skin rating: 🍌🍌🍌🍌

Leicester

Even I’d have been positive about this one earlier in the season, but since Brendan’s taken over there’s a regrettable air of confidence around Leicester, and they’ve now won four league games in a row. We can’t rely on Bergkamp to magic up the perfect hat-trick, which is a blow. It’s entirely possible that they’ve never forgiven us for robbing Alan Smith off them too.

Banana skin rating: 🍌🍌🍌🍌

Burnley

Another side that’s, somewhat frustratingly, reversed its run of poor form. I could wheel out some stereotypes about it being a tough northern outpost, if that helps? In my mind we’ve lost there every season but a cursory google tells me that in fact Sanchez (remember him?) slotted a penalty winner last season in the nine billionth minute. They should be safe by then which will either mean they’ll have one eye on Magaluf, or it’ll mean they’ll be demob happy and playing with all the freedom required. Either way we must avoid a Sean Dyche-shaped revenge job at all costs.

Banana skin rating: 🍌🍌🍌

So  there you go, fellow pessimists. Forewarned is forearmed.

Read my match report. It’s two days late and still no good.

Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea

In this era of on-the-whistle posts and hot-off-the-press post-match podcasts, I’ve decided to  develop a niche around commenting fluffily about a game at least two days after it happened. It never harmed people in the olden days when they’d hear of news in far off lands weeks later, and it won’t harm people now. Maybe, just maybe, people scooped up so much simultaneously-published content after the match that it all garbled into one? And that they need a refresher now? That’s what I’m clinging onto.

Anyway, the match. Just when he needed a result, along came a re-invigorated Arsenal and a strikerless Chelsea. Perfect timing! How we needed that.

Fire the starting gun

It’s funny how the first 30 seconds or minute of a game can often tell you all you need to know about the game that’s about to unfold. When the game kicked off the week before, at West Ham, I distinctly remember an Arsenal player getting the ball within seconds and just standing there, almost motionless, not quite knowing what to do and under no pressure to do anything in any rush. Fast forward a week to the game against Chelsea and we were out of the blocks like the clappers. It set the tone for a superb first half that won us the game.

Better and brighter men than me (that doesn’t really narrow it down) will know more about the psychology behind that. How can two performances be so different? Was it the opponent? Some words of admonition from Unai? Change of formation and line-up? All of the above and more? Let’s just hope we don’t go full circle and start so timidly on Friday night, as I’m not entirely sure that will end well.

Laca verging (on the brilliant)

Hands up in the class who likes Lacazette? While I wouldn’t advocate the smattering – counted in the low seconds – of booing that appeared to accompany his substitution, it is a bit baffling, because he really is a hell of a player. Sure, he has fewer goals than Aubameyang, but his range is wider, and when he scores goals that combine silky skills with brute force, as he did on Saturday, my admiration for his overall excellence, hard work and team play goes up a notch or two.

Just be Kos

It was a fabulous performance from Koscielny, who looks like he’s edging back to his imperious best. And with him marshalling things, Sokratis looks more comfortable too. With all my fingers crossed and double-crossed, we really need to keep those two fit until the end of the season. They might not be perfect, and they’re certainly not the long-term solution – the former is in the autumn of his career, and the latter still gets a little too tight to people for my liking – but as a unit, on this performance at least, they’re the best we’ve got. Please stay fit.

Knee bother

I’m not one for conspiracy theories as a rule, but what with the moon landings definitely being fake, and the Earth being as flat as a pancake, I’m beginning to worry about our injuries this year. It seems incredibly bad luck to me to have two substantial knee injuries in one year, especially as both Bellerin and Holding were arguably two of our most improved players this season under Emery. Is it the way we train, or just bad luck? Add Welbz into the mix and you’ve got a rum old situation that’s clearly some kind of government cover-up. But I’m not one for conspiracy theories, as I said. So good luck Bellerin and Holding. Please no more long-term injuries. Thanks.

Not the crackliest

Obviously, all atmosphere analysis now uses the Spurs game as a benchmark, because that was right up there with the best in recent times. So given it was a 5:30 kick-off (some drink tends to help pep up the noise) and a Saturday, I must say I was expecting things to be a bit more raucous than they were. Perhaps there were gnawing nerves given some of our recent performances. There also weren’t the same circumstances that sparked up the derby. But still – just me or was it a bit subdued?

Right, that’s your lot in this first and probably last two-day-old match report.

Solidarity with all the part-time bloggers like me who can’t quite be bothered. Power to the idle.

Plenty to ponder as Arsenal self-destruct

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

It’s not lost on me that since it all came together so spectacularly against our old friends up the road on 2nd December, cracks have started to appear. Yesterday, those cracks became giant fissures, as all of our failings of yore came back to dance a merry jig.

For all of Liverpool’s excellence (they’re not top and flying by chance), all five of their goals were avoidable from a defensive point of view, and that’s the grim truth of it. I fired off this tweet at the end of the game last night:

No club that considers itself one of those capable of challenging for the big honours should let five goals in. It ought to be a once-a-generation brain freeze, but in seven years (not including the League Cup) we’ve shipped eight goals once, six goals twice and five goals four times (that I can think of – there are probably more). Wenger’s late-era teams were weak, and for it to happen again under a new man suggests to me that a lot of those weaknesses are still there.

I also lobbed this tweet out there too. It wasn’t universally popular – it’s a bit black-and-white / binary I know, so lacks a bit of context – but it did resonate with many:

They’re not be set up / organised properly yet – that seems pretty clear – and solving that would put a different light on some of these players. Some of them would also look better when paired with better players. But even with that, I don’t think any of the above is defensively consistent enough or fit/quick enough (Kolasinac, however, is incredibly dangerous going forward) to get into the teams of any of our rivals, and that’s the essence of the problem. We either need a miracle structural cure, which has not been forthcoming yet, or we need a serious injection of quality if we want to step up.

So fix it, yeah

Easier said than done I’m aware, because we all know Kroenke’s not going to wave a £75m magic wand for a defender – and that might really only get you one exceptional defender these days, however wrong that is – even if there was one available in January.

In the context of this urgent need to improve, some of the other things going down across the club make a bit more sense. Selling Ramsey (again – rightly or wrongly) in January would raise some money, if they can make it happen. I’d wager that some of the defenders above – if there were takers and if there are replacements – should be looking over their shoulder too. Sokratis seems a good squad option and I like his attitude, but Mustafi? It might also explain the Ozil situation, though that’s possibly harder to resolve. Put bluntly, to spend money we need to have money, and that requires some ruthlessness that will be well received by some but not by others.

On the plus side

Some positives, while we’re at it. I thought Maitland-Niles, who’s something of a travelling salesman in this team, made a real impression early on from his berth on the right. Iwobi did well in the early part of the game too. Overall, to have gone 22 games unbeaten is admirable, and I’m enjoying the team edging towards being a team that presses better, stands up for each other and is developing – albeit with glitches in the matrix – more resilience.

But to have let 30 goals in tells you where we can improve the most. Emery knows only too well that his job depends on making rapid improvements, getting into the Champions League, and winning things, and he can’t afford to let transfer windows pass by in the way Wenger could, whose power came from  early success and latter-day patronage. Emery has neither of those things and there’s no time like the present.

So I think some stuff will happen in January. We’re still there or thereabouts, and we need something to help steady the ship and push us on.

Emery fires up Arsenal in demolition derby

Arsenal 4-2 Spurs

What a shot in the arm. I’ve been to many crackling, memorable matches at the Emirates, but there’s not much that’s got close to how yesterday felt. It was breathlessly exciting: absolutely relentless and exhausting. If this is the stamp of Emery, then quite honestly, it’s been worth waiting for. I’m sold.

Not many players grow up near the club they end up playing for these days, which can lead to the accusation they just don’t ‘get’ what a rivalry like this means for the club and fans. As accusations go, it’s always been nonsense, as yesterday proved. It was clear that Emery had wound his team up into a frenzy for his first north London derby, and throughout, they didn’t let up.

We started like a train, and weren’t derailed when two preventable goals turned the tables on us. It’s funny, because while Aubameyang’s equaliser was an obvious turning point as the game swung back into our favour, I actually think the sense of injustice fuelled by the ‘shhh’ and the penalty was the thing that made this game so fierce. We felt slighted, and with that in our mind, helped by two judicious substitutions, we completely blew them away in the second half.

Au-boom-eyang

Aubameyang’s second was the best technical goal by some distance. A beautiful pass from Bellerin, the gentlest of lay-offs from Ramsey, then a first-time, curving rip-snorter of a strike that left their keeper rooted to his spot. Pandemonium on the terraces. An inch-perfect precision strike. With ten goals, he’s the top scorer in the league, and he doesn’t always play in his best position. Not bad…

Lacazette’s was especially fun for dribbling in, but then came my favourite, as man of the match and all-round pocket dynamo Lucas Torreira turned his man and slotted it home. When a football match gives you this kind of emotional high, it’s genuinely like a drug. Just wonderful. Feed me more.

Talking of Torreira, he’s so obviously the blueprint for what Emery is trying to achieve. Tenacious, energetic and technically excellent, he’s pretty much the first man on the teamsheet now. If you can’t play like he plays, which is how Emery wants his team to play, do you have a future at Arsenal? This is not a coded slight to Ozil or indeed anyone else, because everyone is different, but it’s just reality. Some players suit some systems and can adapt, others can’t. I suspect January and next summer will be very, very busy.

You do run, Aaron

Bring in the conciliation teams. Get everyone together in a room with beer. Invite the unions. Provide cake. There’s got to be a way to keep Aaron Ramsey, because yesterday’s performance showed what he gives, and to me, he’s got the energy and guile for this system. Of course he’s a bit injury-prone, but would you want to see him at City, or United, because it’s not impossible and it seems a bit mad to me.

Smoke and standing

I know there are good health and safety reasons for flares not being allowed, just as there are for not standing in seated areas, but both things added to the atmosphere yesterday, which was the best by some distance for some years. It was everything a football atmosphere should be. Nobody sat down for a second at our end, so for me, the sooner we stop pretending that this isn’t happening, and find a solution to it, the better. Sometimes, people want just to stand.

What a great game. Onto Wednesday, though with no Xhaka. Now I never thought that would bother me, but…

 

Are you a no wins in November or more of an unbeaten in 16?

I think my blogging absence may have rendered me incapable of writing a decent headline. Or maybe I never was any good at writing decent headlines? There’s one to ponder.

What I meant by it – and the very fact that I’m having to explain it suggests that, yes, I do need to go back to the drawing board – is that while we’ve been doing pretty well under Emery, at least it appears that way through my own bespectacled eyes, we’ve not exactly made huge strides reinventing ourselves just yet. Things are good, but they’re not perfect.

Disentangling yourself from something that you’ve been doing for a long time isn’t that easy, it turns out. If only there was a contemporary parallel I could use as a metaphor. I’ll give it some thought.

But overall, as I suspected I would, I’m enjoying not being judgmental about progress, and I’m loving an atmosphere that’s liberatingly rancour-free and devoid of judgment. It lets you concentrate on watching the incremental changes that sum up this first half-season. Playing from the back, a bit more structure and rigour, wacky substitution times, Torreira being Torreira, and the numerous variants of rearranging £150m of talent into the top end of the squad.

Stats life

I’ve tried, I promise I’ve tried. But every time I try to get into stats, as all the football hipsters and brainy people are, my mind gets lost in the numbers. I’ve just about got my head round xG, but simultaneously not really, because anytime I look at a wedge of numbers in any format, my mind goes to goo. This might explain why Excel brings me out in hives. I don’t know what a macro is and those little code things you put in cells to make magic happen are not designed for brains like mine. Have you tried writing in Excel? It’s truly horrible. The words disappear. Then they wedge themselves in the wrong cell. Excel makes me want to cry: I once saw a spreadsheet so complex I had an on-the-spot existential crisis.

It’s got more nested menus than your average human being can even comprehend. So I’m going to leave stats to the Excel fans, you’ll be glad to hear. Why do I mention this? Because I read something to do with our xG being lower than the goals we’ve actually been scoring, which means that we’ve been overachieving, which means we might expect a regression to the xG, so brace yourselves people, though I wasn’t possibly concentrating on it enough to be fair and may be recounting the details in the wrong order.

I should also add, in this spirit of honest confession, that I’m not very good with formations either. I mostly put this down to sitting just eight rows from the hallowed turf since 1994, which has somewhat blurred my strategic vision. But it’s also got something to do with me not paying much attention to things that should be staring me in the face. It’s not unknown for us to be chewing over the game in the pub afterwards and for me to congratulate our back four for a job well done, only for someone to point out we’d been playing three at the back for two years.

Anyway, glad to be of service with the whole numbers and formations stuff. If you want a new columnist who can cut through the chaff, you know where I am.

Vim and vigour at the Vitality

We lost at Bournemouth last season, which won’t surprise anyone given how we turned on-the-road defeats an artform. This season, over the last month, we’ve drawn at Palace when we should really have won, we played well against Liverpool but drew, then we stank the place out against Wolves but also drew. So on Sunday we need to stick two fingers up to the xG by getting a win (I’ve no idea what our xG for Sunday is, or, as previously mentioned, what it really means, but I’m just saying that as a rallying cry.)

Koscielny’s back soon though, right?

Out of the frying pan…

The god of fixtures really did get out of bed on the wrong side when he insisted that we should start this season – the one with the biggest change at the club since 1996 – with two of the hardest matches of the season. It’s certainly been a baptism of fire for the new man.

If you pick your team based on form (form after one game – is that form?), then I think we’ll see Lacazette start today, as he really was up for the fight on Sunday. I’d also be inclined to play Lichtsteiner at left-back. We had several undercooked players on Sunday (Xhaka being a good example, but not the only one), so having another in Monreal might be too risky. Our new Swiss spring chicken added a spikiness and nous to the game, even if it came to naught, and personally I’d be happy to see him retain his place.

I think we might see Torreira ahead of Guendouzi too. More caution away from home was largely anathema to Wenger, but Emery is (by all accounts) a more tactical manager, and he may opt for a more cautious approach. Adding Torreira to the midfield may stifle creativity, but it should also tighten us up.

I’m not sure what I expect from this game, other than to see some players come into better form, and to see the system Emery wants a percentage point or two more effective. It’s a tough ask, but this is the very beginning, so expectations, while not lower, may be different.

Patience really is a virtue

I listened to the Arsecast yesterday, in which the issue of early criticism / patience came up. It seems extraordinary to even be talking about it now, but it bears repeating: nothing happens immediately in the aftermath of a wave of the managerial wand. This is especially true given the previous spell lasted 22 years.

I think Emery should be judged after one year at the earliest, at which point we should be able to see if his blueprint is beginning to work. But preferably, he should be judged after two years, at which point the players will be more his, and the plan will be more settled. Anything sooner than that – barring a complete collapse – serves no real purpose.

Being there on Sunday was a salient reminder not only of how good City are (and they really are superb: powerful, quick, organised and ruthless) but also of how much work needs to be done at Arsenal. There’s so much to do. It’s going to be fascinating watching Emery try to make his mark, which is why as well as being a bit heart-in-the-mouth stuff at times, even if playing out the back is as a bit Keystone Cops for several months it’s worth persevering with. We all cried out for something different. That’s what we’re getting, that makes it exciting, and as the players become more comfortable with it, it will become clearer and more natural.

Right, into the fire we go…

 

Up for the Emery era

Like Arsène Wenger, I’ve almost certainly been going on too long, but I’ve convinced myself that I’ll be honest enough to bow out gracefully when I’m no longer delivering the goods. Except here I am, having another tilt at this blogging lark.

Decent metaphor, except that Wenger had a really successful first period, and was one of the greats of the game *checks stats, coughs, shuffles off*.

Well, anyway, here I am again. Blogging season number 16.

Out with the old

This time though, Groundhog Arsenal has been consigned to history – or so we hope. With Emery, we have a fresh start, and whether it turns out to be the start of another golden age or a difficult second album is neither here nor there to some degree. It’s just something different, and something different is good enough for me.

It would have been an interesting A/B test to have started Emery’s first season with exactly the same squad as Wenger’s last, just to see whether what many of us suspected – that things had gone stale and the existing squad was underachieving – was true.

But of course football doesn’t work that way, and with Arsenal last year it wasn’t simply a case of the players underachieving: it was also true that the squad was, man for man, poorer than those that finished above it.

In with the new

Which would explain why instead of standing still – Wenger tried that one summer when only Cech came in, and look what happened there – Arsenal have been busy from the get-go. Cover at right-back, an experienced centre-back, a new keeper, a holding midfielder and a ‘prospect’ in the shape of Gwen Doozy. Who if he goes on the lash is Gwen Doozy’s boozy do. Who if he goes on the lash at a square dance is Gwen Doozy’s boozy do do-se-do. But anyway, I digress.

Where was I? Ah yes, gaps have been filled.

Whether this is enough is of course a moot point, and certainly when you compare it to this summer’s transfer pacesetters Liverpool, you could argue that it’s not. But we’ve also got two £50m strikers whose careers at Arsenal are pretty new, so it’s an ongoing rebuild. And we don’t have £120m from the sale of one of our players burning a hole in our pocket either.

Whilst I’m sanguine about the forthcoming season, I’ve watched pre-season with the required detachment – it just doesn’t mean that much, some players aren’t here, match fitness is short, and overall whether we win or lose it’s hardly a reliable harbinger of things to come. The crunch will come soon enough – just a week now – and we couldn’t ask for a more daunting challenge than Man City.

What do I expect from this season? As I said, just something different. A commitment to ironing out the endemic issues that plagued Arsenal for years. A desire to go head-to-head tactically and beliefistically with the teams above us – against whom we’ve got a poor recent record.

It’s something new, and that’s exciting. The Guardian has us down for fifth, and while I don’t agree with everything the article says (I don’t think there’ll be any people questioning the wisdom of getting rid of Wenger, for example, even if results aren’t what we’d like), I’d say the position is about right. We have new players to bed in, a new manager trying to make changes at somewhere that hasn’t really changed much for years, and we have old players who need teaching new tricks – all  these things need to happen at the same time.

A kick up the chops

But for me, it’s less about the final position and more about reinvigorating a team that had run out of ideas and had become too predictable. And – because of course it’s all about me – it’s also about invigorating myself. I’d got a bit too cynical and a bit too disengaged, and while the fun is as much in the going as it is in the winning, taking a leap into the unknown after 22 years of being cuddled up in the Wenger comfort blanket feels exciting.

I can’t wait for it to begin again and I’m not the kind of reactionary who’ll be all #EmeryOut by September if things don’t work out. These things require patience.

Of course, if things haven’t picked up by October there’ll be hell to pay 🙂

Bring on the new era.