Like ArsÃ¨ne Wenger, Iâ€™ve almost certainly been going on too long, but Iâ€™ve convinced myself that Iâ€™ll be honest enough to bow out gracefully when Iâ€™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. Itâ€™s just something different, and something different is good enough for me.
It would have been an interesting A/B test to have started Emeryâ€™s first season with exactly the same squad as Wengerâ€™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 doesnâ€™t work that way, and with Arsenal last year it wasnâ€™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 â€˜prospectâ€™ 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 Doozyâ€™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 summerâ€™s transfer pacesetters Liverpool, you could argue that itâ€™s not. But weâ€™ve also got two Â£50m strikers whose careers at Arsenal are pretty new, so itâ€™s an ongoing rebuild. And we donâ€™t have Â£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-seasonÂ with theÂ 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 weâ€™ve got a poor recent record.
Itâ€™s something new, and thatâ€™s exciting. The Guardian has us down for fifth, and while I donâ€™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), Iâ€™d say the position is about right. We have new players to bed in, a new manager trying to make changes at somewhere that hasnâ€™t really changed much for years, and we have old players who need teaching new tricks – allÂ these things need to happen at the same time.
A kick up the chops
But for me, itâ€™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 itâ€™s all about me – itâ€™s also about invigorating myself. Iâ€™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 canâ€™t wait for it to begin again and Iâ€™m not the kind of reactionary whoâ€™ll be all #EmeryOut by September if things donâ€™t work out. These things require patience.
Of course, if things havenâ€™t picked up by October thereâ€™ll be hell to pay 🙂
Bring on the new era.