So as usual the first game of the season didn’t live up to our extremely high expectations. It was 500 degrees and the Arsenal were lethargic and off the pace throughout. After my last post you would have thought, in all the excitement, I would have at the very least arrived on time. Alas I stumbled in 5 minutes late, sweat pouring from my brow, only to receive the familiar treatment for any poor soul who dares to arrive late in block 44, ‘sidown you slut’. As always followed by a short chuckle from the majority and a bellowing laugh from the funnyman himself. It’s good to be back..
The big question that everyone seems to be asking is ‘can Arsenal possibly improve without their best player?’. On the evidence of the Sunderland game you’d have thought the answer would be a resounding ‘no’. In the days since, the pre-season optimism seems to have deflated but I see no reason for such swift judgement. It does however remain a concern that when we come up against teams who ‘park the bus’ we could still play ‘with the handbrake on’, to use language which I’m sure will be driving us all mental within a few short months.
It’s correct to say that last season our main issues were the reliance on Robin and a dreadful defensive record, particularly at the tail end of games, however both these stemmed from a hideously imbalanced middle 3. Playing a 4-3-3 system, something that is basically essential to compete at the top end of the league and especially in Europe, necessitates a central three who know what their roles, have an understanding of each other, and have enough talent, pace and technique to boss games. Having Jack and Abou missing basically meant we had a middle three made up of Song, Arteta, Rosicky or Ramsey for much of the season. Even now, as I type their names I have a slight feeling of terror about those four attempting to stamp their authority on any football match anywhere.
Yet even without any real central creative force we still provided RVP with a record goals tally. His departure brings new fears about sharing the burden of scoring goals. Song leaving draws fresh concerns about missing a solely defensive minded midfielder to shield the defence. Could you ever consider Song your traditional DM though? I’m not sure there’s any need for a solely defensively minded central player and I think Arsene is thinking the same thing. I might be wrong and Yann M’Villa might arrive tomorrow but Sahin’s arrival means we have a surplus (a word that i wouldn’t have used in relation to any area for at least 6 years) of central and especially creative central midfielders.
Wenger has already said during pre-season that Oxlade-Chamberlain is now a ‘central player’, and we can add Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby, as well as new boys Sahin and Cazorla to the mix. Then there’s always the Coq and Mani Frimpong who are raring to go. it seems as though Arsene has realised that in order to break down teams who come and defend deep, this area needs to be moving the ball much quicker than last year. We need to start really dominating possession again. We need to bring some pace and technical ability to central areas. Only in this way will we get in behind and really wear other teams down like the good old days.
Once the midfield is ticking over, other areas will fall into place. The wide men will receive the ball in better areas and with more space to exploit. Clearly more possession means the defence is less busy, but if the balance is right and everyone knows their role, we can spread the defensive responsibility throughout the team. Similarly attacking duties should be less stagnant and reliant on one man. Hopefully Podolski (who I’m assuming will play left), Walcott and even Gervinho can all pick up 10 goals.
Clearly I’m being idealistic but I have to say I’m not going to allow myself to cry over RVP and Song leaving, at least until we’re 6th at Christmas. Let’s see how we can cope away at Stoke on Sunday. I’m sure Pulis will have his henchman set up to stamp out any evidence of midfield dynamism from the word go.
Let’s show them what we’re capable of. Nick
So the Olympics came and went far too quickly but I think I speak for most people when I say it far superseded expectations. The City of London basked in the warm glow of unexpected delight at not only the success of the British athletes but also the goodwill and friendliness of Londoners in general. Something most of us are not hugely accustomed to.
Fear not however, as the post Olympic hangover sets in and the football season begins, the chivalrous, selfless, care-free sports consumer will be replaced by the snarling, sweaty, aggressive and intensely loyal football fan, and in many ways, thank God for that.
I suppose the most enjoyable thing about the Olympics, as well as the fact it’s a one-off, is it’s inclusivity and accessibility. Ironically, because no-one is really a fan of any of the sports, they can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, safe in the knowledge that two weeks of passionate support is all that is expected of you.
Like many football fans I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh approach to consuming sport, especially when combined with an enormous sense of pride as it was all on my doorstep. Nevertheless, the season’s opener on Saturday against Sunderland, even the last pre-season game against Cologne, bring with them a completely different and unique range of emotions.
The chance to see the new boys make their competitive debuts, the chance to make a day of catching up with the Arsenal family and walking to the ground whilst re-living last seasons successes and failures. Imagining what might be this time around. The pre-match nerves and the inevitable post match despair. The question of ‘why do I put myself through this?’ when you’re one-nil up on 80 minutes. The comforting sense that there’s another game the following week.
The point I think I’m trying to make is that that feeling of unparalleled sickening, nervous anxiety, at least for me, cannot be found anywhere other than at the Arsenal, and I know Mo Farah would agree with me. I can’t bloody wait. Nick