A New Season, A New Start

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Here we go again then. On one hand it feels like Football never really went away, what with the Euros, the Olympics and an assortment of pre-season engagements. On the other hand, it seems like a long time ago that we were letting out huge sighs of relief and preparing to carry Marton Fulop shoulder high through the streets of Islington.

The other Sport on offer this summer has been a fantastic way to pass the time but, despite all the on trend Football bashing, I’m still glad that the serious business is about to resume.

So, what can we expect of this season? This time last year I was desperately trying to reconcile the anticipated loss of Na$ri and Fabregas with the lack of decisive incoming activity. We kicked off the season with all manner of question marks hanging over the side, something that I think we’re doing enough to avoid this time.

The signings of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla mean that we’ve made some of the best additions in the league. These players may not have arrived for world record transfer fees but, player for player, they’re world class.

Regardless of who has or hasn’t left, if any other club in the league added a 27 year old forward with 100 caps for one of Europe’s most feared national sides, the top scorer from one of Europe’s top five leagues and an impossibly talented creative midfielder who’d played a part in the best team in the world we’d probably look on enviously and moan about how this was the sort of business we should be doing.

The other side of the coin is the players we’ve lost, or are likely to. Regardless of how disappointing it is to lose him to United, I think it was essential to rid ourselves of the obvious undesirable element before the campaign begins. Losing him earlier in the window would have been easier to take but that wasn’t possible when you take into account the brinksmanship that goes on with these things.

Financially it seems like a decent deal but I’m not going to comment on whether this is good business overall until the end of the transfer window. I think that conclusion depends largely on whether we are able to add more players before September 1st. I’m not suggesting we necessarily need to make a specific signing to replace him like for like; I just want to see how Wenger plays his hand from here.

The same can be said of Alex Song. It looks like yet another slimy frog kissed by the lips of Wenger thinks he’s outgrown the club that made him.

As with most things, if Wenger thinks it’s the correct time to let him go then so be it. I won’t complain too loudly until all business is done.

It’s also worth noting the apparent change in approach from Wenger. Known for protecting his players this is a sign that he’s lost his patience. Song has three years left on his deal and has made no public move to leave. With that in mind it looks very much like this transfer is on our terms. Sure, it will be no hardship for Song to go to Barcelona but equally it’s something the boss is clearly content with.

As hard as it is to see the club haemorrhage terrace heroes every year it’s worth thinking about what they actually bought the club. Very few leave with any medals and most, if not all, blame someone else for that absence of silverware.

I’m being a bit wise after the event when I say this but what hardship is it really to lose players like Na$ri, Clichy, Adebayor, Fabregas, Song, Van Persie etc who were the key players in our most barren period in recent memory? Of course Wenger would have kept many of these players if he could but maybe it’s not such a bad thing to shed those players who remember failing at Arsenal and introduce some for whom playing in the red and white carries no baggage and represents a big opportunity.

Looking at our prospects going forward, I think it’s a question of perspective. Had we flushed out these players early on and then replaced them with Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, with the promise of one or two more, I think most of us would be pretty happy now. We all knew Van Persie was off so don’t let the fact it comes after the incoming activity skew your judgement. We still have a pretty good squad and almost certainly a more balanced one.

The other reason to be cheerful is the return of players elsewhere. In midfield, with or without Song, we’re reasonably well stocked. There will likely be a need for a disciplined holding player but a full pre-season for Diaby and the opportunity for Coquelin to feature somewhere other than full back is encouraging. That’s without even mentioning Jack Wilshere or Oxlade-Chamberlain who will certainly feature in the centre this season.

may be too early for predictions as we still don’t know what our, or anyone else’s, final squad list is going to be. There are players hanging around that will go by the end of August and others who will come in. That said, as it stands at the moment, I’m pretty confident that we’re actually better off than we were when last season came to an end, let alone when we made the trip to Newcastle 12 months ago.

The summer is rarely an easy time for Arsenal fans but I think this is the first time for a while that we can feel genuinely confident about the challenges ahead. Many of the elements that made for a run into the top three are still here and the burden of chance creation and conversion has undoubtedly been spread around the new look squad. I’m not going to foretell a rush of silverware just yet but if we can notch our first win today the perception of a turbulent summer will take a definite upward turn.

Keep The Faith.

@limparhalfway