The team are well and truly back on home soil, the Emirates Cup takes place this weekend, the pre-season preparation now notches in to third gear.
Arsène says he loves the Emirates Cup and, whilst it’s difficult to believe him when he speaks highly of Asian tours etc, it certainly seems feasible for him to feel more than comfortable with a friendly competition that’s on our doorstep. Le Boss calls it “competitive without having too much pressure” which sounds ideal from a pre-season perspective. It’s also an opportunity for him to do his last bit of large-scale rotation before the league starts in earnest, because the Community Shield will most likely see our strongest fit XI take to the field, with only a couple of subs likely for the duration.
Wenger will certainly rotate. We’ve seen that of Emirates Cups in the past. But as opposed to seasons past when we’ve seen a lot of youngsters dotted throughout the team, I think we’ll only see a spattering of lesser known players, because now our squad is deep enough for Arsène to be rotating full internationals.
It’s a competition that’s good for parents to take kids to get their first glimpses of footballers in the flesh, which is why you’ll nee see me there, because a stadium of kids and parents is not quite my thing. I’m glad Arsenal do it, but this weekend will be filled with other stuff for me to do. But what is important is that we don’t read too much in to it. After all, this time last season we were watching Falcao score a decent header for Monaco and saying “what a player” before he was promptly exiled to Manchester to cut a forlorn shape in United’s attack. So I think the mantra to say in ones head for the duration of this weekend is “it’s only a friendly”.
Remember: Gervinho scored a fabulous goal on his first game for the club in a friendly.
Unless of course it’s Akpom. If he bags some more goals then let’s all go flipping mental. Because he’ll be the striker saviour we all supposedly crave.
I’m developing quite a soft spot for old Chuba you know. And it’s not just because of his cool sounding name. It’s the eternal hope of bringing through young players you see. Young players like Akpom are the last bastion of hope that a player who is at the club truly ‘loves’ the club. Deep down we all know that really they all see it as a job and so being a boyhood fan doesn’t really mean much (see Rooney and Welbeck as examples), but until those days come when the player is good enough to make that choice, having a young player coming through the ranks allows you to make ignorant comments like “he’s one of us, he’ll never leave” and the such like.
That’s where the Spud fans are at the moment with Kane. I say let them have their ignorance, for truth is far less appealing sometimes than reality.
The rise of a youngster from the youth ranks also affords fans an attempt at clamboring atop the moral high ground. It gives supporters licence to engage with other fans of clubs like Chelski and United and say “ahh, well, you don’t grow your own” and other statements that in reality mean little. If you were to ask a fan to replace all home-grown players for a bunch of Johnny foreigners and a Premier League, FA Cup or Champions League trophy, I’m pretty sure everyone would take it. But whilst you don’t have those bragging rights as a fan, the ability to take pride in the development of a youth player is a small victory in itself.
That’s why I think I might invest some of my own emotional collateral in the young lad. Not because I don’t think we’ll win a trophy, but because I want both. I want to get to the end of the season and be standing atop the imagined high ground with a beaming smile and a trophy in my teams cabinet. I want to be able to say “we beat you fair and square and we did it with some of our own”.
It’s why the Invincibles season is also a useful shield against the moronic imbeciles of West London or the red Mancs. They can crow all they like. Theirs isn’t a small gold one. We have that ahead of any other team and the longer that record remains in tact, we shall forever have something else to retort to fans of other clubs.
Catch you tomorrow.