Well now, how are we all faring on this fine Friday? Feeling fan-dabby-dozy? Or just glad we’re hitting the weekend?
I’m feeling pretty good. Got my parents over this weekend, which will be nice, as well as 11 solid days behind me without a touch of booze. Morning run complete today and I’ve got a day which is relatively free of meetings, which is grand, given that yesterday was chocked full of ’em.
Perhaps I’m glad, therefore, that we didn’t ‘ANNOUNCE ZINCHENKO’ even though we all know the deal is done, because I wouldn’t have been able to feast on all of the juicy, juicy, content properly. Whereas if it’s done today – a nice little present for us Gooners to finish the week – then we’ll be able to end of a high and can watch all the videos, see all the pictures and read all about how our newest addition is fully ‘on board’ with the ‘project’. Or ‘process. I forget which we’re calling it. It’s ‘process’, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s it…
Anyhoo, as we await for the announcement and as I reflect on the current ‘process’, I’m thinking about my own expectations from us this season. I don’t know whether it’s because we have had a fair few seasons of some serious underperformance from the Arsenal team, but I can’t quite make my mind up on what my expectations are this coming season. I mean of course I hope we finish in the top four, I hope we win a trophy and I hope that we show that we’re narrowing the gap on City and Liverpool, but it all feels a little up in the air at this stage, doesn’t it?
Last season we almost reached the Champions League and missed out by a whisker to a team who had two elite players who dragged them over the line. They have bought a few decent ones but haven’t gone so far that I’m now thinking that they’ll be fighting for the title. Man City seem to be going through a bit of a breakdown/rebuild job and we don’t know if the players they’ve brought in will bang (although they probably will). Liverpool have lost Mane but they have Jota and Nunez who will bang goals, as evidenced by the four he scored for the scousers yesterday. Chelsea is anybodies guess; they were clearly the third best team in the league last season and the table showed that, but they’ve lost two of their main component parts in defence and have replaced with an on-paper good defender, but we don’t know if Koulibaly will adapt to the Premier League. Thiago Silva was pretty good last season but the man is now 37 and will be 38 in September, so surely he can’t be expected to play every game. They still have an array of attacking talent but what will they be defensively? Can we get closer to them?
That’s looking at those around me and it doesn’t feel – as yet – as though any team have really ‘gone for it’ to step up towards Liverpool and City to the extent that they are streaks ahead of us. The Scum have maybe signed one player – Bissouma – who might be an upgrade on what they have in their first team, but other than that it is just squad depth they’ve brought. So does that make them move the needle any more? Ultimately if they lose Kane and/or Son for any length of time then they’ll be in trouble and even if they don’t, is it realistic to expect both players to match their output from last season? Maybe, maybe not.
And then I look to our team and I wonder what are we going to get? Last season we spent the whole time saying “this is a young team, they need time together”. Well, they’ve played a whole season together now and so they know each other well enough. They know their strengths, their weaknesses, they know which players will be in which positions, they should be starting to develop those ‘automatisms’. There are so many young players too and as a football fan who often sees things in linear progression even though life is not like that, for me I’m expecting more from so many of our players now that they are a year older.
I expect Ramsdale to be better than the good form he should for large parts of last season. I expect Tomiyasu to improve. Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel should all get better given their ages. Odegaard will be improved and so should Smith Rowe and Saka. Martinelli will – I hope – add goals to his game and i’ve already heard a couple of people talk about how Eddie Nketiah looks a little more of a physical presence in pre season. Then you add to the fact that we have a massive upgrade in Gabriel Jesus replacing Lacazette and I’m starting to talk myself in to believing that the expectations should be that we see us make some big strides forward this season.
What does that mean? I don’t know. You could argue about final league position, points tally, winning a trophy (or maybe even two), but for me the week-to-week feeling needs to be that I go in to more games with a little more confidence than I did last season, or the season before that. I remember being in my 20s and watching Arsene Wenger sides and going to games saying things like “ahh well we should win today” and we did. That feeling of confidence somewhat evaporated over the last few seasons and even last season there was scar tissue. The team picked up so many good wins both home and away, but I still went in to most games having big levels of fear for our opponents. That will no doubt remain when we face up to Palace in exactly two weeks and 12 hours time from now, but what I am hoping for is that this Arsenal team shows that they can numb that worrying feeling I have by putting on impressive displays early in the season to get that feeling of “we’ll win today” back, when I head to the Emirates on a Saturday or Sunday.
That’s what I think of when I think about my expectations this season. That week-by-week gauge of how nervous I am. Hopefully those nerves are numbed as this team continues to take steps in the right direction this season.
Catch you all tomorrow. Have a good one.