Morning all. We all good? Middle of the week for those of us who are Monday to Fridayers and it’s a countdown to the final game of the pre season before the real stuff starts. It’s Sevilla at home in the Emirates Cup and unlike previous renditions of the competition, it won’t be a footballing weekend of activity, but rather just a single one-off game against Sevilla. I kind of preferred it when there were a few matches on as it was nice to see back-to-back games, but I guess the schedule is dictating that it can only be one this season and from a perpetration point of view that probably works best for Mikel and his team. If you think about how it used to be run, when we used to have a game on Saturday and Sunday, we then used to just rotate the first team with youth team players, so you’d end up with five or six first teamers on the Saturday, then five or six on a Sunday. With just one week left to go until the season starts, Mikel will want to be giving an opportunity to those first teamers to have a final run out before the proper stuff and so chopping and changing the team is probably not highest on his agenda.
I so think he’ll want to take a look at who will be the starting XI for the Friday after next though and that means that I suspect we’ll see a similar line up to the one that played against Chelsea last weekend, because despite the good news from the pictures of the likes of KT and Tomi training, for them to be ready to play in around 10 days time feels a little bit of a stretch. I suspect they’ll be eased in over the next two weeks and so if we’re going to earmark both as dates for their potential start for Arsenal, it’ll probably not be until game week two or three that they’ll be ready from the off. Most of the other players have had a few weeks and also matches to get up to speed, whereas those two won’t have that luxury.
But the good news with the way we look in terms of personnel this season, is that it doesn’t feel like the same car crash we witnessed from the start of last season. This time last year we had injuries, we hadn’t done all of our business, we looked ropey and half the players that played in those opening couple of games barely featured for the remainder of the season. Leno, Chambers, Holding, Pablo Mari; that’s essentially most of the back line that was shunted out. This season is different. Not only are their replacements nearly all in place and bedded in after a season at the club, but they have been augmented with additional players to cover and ensure that the level of quality does not drop. No Tomiyasu is fine because Saliba has seamlessly slotted in at centre half and Ben White does a pretty decent impression of the role Tomi plays. Zinchenko had a couple of training sessions and played against Chelsea, looking like he’s been here a couple of years already (the benefits of buying Premier League ready players clearly evident for us all to see). We could start the season next weekend with similar injury worries to those that we had a year ago, and yet the difference in quality from the team will hopefully be marked.
That gives me a lot of hope and optimism for the new season. I’m excited. Super excited. I know that other teams will be stronger, I know that other teams have bought good players too and I know that we will have a fight on our hands to reach where we want to reach, but I am excited to see just where this project is going now. I’ve seen and read the stuff about how we are playing and I’ve seen just how impressive we’ve been in pre season, but being based in the UK I haven’t watched a full 90 minutes yet, so this will be my first proper look at the side and its formation. My hope is that we get a performance which builds on the cohesive look of the side. I want to see an Arsenal team knowing their positions, popping the ball around well together, looking like they know every single inch of the pitch, who is doing what, when they are doing it. I of course have preferences on set up, players to start, etc, but the main output I’m looking for from this game will be to see a unified team all pulling in one direction. In the last ten years I think I can count on one hand (and with a few fingers missing) how many pre seasons have felt so smoothly as this one and getting a proper pre season underway can be so vital in the context of a season. I can’t remember which one it was but I remember one pre season in which we played particularly well. I think it was the 2013/14 season in which Aaron Ramsey really banged that season and he had a really good pre season, so to see so many players performing at this stage is pleasing. I know that pre season is just a fitness exercise, I know the matches don’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but having a good pre season from a fitness and cohesion perspective can do wonders.
Will this mean we absolute smash Palace on day one of the league starting? Probably not. But it’s nice to go in to these games with massive levels of hope and optimism, rather than being frustrated at the lack of deals done. Credit has to go to Edu, Arteta and the board for making sure the mistakes of last summers start are – at least for now it seems – not being repeated.
Roll on Friday 5th August.
Catch you all tomorrow.