Ahead of the big kick off tomorrow evening, I’ve been asked by a few people on social media and in WhatsApp groups, about what my expectations are for this season ahead. And do you know what? I don’t really have an answer to it if I’m completely honest. I’m going to try to fashion some thoughts today about what I hope and expect for  this season, but having had my hopes frequently dashed in the last five years or so, I find myself putting up some kind of mental barrier when trying to properly think about what I think this Arsenal team can achieve.

I don’t want to invest too much only to feel so deflated, you see, because my hopes started to skyrocket when it looked like we’d get fourth last season. It was in our hands, we were stuttering to the finish but after the Leeds game at home it looked like we might do it. Then the Scum and Newcastle games came in quick succession and it really poured the most icy cold water over my hopes for this young Arsenal team, that it took me some time to mentally recover from it.

That was just over two months ago now and whilst time is a healer and all that jazz, I am still reluctant to invest too much in the ‘I expect Arsenal to do X’ this season. This feels like it is going to be a tough season. There are plenty of good teams in the division and every season it seems they all get stronger. But so have we. Our young nucleus of a team is a year older, a year wiser, so the hope is that they will all improve with that little bit of extra experience. We have added some very impressive signings in Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus who look like they are making an instant  impact, then added to that we’ve had an incredibly impressive pre season in which we look like a well-oiled machine; purring and ready to rev as soon as the new season starts.

If you ask me if I am happier with where we are at compared to this time last season, then that’s a no brainer; we look more prepared,  we did our business early for the main players, we have players who can cover and not drop the quality of our first XI too significantly, we look ready. Last season we were nowhere near it. The fanbase is excited and excitable and I’ve listened to countless podcasts and read countless messages joking about how many points we’re going to win the league by this season. We all know the reality is that Liverpool and City will once again duke it out, but having watched Arsenal in this pre season my mind has started to wander into the “yes, but we look very good, don’t we?” territory.

And  that is dangerous territory for me because it feels like every time I start to really believe that something could happen, it feels like we fluff our lines  somehow. In many ways I am an irrational and superstitious football fan; I am not a superstitious person but when it comes to football, I’d step away from any three drains, cross every finger, purchase every rabbits foot and hunt for hours for a four leaf clover, if it meant that in my head I was able to somehow mystically impact Arsenal Football Club’s fortunes. So when I get pessimistic about our chances, or I refuse  to get too hopeful, it is usually because of two reasons:

  1. A self preservation attempt (i.e. “If the worst happens, I’ve already mentally prepared myself so the blow will be softer)
  2. A weird belief that anything I do can have cosmic consequences for The Arsenal (i.e. “If I say we’re going to get top four easy and win the Europa League, the footballing gods will conspire against me. Nobody else, they’ll be looking directly at me and they will decide that what I need is a metaphorical kick in the teeth, followed by a cold shower, followed by my trousers being pulled down”)

I know this is idiocy of the highest order, but it’s just how my brain works. I can’t help it. So getting my brain in to gear to start thinking about a final league position in the top four and a trophy at the end of the season, feels like I’m rolling the dice with my house on the outcome.

So whilst I can’t really bring myself to be thinking too hard about predictions for this season, what I can tell you is that I am excited, because of all of the reasons I’ve highlighted above. We look like a more cohesive unit. We look like a team hungry; hungry for the high press, hungry to get goals, hungry to prove people wrong. All of that is great stuff and I am excited for tomorrow evening, but at the same time I have trepidation that we may be brought back down to earth with a bump after a couple of really good pre season games in which expectations might have risen a little bit, even though we’re all telling each other that it’s only pre season,  it doesn’t really matter, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc.

Anyhoo, I’m going to leave it there for today. Having to do this blog sporadically because of a lot of work going on, hence why the lateness in release. Hope you’ll forgive me!

Catch you all tomorrow.