This time last year – nearly enough (matchday one of the Premier League I mean, as the season has started early this year), I was the best man having organised a stag trip to Edinburgh. I had the Brentford game on my smartphone and I watched as an under-prepared, poorly resourced, Arsenal team stuttered and stumbled to newly promoted Brentford, much to the delight of the Sky Sports producers, Neville and Carragher. So when the announcement came that we would once again be on Friday night billing for the first game against a team who had completely outclassed us last season, naturally I felt trepidation.

Would we fold again? Would the intensity of the Palace home support cause us issues the players could not overcome? How would we deal with the physicality?

Then, as our preseason unfolded, I saw the building of an Arsenal team playing with confidence, cohesion, swagger and belief and as each day grew closer towards last night’s match, I had more and more hope.

“We are different this season. It looks like it. Will that happen though?” is what I said to myself repeatedly in the run up to last nights game. We had battered both Sevilla and Chelsea, but what if that was a false dawn? What if when it came to the real thing we saw more of what we’ve seen in previous seasons?

The reason I’m saying all of this is because I think what we saw yesterday evening was a meshing of this new look Arsenal, coupled with some of the slight concerns of last season. For example, we started off superbly, amazingly, even Carragher himself said for the first 30 minutes he thought like it was watching Liverpool or City the way we set about Palace; we dominated the ball, we created chances, Martinelli should have put us one up inside five minutes, Jesus forced a decent save from Guita, then on 20 minutes we went ahead after a well worked corner routine that saw Zinchenko (more on him anon) head back into the mixer for Martinelli to bag his first of the season. Great stuff, fabulous stuff. This was the Arsenal from pre season. This was the ‘new’ Arsenal that we all hoped we’d see.

What City and Liverpool do in those situations, however, is to step on the throat of their opponents after they have got their noses in front. Our first half dominance should have resulted in a second or a third goal, as even Mikel admitted afterwards and were we a side who were being talked about in the same vein as City and Liverpool, that’s what you’d have expected. But we are still trying to walk that road and yesterday was an example as to why we just aren’t quite at that level yet. Because after we went ahead and had that initial period of almost complete dominance, with about five minutes of the half to go, we let Palace back in to the game with a little more belief and that would go on to set the tone for the second half.

That second half didn’t exactly make for the most fun of watching, if I’m honest, but that is because I am still scarred by some of the pains and ‘suffering’ we had to go through last season. Last season our problem was that we would be hanging on in a number of games – think the Villa match at Villa Park as an example – and that is as a result of not killing off your opponent. We invited pressure; I thought Gabriel at the back looked shaky for a lot of the evening and Ramsdale had one or two iffy moments in possession. But although he had those moments, he was still called upon to make some very good saves and in a weird way that might have helped him. It will give him more confidence going in to upcoming games and some of the excellent distribution that we thought we’d lost towards the end of the season from him, was suddenly back. There was one pinging kick straight to Zinchenko which was all the hallmarks of a Ramsdale howitzer in the first half which immediately set up an attack.

And with him in goal making some important saves, we stood a chance of keeping a clean sheet which when I look at some of the other performances, I think was hard-earned and well-earned. Ben White could have had a very difficult evening against Zaha and once or twice you worried about it, but he coped with the Ivorian – even on a yellow card in the second half – so you have to say he did his job well. I thought Gabriel had a bit of a ropey game, but next to him a man of the match performance from Saliba meant that we stood firm in the wake of that second half pressure. Saliba was an absolute rock; he won tackles, he won his duels, he looked so comfortable in our defence and after a performance like that if he carries on like this for the rest of the season, nobody is going to displace him in the heart of the defence. I thought he was superb and it was great to finally see him in an Arsenal shirt for a proper match.

Then, on the left of the defence, we had the very interesting debut of Zinchenko, who already has his first song sorted to the tune of Spandeau Ballet’s ‘Gold’. And with Martin and Gary Kemp both Gooners, as well as Tony Hadley, those gents will most likely be more than happy to lend their song to our new Ukrainian signing. He made a very impressive debut going forward and when he’s in the opposition third of the pitch he looks impressive, but there was a cautionary tale with his performance; I thought when he’s running back towards his own goal you could see how his game is perhaps a little less suited to that left back role and Ayew had the beating of him a couple of times. Hey, he has made an impact, overall it was positive, so I’m not going to stress too much just yet, but it is something to bear in mind and it does show you that Tierney is certainly a player that I think will still remain first choice when fully fit.

Then to our final new signing on display – Gabriel Jesus – who I thought had a fantastic debut. Ok, he faded in the second half, but in the main he was electric for us in that opening period of dominance. He hassled and harried, he pressured, but he also demonstrated just how quick his feet are and the only thing his debut lacked was a goal that it deserved. But let’s not worry too much about that now because ultimately we got the job done. And do you know what I liked that also made me feel like it was different to last season? The second goal. I know it came later than we’d all have liked, but it came nonetheless and that felt important in my tiny mind. It is what big teams do; they get that second goal and kill the game. Sure, I’d like us to do that before or just after halftime, so that we can canter to the final whistle, but this is just the first game of a new season and maybe it is something we can see more of last season, which we just didn’t do enough of.

So all in all that was a good first day’s work of this season for these Arsenal lads. I think it was a good win against a tough opponent and hopefully it  is just the start of what is a great season for us. Fingers crossed.

Catch you all tomorrow.