Arsenal: worth a squid this season?

There you have it, an octopus better at predicting football outcomes than many Arsenal fans. Like me, I suspect there were plenty of Gooners who backed Arsenal to win the Premiership last season; call it favouritism, false hope, or genuine belief. If you were down like me, step forward and own up now, you might even feel a little better. And then tell me, what will your forecast be this coming campaign, and can you do better than Paul the octopus who has guessed perfectly the winner of each of Germany’s World Cup games? Of course, that’s if you believe in his method of sitting on a box of muscles decorated with a flag.
The truth is I have a flutter on Arsenal at the beginning of each season. Again, it could be a legitimate calculation from someone who knows a thing or two about football, or it may well be a gamble each year, that if pays off, could be slapped in the face of my West Ham supporting friends with an “I told you so”. Sometimes I keep quiet about my flutters, which might suggest something about my confidence. After five empty years though it has become a little like my penalty shoot-out tactics on FIFA 10: dive the same way each time and you’re bound to save one.
Does the law of averages apply to football? Well, for some time before October 24, 2004, Arsenal’s ‘Untouchables’ were making a mockery of the theory, stretching an unbeaten run to 49 games and denying the rule that you have to lose at some stage. The longer you can keep something up, the more it becomes a formality. Since then things have changed dramatically in the red half of North London, and there is a new dynamic – Arsenal can’t win trophies! Not so much a formality, more a rut, a team stuck in a hole where the rain has made the walls harder to climb up each year.
Nobody will be making bets just yet, and when the World Cup finishes this weekend there will be the usually flurry of offers for those who stood out during the tournament; players such as Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez. There will be the last minute essayists, signing crumpled sheets of paper or cursing at engaged mobile phones. At the moment though, Arsenal are moving in the right direction, looking to offload those with disintegrated spirits and replace the used spare-tires with more pristine athletes ready to burn rubber.
Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny bring to the side big eyes and empty stomachs. They will never have experienced the Broadway of the Premiership playing at Bordeaux and Lorient. They should share the same vitality as Thomas Vermaelen did upon arrival and look quickly to hear their name sounded around the Emirates. There is no room left for development. It’s high time. Hopefully they have something of a young Cassius Clay about them, brave in the tackle, fearless in attacking a cross and ready to whup those big ugly bears of the Premier League ring, show ‘em they’re ready.
What more do Arsenal need to be a title contender? Have they done enough already to see you down the betting shop with a pocket full of change? If come the opening day of the season you’re still unsure, then there’s only one thing left to do: fill a huge glass tank with some water, mark some boxes Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and anybody else thinking of coming out on top this season, slip into a wet-suit and close your eyes. Hopefully you land on the flag with a cannon.

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