For me it feels like the season is starting now. To be honest I don’t like the summer much, I imagine that is a staple for Arsenal fans. We don’t get no regard, no regard at all. Summers involve overblown talk of crisis, newspaper frenzy over foreign clubs circling our players and inevitable talk of impending doom. If there is any scant ray of hope proffered by the supposed experts, it is that they talk up Spurs’ chances – evidently not the sharpest tools for the job – allowing us to disregard their opinion entirely. This year has been particularly bad, or maybe I’ve just been online more, but in truth this has been the norm since Wenger started making our team the envy of Europe over a decade ago.
Thankfully when the games begin that junk generally gets left behind, there is something real and meaningful to discuss instead. I figured that would be the case this year, but in truth the opening gambit of the season felt like an extension of pre-season. The transfer window hadn’t shut, people were real pissed off in a disproportionate way because we hadn’t spent big, or just because thy think Wenger has gone senile. Three years trophy-less was hard to take for those who had never experienced it before, plus doing it at 43 when there are other things knowing at the mind didn’t help the new fans, most of us where through that by age 12 so spare a thought. Fulham only exacerbated the angst and people long since presumed Chelsea fans reappeared to vent their spleen anew.
So thank god that is over. (“Cheers Dennis” – “That’s alright mate”) Finally some football and some real games to. We play 7 times in 3 weeks and the games are not easy. How we cope with this period of games could be a good indication of our chances this season, particularly the first week. After the next international break we play every midweek bar 1 up until the middle of December and that break is followed sharply by the busy festive schedule. Nothing is won and lost here, but we will get a truer indication of the squad’s quality than any amount of opining over the summer.
We play at Blackburn, always a tough match, they have good players and a manager who would love to claim a big time scalp. Focus must not be lacking after the internationals this time, if there was a positive to Fulham it may be in ensuring that isn’t repeated, a one word motivational speech. This is followed by trip to the Ukraine to play Dynamo Kiev, who knows what the team we face will be like, but at least there shouldn’t be any snow. Make no mistake this is a tough group we have drawn, but an early away win – we will need one at some stage – could set us up and ease the pressure later. Tired and well travelled legs will then have to get ready to play at Bolton, this is not the game it used to be, but still is a test of character and resources. Realistically we need 2 wins and a draw from these games.
What I think will be particularly instructive is how the squad is used over this period. At some stage people will have to be rested, that goes for the rest of the season to. Last year we tried to play the best fit 11 every game and it caught up with us. This year we have a host of players who were not ready then but are now, or need to be. This could be the big boost we get this season, players from within the system being able to step in and go to somewhere like Bolton and get a result.
It might be a little early for Vela, but Bendtner, Song, Denilson, Walcott, Djourou all need to be able to play tough away games in bad weather against physical sides if we are to challenge on all fronts. If Walcott and Bendtner can each get 10+ goals this season that will be a big boost, Nasri should help here also. However, I think that the area we might be lacking in is the physical side away from home, that seems to be the common vibe now Flamini has left. If nothing else we should see if Fulham was an aberration or if the problems are more deep seated in the next 10 days. I cannot wait.
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