Me, Simon and our Annual Optimism by Alan Peters
There’s a growing feeling amongst the community that this could be the season. Well, amongst me and my mate Simon at least.
OK, most of us get these unrealistic feelings of annual optimism in early August. Usually, in recent years, to be deflated by the middle of September as we sit in mid table, then thoroughly expunged by the time our American friends are tucking into their Thanksgiving turkeys (Arsenal’s own season long turkeys having by then been identified and verbally roasted).
But this season does seem different. If Arsene sticks with his reported plan to use the Europa league to give the Fringe players a game, and the Littlewoods Cup (or whatever name it goes by at the moment) is set aside for the youngsters, then the reduction in fixtures for injury prone stars might just see them spending more time on the green table and less on the physio’s bench.
We won’t have to face the annual thrashing by Bayern Munich either, with all the psychological damage that seems to instil. Although, given their pre-season form, the Germans might not escape from their own Champions’ League group – in which case, we are bound to draw them in the UEuropa!
Then there is the squad. Given that we keep Alexis and the Ox (big givens, admittedly) then the balance is close to becoming very impressive.
We have two high quality incumbents; there can’t be too many second choices in the world of the standard of Ospina, and Cech is as good as ever.
On the right side, Bellerin will only get better with age and experience and both Mr Reliable Monreal and new signing Kolasinac should secure the left. The Ox could become a highly effective attacking wing back, perhaps even challenging for Hector’s spot.
Whilst Gabriel always seems more secure at wing back, Koscielny, Mustafi, Holding and Mertesacker seem to have a good combination of experience and energy – staying fit will be the key.
Even on a bad day, Ozil oozes quality, Theo has discovered how to score more regularly, Sanchez is world class. Iwobi is a very promising player, who will only get better. Danny Welbeck seems to me (and Simon) to be more effective when playing wider. Then there seems to be a host of youngsters waiting to break in to the first team.
Even if Perez goes, which he probably should, being too good to be fourth or fifth choice, new boy Lacazette more than compensates, already looking a good buy, Giroud is, remember, first choice for France at centre forward. Sanchez and Walcott can both play there on occasion and, even though he does not score enough, Welbeck does create opportunities for others when he plays through the middle.
So this just leaves central midfield. This comes down to a series of questions. Will Xhaka improve his discipline? Will Ramsey remember how to score? Will Santi ever be fit enough to regain his form of two years ago? If the answer to these is yes, and with the solid back up of Elneny and Coquelin, we are strong enough in this crucial region as well. Having said as much, what a Petit, Gilberto or Viera type could add is still considerable. Perhaps, as many fans and the more informed pundits suggest, this is the area on which we need to concentrate any more transfer market action.
But, even with no further purchases, we look to be good enough. In fact, if it all comes right, not just good enough, but excellent.
With better fitness, fewer fixtures and the jigsaw clicking together, this league is ripe for taking. That’s what I think. And so does Simon.