Reasons to be cheerful by Peter
Come Friday and the fun and games start again, and we Gooners are subjected to the same mix of agony and euphoria that is typical of a football fans lot. This season offers a great deal of optimism and in the words of the late great Ian Drury there are ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ for Arsenal fans.
Pre- Season: Yes, I know it’s only pre-season and many will feel that means nothing when it transfers to the bear pit of competitive football. But a pre-season is designed for creating an opportunity for teams to develop tactics and relationships within the team in a relatively pressure free environment.
It is also an opportunity for new signings or potential hopefuls from the academy to stake a place in the first team and develop cohesion with their prospective teammates. Accepting that this is the remit of the summer games it is clear that Arsenal have had a stunning pre-season, particularly in relation to the introduction of our new signings and returning players. Gabriel Jesus looks electric and his relationship thus far with Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard appears seamless and natural.
Zinchenko has shown his footballing intelligence by slotting in and looking like he has been at the club for years. But most impressively is the development of Saliba. His reading of the game and his speed of recovery as well as his distribution has been phenomenal for such a young player. He plays with the assurance of a Baresi or a Van Dijk.
Momentum: This is one of the most significant elements enjoyed by any successful football team. Momentum carried from successive victories creates a belief that gives teams the energy to continue to trust their game when they are put under pressure by the opposition. Momentum within games is a force of nature that any observer of a football game will recognise, whether it comes in the form of a timely goal, a significant save or even a crunching tackle. It can transform the energy of the team from resembling a whipped dog to looking like a very dangerous beast.
This shift in momentum is shared by fans and players alike and the symbiotic nature of that relationship is never more evident than in these moments as the fans volume lifts and the players transform instantly in response. Although the results won no trophies, when you beat the third best teams in England and Spain 4-0 and 6-0 respectively you can confidently say that there is momentum.
The transfer window: This has been an intriguing transfer window as the teams at the top of the table have had differing outcomes. Man City and Liverpool are so far ahead of the rest that they could have sold half a dozen players and still maintained that gap. Instead, they bought potentially two of the best strikers in the world, so the gap probably widened. As for the rest, Spurs have done some canny business and brought in tried and tested quality and experience, Chelsea have been shambolic and lost their defence with possibly more to follow, and United have been unable to convince anybody significant to come thus far, excepting Martinez.
Arsenal have been incredibly astute. Jesus and Zinchenko were master strokes, players with a huge experience in the league, phenomenal talent, humble attitudes and winning mentalities, all for a price that we could afford. Marquinhos looks raw but promising, but I have to say I hope Ramsdale remains uninjured as I’m not sold on Turner’s capacity to fill his boots.
Atmosphere: Over the past decade attending the Emirates on occasions has been a painful experience. The negativity that surrounded the club late-Wenger and for most of Emery’s tenure was toxic. As referred to earlier the significance of the relationship between the stands and the pitch should never be undervalued. That toxicity spilled over from the terraces and affected the players adversely. Which asks a difficult question of what it means to be a football fan. Are we present to be merely entertained, demanding to get our money’s worth and entitled to complain at every drawback or mistake made? Or do we have a role to play in supporting the team when they are under pressure and require a lift in energy and belief.
The Wenger years created an expectation and entitlement among Arsenal fans that wasn’t present before and our capacity to turn on the team became magnified. The opposition were well aware of that and knew that if they could score the first goal then the fans would increase the pressure on the team and create hostility. I think the period of recent suffering has been a chastening and positive experience as the atmosphere last season was as good as it has been for some time. And for this I give Arteta a great deal of credit. Whatever about his perceived tactical shortcomings, he understood the club and the fans and immediately set about re-developing the bond between team and fans. The emergence of some of our own in Saka and Smith Rowe was a huge help. All told, the atmosphere in Emirates can now be considered a potential asset if we can maintain our belief in the team and be willing to suffer with them and lift them when things are not going our way.
Experience: Returning to the subject of suffering, character and resilience is only developed when we suffer. The experience of the hurt at the end of last season could create a maturity in our young team that stumbling into fourth place could never have done. It is difficult to review that collapse with anything other than negativity but there is also the very real possibility that it could strengthen the resolve within the unit never to undergo a similar experience. This hurt could be a benefit when we are struggling for rhythm or failing to break down a stubborn defence in the dying minutes of a game, as they draw on the experience and find fortitude in the desire never to repeat it. Of course, alternatively it could cause weaker characters to crumble further, so we will see the true resolve of the players in those difficult moments. But one thing is for sure our young team is one year older and wiser.
All in all, this Gooner is more excited about the upcoming season than I have been for some time and appeals to all the other Gooners out there to get behind the team and roar them to victory, and make the Emirates a fortress in the way that Highbury used to be. COYG!!!
CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link…