Are the days of Premier League loan deals becoming numbered? Big things from Welbeck?

I’ve noticed quite a trend developing in young players who go out on loan – sign a new deal first, then get shipped out.

It’s obviously to protect the club their contract is owned by, retaining the players value, but it does surprise me that it happens so often. We had Joel Campbell last January (anyone know where he is??), Chuba towards the end of the season just gone, that lad from Everton – the left back – all sign new deals before moving on. I find it interesting because I wonder whether the players actually believe they will become a regular at their parent club, or whether the deals are that lucrative for them that going to a West Ham, Swansea or Hull on a Permanent basis wouldn’t bring in the same kind of salary?

I suspect as with all things, it’s probably a little of all of the above. The success of both Coquelin and Kane at them lot probably has all clubs taking note about players they might have binned off once they reach 21, so getting them on longer contracts protects the investment somewhat. But at 19-years-old Chuba still has the possibility of breaking in to the first team over time and also has a good season or two ahead of him where he’ll need games to see how good he is before he breaks in to the first team. 

His loan move to Hull – along with Hayden – seems like a decent fit, but one would hope that Hull don’t ‘do a Wigan/Fulham’ and go from being relegated in the Premier League one season, to being Championship fodder in their second season. It’s always easier to play better in a successful team than a struggling one, so I hope Steve Bruce can steer the Tigers towards the top, for the sake of our loanees development at least.

I’m surprised a Premier League side didn’t take a punt on him – like Bolton did with Jack all those years ago – but I guess there is so much money swilling around in the Premier League that clubs are looking less and less at loan deals and more and more at bigger permanent signings. When you see newly promoted clubs like Bournemouth signing international quality players (who would command international level wages and transfer fees), it shows you just how big and how competitive the league is, so perhaps the days of the younger players like Akpom and Hayden starring for teams towards the bottom of the division are over. The clubs clearly feel the risk is a gamble worth taking over signing a loan player for a season who could potentially have an impact but only over the duration of one season.

Anyway, good luck to both, let’s hope they come back better players and more battle-hardened from the Championship so they can compete for the Arsenal squad. 

What Chuba’s exit does is leave us with Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck duking it out for that top spot. Welbeck will be better this year, I’m sure of it, because he’ll be more acclimatised to The Arsenal Way and he’ll feel more at home going in to his second season. There appears to be one or two fans who are already suggesting his days might be numbered, but I’m less melodramatic, mainly because of what Arsène started saying about him last season. I think Arsène was a little surprised by his work ethic and his ability to cover ground after he signed him. He was aware of his pace but I think Arsène has really grown to like him over the short period of time that he’s been at the club, because he recognises his role as a team player and so I think we’ll still see plenty of Welbeck next season. 

Whether that is through the middle remains to be seen, but I think his battle for supremacy with Giroud and Walcott will be intriguing, because he represents somewhat of a hybrid between the Frenchman and his other English counterpart. He’s quicker than Giroud and is stronger in retaining the ball than Theo, but lacks a little bit of cutting edge compared to both, so whilst he needs to work on his finishing he still offers something for Arsène to think of. And if Le Boss is looking at rotating his squad depending on exploiting the weaknesses of the opponents he faces, Welbeck will be an option. If Arsène for example, fancies putting a team under intense pressure through a high press at the top of the field, Alexis and Welbeck will put pressure on a back four by chasing every ball. That’s why I suspect we’ll see a lot of Welbeck. It’s just up to him to make the most of his chances.

Not long now folks. Just a couple of days and it will begin with Arsène’s pre match presser (unless he’s missed it so much he brings it forward to Thursday!) and then we get to the juicy stuff on Sunday. Lovely.

See you tomorrow. 

a jolly Mr Positive is enjoying seeing competition at Arsenal breeding winners

Rafa Benitez is obviously a little worried that Karim Benzema’s head is going to be turned by the mighty Arsenal. It’s the only explanation for the repeated denials that he’s going nowhere. But you know Rafa, as Arsène used to find out, sometimes it’s better to let an unhappy player go elsewhere to fulfil his dreams.

Of course I’m being tongue-in-cheek, but that’s just because I’m in a jolly good mood, because at the end of this meaningless, footballess summer we’ve had, there is a light. That light is the Premier League and it starts for us on Sunday at 1.30pm. But there is a little part of me – a really teeny-weeny part – that wonders if there is no smoke without fire here you know. It all feels very much like there are balls in the air and Arsenal are just waiting for them to drop so they can catch one of them.

Right now, Benzema is not for sale, but if after two games he’s not been featuring because Rafa is playing Ronaldo up top, then I just wonder, you know? We had to be patient for Mesut.

Of course I’m also jolly because despite my gaze being averted by clearly a very good footballer being linked, I still firmly believe that we have the squad deep enough to cope with this season on multiple fronts. Nothing has changed my mind. In fact, games like the weekend only serve to enhance my belief. In the pub beforehand I had my colleagues chortling at my expense when I told them I would be ‘Mr Positive’ this season, mainly because that’s not normally my approach pre-game. I can wake up on a Saturday morning feeling confident, but usually by the time I’ve finished my blog and am on the Met Line to the Emirates, I’m a quivering bag of nerves. Regardless of the opposition.

So to hear me extolling the virtues of this team must have made all of my compatriots smile on Sunday. Still, I shall not waver though, because we are  good enough to win this league. Don’t let the so-called ‘experts’ tell you Chelski were jaded, we’re not up for it or any other kind of excuse, because you can be damn sure we wouldn’t have got the same, should we have lost. Perhaps they were a little more tired than us, but I don’t buy that as an excuse. When we get to February and we play a team away from home, having just played midweek in the Champions League, do we expect the team not to win? Nope. We have a squad, we have good players and if we play Leicester away having played Dortmund or Lyon in Germany or France a few days earlier, tiredness doesn’t count. At a big club you’re not allowed to be tired. Tiredness doesn’t win trophies.

So that’s the approach I’m taking. The if a player is looking jaded then Arsène has to rotate. Big Per was interviewed after the game at the weekend and said that players will have to get used to not playing because of the size of the squad. Indeed they will. But they will have to get used to being rotated too, then taking their chance when it comes there way, which by all accounts should hopefully mean that we get better performances. If Danny Welbeck gets a chance up top when becomes back from injury, he knows he’s got to take it, or fear losing his place. If Big Per has a shaky game, he needs to look over his shoulder because there will be two players with their arms raised shouting “Me Sir! Me Mr Wenger! Pick me!”. Competition will breed winners. We need winners.

I think Arsène is going to rotate more than ever before this season. I think he’s going to listen to those around him monitoring the data and the fitness levels of his team. But more importantly than ever, as emphasised by the teams approach at the weekend, I think he’s going to pick a side designed to exploit weaknesses in the opposition. He alluded to it when he talked about playing at do ahead of Giroud to get in behind Cahill and Terry. That’s a manager who is finally watching the opponents, even if it’s only in big games, which is fine by me.

But equally important, I think, is that finally the players can be trusted. It has long been a spoken belief that Arsène lets his players make in-game decisions. He sets them up, gives them their instructions, then leaves them to play out the game, hoping that they will be intelligent enough to react to situations. It’s like the anti-Mourinho, who will micro-manage every aspect of the team both pre and post game. The problem Arsène has had historically though, is that you’d have to question whether some of the players were intelligent enough ‘in-game’ to manage the situation.

I believe they are now. I think that has been further evidenced from the weekend. Arsène hinted at it in his post-match commentary, talking about how he felt the team became a little more apprehensive and defensive than normal. Perhaps I’m reading in to it a little too much, but it sounded to me as if the teams natural cautious approach after we’d scored, was one in which he did not instruct. If that truly is the case, then Arsène can be pleased that he has players who are intelligent enough to know the dangers of the opposition and act accordingly. Let’s hope we see no more gung-ho football of seasons past. That type of football doesn’t win leagues.

So all in all I think it’s a good time to be a Gooner. An exciting time. Roll on Sunday.

Doing a job that upsets Jose: marvellous

One of the most pleasing outcomes of yesterday’s victory over Chelski was, for me, the response of Jose Mourinho. This is a man who has no qualms over having pops at other managers with whom he does not have a good relationship with, so to see him frustrated enough to bemoan Arsenal’s tactics yesterday, was music to my ears.

We did a job on Chelski. We actually did a job. We matched them – probably bettered them – in the first half and then controlled the game in the second. Forget Jose’s claim that we abandoned our philosophy, because footballing philosophy has always been an irrelevance to a man such as him so when Arsenal adapt to a team and the result is a deserved victory, I find it quite amusing to hear his protestations.

But enough about that odious man. He’s already made part of my blog about him. That’s exactly what he wants; for everybody to be talking about him and not the result because the result was perfect.

A clean sheet, a perfect strike from The Ox, as well as signs that this Arsenal team can mix it with the best of them. As champions, you have to call Chelski that, even if it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

We did what Chelski have done to us over the years with Mourinho in charge. We suffocated them. Stifled them. Made life difficult. Think back to the game; Cech made one good save from a free kick just outside the box, but do you remember him getting us out of any major issues by pulling off wonder save after wonder save?

Nope, me either. That’s probably because our back four performed excellently, especially the impregnable Laurent Koscienly, who made interception after interception and tackle after tackle. Neither Loic Remy or Falcao had any major impact on the game thanks in part to the work of Big Per and Kos. Having had a decade of defences that cause me worry, the feeling will take some time to shake, but more performances like that yesterday and I’ll start to feel more comfortable that we can hold on to leads against big teams.

That’s what this game will also do for this Arsenal team; build more belief that we can compete. Big games between those teams that profess to be title contenders are always tight. They tend to be decided by the odd flash of genius or a single lapse in concentration. For too long we’ve had games against the other big teams in which it hasn’t been close enough for us to compete. Yesterday’s result will hopefully have an impact in terms of belief and confidence that we can and we are competing in those tight games again.

The inclusion of Bellerin at right back was an interesting one and perhaps shows that Arsène is adopting the ‘puppet effect’ as Dave puts it – one quick and pacey full back to push forward whilst the other one sits – giving us more defensive cover. But also by having Monreal/Bellerin vs Gibbs/Debuchy, it ensures that two more attCk minded full backs won’t leave us caught out. Some much needed pragmatism from Arsène that will hopefully serve us well during the season.

The midfield of Coquelin holding, breaking up the play, alongside Santi pulling the strings, worked well at times, but our ball retention could have been a little better. It’s times like yesterday – when the passing is a little off – that we need players like Santi to have the ball more than any other, because he’s usually the player who can retain possession better than anyone. He is going to be important for us this season. I’m convinced of that.

Mesut took a bit of time to warm in to the game, probably because he found his space closed down quite frequently from a Chelski side who clearly didn’t want him pulling the strings, but he still had an impact, switching the play to Theo before the striker found The Ox to hammer home. I found it pleasing to see that Özil and Ramsey were quite fluid in their movements yesterday. Neither occupied the left or central too much I felt and, given that we faced the best opposition we’re going to face this season, I think it bodes well for us. Both players will find more space against the ‘smaller’ teams and I think we’ll see their impact a lot more than the patches we saw yesterday. We defended well yesterday and so the game of those two players had to suffer as we held our collective defensive shape, but that won’t be the case for the whole season. I’m sure of it.

Up top Arsène featured both Giroud and Walcott and although I could understand the logic of Theo up against two slower centre halves in Terry and Cahill, for me it didn’t quite work as well as when Giroud came on. He’s a more polished striker in terms of his overall game compared to Walcott and you could tell by the way he peeled off the centre backs and nearly scored at the back post within a few minutes of coming on. He should really have scored late on when standing seven or eight yards from goal, but thankfully that miss didn’t come back to haunt us.

I’d been saying all weekend that this game was nothing more than a posh friendly and I still haven’t changed my approach, but with confidence and belief in the squad looking high at the moment, this performance can still be used by the manager and players to keep them riding high until we play West Ham. The game yesterday will count for nothing if we don’t show up against The Hammers, but we’ve given ourselves the best possible preparation to make sure we’re ready, so let’s hope this is just the start of something special.

A win-win for me and Arsenal? But let’s just win.

Today’s game is a win-win for me I feel. I normally get really wound up before any Arsenal game. Cold hands and feet as my circulatory system begins to re-route blood to my vital organs, set about by a feeling of unease that instinctively my body has told me that there is danger.

When Arsenal play anybody, the only danger is of my own unhappiness and disappointment. So why is today a win-win?

Because it can either mean something or not, depending on the result, so come 7pm tonight when I’m tucking in to my dinner having come home from Wembley I can either choose to brush off the defeat or wax lyrical about the hoo-do that has been undone. Yes, we’re talking about Chelski and their undefeated record over us and yes, it’s something we’d all like to see ended. But with this game elevated only because it’s so close to the actual season curtain raiser next weekend, there will still be part of me that will question “is it really over? Is the psychological barrier really overcome?” After the match if we’ve won.

I suspect we’ll only really find out if this team has overcome that barrier when the teams play each other in the league, so again this game is demoted in my mind to that of something that is relevant or irrelevant depending on the outcome of the result.

I hope we win. I would rather see Mourinho shrug this off as a friendly than see him happy. An irritant such as he should not be allowed to be as happy as he’s been in his management career. He’s an odious character prone to spiteful outbursts and if a win allows him to try to open up more bitter words towards either Arsenal fans or Arsène himself, then we know we’re getting under his skin. Yeah, getting under his skin, because we do things the right way and he represents the all mighty evil dollar in football. Love it.

As for the game itself, this is not going to be the first time this season that I think I’m going to say this, but I have no idea how Arsène will set the team out. I mean, I have a rough idea, but there are a few question marks dotted all over the pitch. We know that Alexis and Ospina will not be available due to their extended seasons for their respective nations in the Copa America, as well as the injury to Welbeck which keeps him out, but how else Arsène unleashes his team is a tough one.

That doesn’t mean I won’t have a go though! 

I think we will surely see Cech make his first Wembley appearance in an Arsenal shirt, which I think he’ll be protected in the middle by Koscienly and Mertesacker, but who plays out wide? Based on last season I couldn’t tell you who is now the first choice right back, but I suspect we’ll see Debuchy get the nod because of his experience. On the left my initial reaction is that Monreal will start, but it’s a new season and Arsène may be taking the view that both the Spaniard and Gibbs are beginning from a standstill position, so he could play either. I would play Nacho. He was the form player from last season and I think we need as many form players in the team against a good Chelski team as possible. Gibbs will get his chance though, of that I’m sure, possibly next weekend against West Ham who will surely set out to defend and so the presence of quicker and more attack-minded full backs might be an option.

Coquelin will surely start in the engine room of our midfield and it will be his job to stop Hazard in his tracks from picking the ball up deep and trying slalom his way through our defensive unit. Hazard will drift of course, but Le Coq will need to be ready, willing and able for when the Belgian comes centrally. Or he can track him for the game. I suspect we’ll see Remy up top against our back four, rather than a two man attack, so Hazard will be the danger man and Coquelin can help to Roy me up on him.

Fresh from inking his extension, Santi must surely get the opportunity to play as the deep lying playmaker and with Cesc probably operating a similar role in Chelski’s side, it will be interesting to see how both players perform. Hopefully Santi has the better afternoon.

That leaves an attacking quartet in which I’d be surprised not to see Özil, but after that it gets tricky. Arsène could play Giroud, but equally he could opt for Theo up top. Both have their positive attributes against Terry and Cahill. Any ball knocked up to Giroud he’ll be better at bringing others in to play, but he’s the type of player that those two love to play against, where as Walcott has pace and will run in behind the two centre halves. The only downside to Walcott, however, is that if Chelski sit deep we will not see much space for at do to run in behind on. It’s a difficult one to call. Personally I’d stick with Giroud and surround him with players that he can bring in to play, like The Ox or Rambo. I do think Rambo will play, probably wide right, but that then leaves just one space left in my starting XI, to which I could fit The Ox, Walcott (out wide), Wilshere, Rosicky or even somebody like Gnabry. Heck, maybe Jeff Reine-Adelaide has warranted a go? 

Probably not. But I do wonder if we might see The Ox starting. I think it’s going to be a big season for him and I reckon Arsène might think the same too. He’ll give the Chelski players something to worry about with both pace and power, but his ability and dribbling on the ball is far superior to Theo, which is why I wonder if Arsène won’t tell him to go out there and do his stuff.

Whatever happens, I just hope we can continue to stay positive. It’s been a good preseason and next week we start the real thing, so I’ll save all my nerves for then.

Catch y’all tomorrow.

We’ll get victory through harmony – the players believe it

Stability is a place called Arsenal these days. With the announcement that Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla have both renewed their contracts with a four and three-year deal respectively, we have seen two of the recently unanswered questions be unequivocably dealt with by the club. In terms of keeping the continuity of the squad together, only the inking of a new deal of Nacho Monreal is left to ensure that this is – in theory (because we all know that contracts can be exited via buy outs from other clubs in the form of transfers) – a collective of players that we should be able to grow together for many years to come.

I’ve been saying this for quite a bit of this summer, but this is a squad that I personally feel very happy with. They have not been taken apart through transfer saga’s or contracts being run down, instead Arsene and the Arsenal staff have augmented the team with better players. World class players. Whilst many clubs like Liverpool have been overhauling their squad for a couple of seasons, we have seen relatively little player inwards movement, because we simply haven’t needed it. You build a beautiful and delicious cake with time and a careful hand, not by chucking all of the ingredients into a blender and hitting warp speed four.

This is a squad who are going to grow together. I feel it. Silly videos like the one in the swimming pool when they were all together heading it may all look like nothing, but I’m sure they give us a window into squad harmony and morale. Everyone seems to be pulling in the right direction. Everyone wants success.

Theo knew that. That’s why this contractual saga of his hasn’t lasted very long at all. He’s at an age where ambition is essential. He needs to feel like he can win things and the apparent ease in which this has happened (although I’d bet the negotiators on both sides will probably say that it wasn’t that easy when you were on the inside!) shows that he feels he can. He’s 26 years old and having spent 10 years at Arsenal, he probably feels like this is the best possible time to be picking up medals. I hope he’s right. We all do.

We’ve all got the bug you see. We’ve had two year’s of the FA Cup and now we want more. Our thirst has not been quenched, it has only been abated. We want bigger. We need better. The players are the same and you can sense it in what they are all saying. The way they are talking about the club has the sound of those that really believe it and in sport belief is as important as experience, confidence and technical ability. The players all have technical ability. We’ve got a squad bristling with it. But perhaps over the last ten years the belief has not been to the level it is now. That belief has come with trophy wins in the last two seasons and with those trophy wins we also have players who know how to win things. They know how to get over the line.

Cazorla too has been rewarded with a new deal. He’s thirty years old and the club have signed him up for another three years I believe. That shows you just what an impact our tiny little Spaniard has had. I think he still had a year or so to run on his deal and so Arsenal could have got to next summer and given him a one year extension, but they have decided that he’s a guy that we should keep around for a few year’s to come. Let’s not forget that Santi was a player who has been linked with moves back to Spain even as soon as a few weeks ago. He’s always said he would like to go back and finish his career in Spain, but his style and the way he plays probably means he could be playing well in to his late thirties, so him sticking around for another three years can only be a good thing. Like Theo, he has probably seen the potential of this team and is hungry to realise his dreams by picking up more medals with Arsenal.

It’s a commitment from Santi in his belief, but it’s also a commitment from the club too, which I think has to be applauded. The club recognise what an impact he has. His close control, his ability to retain possession, his new-found position of a deep lying playmaker, all of this last season was a vitally important cog in the machine that was churning out victory after victory post-Christmas 2014. His resurgence in the team (let’s not forget that people thought it might be the end of his time this time last year) has coincided with the team’s performance and if we’re going to win the league this season, we’re going to need Santi in the team.

What his and Arteta’s signatures does, is do something that perhaps Arsenal have been accused of not doing in the past, which is successfully pairing the need for youth, players in their prime and those with experience that can take the younger players under their wings. Balance. Harmony. Victory through it all. That’s what The Arsenal’s successful history has been built on and that is how we can win that Premier League trophy again.

I’m excited. Bring on the Premier League. Let’s see how far this team can take us.

The ‘yeah but’ brigade circling Coquelin

This morning I read Mr Positive himself, Paul Merson, talking about this weekend’s Community Shield. He’s predicting an Arsenal win, which is nice, irregardless of the context of the game or whether either side can truly be as ‘up for it’ as a Premier League game. But that’s not what drew my attention to write something about it. No, what drew my attention was the fact that he questioned whether Arsenal could really win the league with Coquelin, as well as how far they could go in the Champions League with him as our main holding midfielder.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and if he doesn’t believe that Le Coq is good enough then that’s his prerogative, but i was more surprised that his argument was less about his actual technical ability as a defensive midfielder, more to do with the fact that he has never won a Premier League before.

Now I’m not suggesting that having had the experience of winning the league isn’t a serious bonus, but am I really being told by a pundit that you can’t win the league with players who don’t have experience? Is t there a now infamous quote from the inaudible Alan Hansen that springs to mind here? 

I don’t really understand the logic, if I’m honest, because if you don’t win the league with players that have ever won a league, how can anyone ever win the league? Why isn’t the league won every season by one team? 

Because experience is only one side of the coin. The other side is desire and drive and having seen what Coquelin can bring to this Arsenal team, who’s going to argue that he hasn’t got that in abundance? Who’s going to contest that a man who has wrestled his Arsenal career from the jaws of oblivion, doesn’t have the sheer willpower and determination to try and drive his team forward as much as the man who has won leagues in Spain, or Germany, or even in England?

It’s all ‘yeah but’s from the media. 

‘Yeah, but this team hasn’t shown it can win ugly’. 

‘Yeah, but this team doesn’t have a big enough squad’

‘Yeah, but this team hasn’t won a trophy’

There’s always a first time and why can’t Coquelin’s first time be this season? What sort of a logic is it to dismiss his ability to win a title because he hasn’t won a title? How many titles had Paddy Vieira won (and been a serious contributor towards) when he joined Arsenal? Yet he came in to the Arsenal team, never looked back and bagged a hatful of medals. He was a determined man and even though I don’t hear much Coquelin talk, his actions on the pitch show me he has the same tenacity.

Nemanja Matic walked in to the Chelski team and nobody said Chelski couldn’t win the league with him, yet he shows similar traits to Coquelin, so why the difference? 

I think this season is going to be a big one for Le Coq and having seen him keep up his ball-winning ways in Singapore and The Emirates Cup, I think we’re in for much of the same as we did earlier in the year. He’s the cover we never had at the start of last season and the result will be, I hope, a more comfortable defensive unit even when we’ve had to rotate due to injury.

For the record I think we could potentially do with another player in the same mould as Coquelin. But if we don’t, I’m not convinced Arteta can’t do a job in rotation with Le Coq during the season. And if both fall to injury, whilst Flamini is not ideal, how many other teams have somebody who is a third choice defensive midfielder with his experience. Flamini is a ‘in an emergency, break glass’ player and in that instance I’m happy that he hasn’t moved abroad. Yet.

We have all the tools this season to be successful. I’m convinced of that. What we will need is a good start, then a replication of what we did in the second half of the season, then we’ll see just how close we can get to Chelski and just how much the drive and determination of players like Coquelin can get us over the line.

Catch you tomorrow.

Arsène delivers a striker; Jack needs to deliver an injury free season

You want a striker?”

Yes.

You want a striker?”

Yes.

YOU WANT A STRIKER?”

YES!

“FINE! Here’s a striker. Now get out of my office!”

That’s what I imagined Arsène’s response to be to those people who are practically gnawing their arms off with the fact we haven’t signed a striker yet, after it was announced that we’ve picked up Ajax youth academy graduate Donyell Malen.

It will be one for the future (because he’s only 16) and of course my parody above is meant tongue-in-cheek, but after seeing young Jeff Reine-Adelaide light up at the Emirates Cup, I don’t think there can be too many complaints that we’re picking up young talent for the academy to see if we can’t unearth the next gem. And besides, he’ll be schooled well at Arsenal and if he doesn’t make it to the first team, we’ll most likely cash in on him when he reaches his early twenties anyway.

Also, there really aren’t enough Donyell’s or Donell’s in this world, especially in the footballing world. I used to love Donnell Jones’ music, so if our new Donyell can be as silky on the ball as Mr Jones was on the mic, we’ll be in for a treat. 

Speaking of treats, wouldn’t it just be the sweetest of them all if Jack Wilshere could stay fit for the whole of this season, eh? That’s what angle Arsène has been pushing via the official site and quite frankly, it’s hard to argue that he’s wrong. Super Jacky has seen such a stuttery last few years and I’m in no doubt that it’s hampered his development. Let’s not forget that six or seven years ago he was exciting us all with his ability on the ball to dribble past players, his ‘burst’ over five yards as Arsène calls it, as well as his tenacious attitude. He showed glimpses of his ability towards the back end of last season and has looked pretty good in preseason so far too. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a big season for him, but the challenge of getting in to this team could provide a welcome one for our boy Wilshere. He looks like the type who will be up for it; tongue out and head down, he’s one of a few players like The Ox or Theo, that have probably been earmarked by us all as ‘a big season for…’ territory. 

But it’s a big season for most of the squad. It has to be if we’re going to have a serious go at winning the league. I’ve said this before, but I’ve not felt as buoyant about a season since the Invincibles era. All of the psychological as well as the technical (in terms of quality of playing staff)  shackles feel like they’ve been removed. If Arsène is to win the league before his time is up at Arsenal, it does feel like he has to do it now, because we look and sound like the part.

This weekend is a friendly. In the grand scheme of things it means relatively little. But it would be nice to lay down a marker. 

Three days and counting. Come on Arsenal.