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.

What I’d like to see from Arsenal this season: the high press

Moning fellows and ladies, y’alright?

I am. Despite the inevitable tired eyes that threaten to derail my sunny disposition, I’m feeling chipper, most probably because my first game back watching The Arsenal since visiting Wembley happens to be another trip to Wembley on Sunday. Sure, it won’t have the same expectation, nervousness or intensity, but it will still be a nice way to slide myself back in to full-on Arsenal mode. Love it.

I’ve been watching the preseason friendly games from a far at this point and, whilst trying to look at how we might fare this season, I’ve also tried to see how Arsène might have changed his team approach to games. After all, 12 points difference over Chelski isn’t going to be overhauled just because the players have had a summer together, is it?

I’m not sure it is. So I’ve been trying to watch the friendlies as objectively as I can, to see if we’ll see signs of any tactical approaches, which is difficult when the football is so disjointed as a result of the many substitutions that are needed whilst the whole squad gets back to match fitness.

I’m a pretty simple football fan, not pretending to be any kind of tactical nous or ability to spot the minutiae of a way an Arsenal team – or opponents actually – are set up. But having watched us over the last couple of weeks, it does look as though we seem to be adopting a little bit more of a forward-looking and expansive style of football. I thought I started to see the framework for this in Singapore with Santi deployed as the deepest lying midfielder. Santi! A guy who three years ago was our most creative player, pulling the strings as a quarterback. I loved it and then, at The Emirates Cup at the weekend, the way in which we overloaded Lyon with our football just before half time, meant the French team had no answer. Wolfsburg were a bit more composed, which meant we reigned in our natural intent to drive forward those quick bursts and overload on all sides, but the goal that Theo scored was still an example of our pace and ability to stretch teams on the counter.

That pace that we now have in abundance is a weapon that I hope we see plenty of this season. When we’re deep in our half and under pressure, I hope we have enough outlets to sucker-punch teams with lighting response and accuracy. Theo, the Ox, Welbeck and Alexis all have it and with Mes able to pick a pass along with Santi, they can find him.

But I also saw one other flash of something that I am really hoping we see more of this season: the high press.

It was in to the second half, relatively early on, in which the Wolfsburg left back was fed the ball from his centre half. His actions were to lump the ball out of play, but that was only because a swarm of Arsenal players led by Arteta closed down the space and his immediate options. It was a classic tennis ‘forced error’ and immediately gifted possession back to us. To me it was majestic and for that very quick moment I was reminded of the Barcelona that came to the Emirates and drew 2-2. That team I saw that night were an exhibition of the high press. They gave Arsenal little time on the ball and closed down defenders so high up the pitch it ‘forced error’ on our back four on a number of occasions as I recall.

I love the high press. It’s how you can sustain pressure on teams and keep them camped in their own half when they have possession, then when the ball is in your half it is usually at the feet of one of your players. I’d love to see Arsenal adopt the high press this season.

It has its drawbacks, I’ll admit, particularly if your side isn’t 100% switched on for the whole game. A high press against teams with cultured and mobile players is risky. You can’t afford to have your forwards pushing from the front and the midfield and defence not closing the spaces in between the lines of players. If you are not organised when adopting the high press you will get caught out if your opponents have a good enough pass-master and quick centre forwards.

But it is exciting to watch and if executed properly, can be exhausting for defences, which is why I love it. A bit of risk for awesome rewards. And the thing is, we have players who can help to press from the front yet still track back. Alexis is the perfect example, but Welbeck and the Ox do the same, so there are players in that front three who will cover ground to help the team. Ramsey too in the middle of the park will press from the front, but in order for us to be deadly, we need to have him busting a gut each time to drop deeper if we don’t have the ball.

Whether or not Arsène wants to adopt the high press I’m not sure. I’m sure I read somewhere a few seasons ago – possibly from Arteta I believe – that the coaching staff had realised that we don’t have the personnel to press high up the pitch for the duration of the whole of a football match. So the team devised a way in which it could press in patches, perhaps in certain zones. Certainly this represents the more prudent approach to pressing an opponent. But to me, having seen that Barcelona team all those years ago, I can’t shake the idea that with better and more intelligent players that we have now, ones that have the pace as well as ability to cover a lot more ground in defence and attack, we should think about trying to suffocate opponents when in possession whilst adopting the high press.

Perhaps it’s a pipe dream – that Barcelona model I saw a few years back – and not really viable in the Premier League in which players don’t get as much opportunity to ‘go easy’ before big games like Barca probably did with whatever opponent they faced before they rocked up at The Emirates that night. But to me, with the players and the ability we have as a team, I just feel we’re in a good position to be able to have a go at it, without having the same response as we had last season away at Swansea where Flamini decided he’d press high up the pitch, which didn’t quite work so well for us.

Come on Arsène, give it a go, let’s have a try and see if we can rack up some big scores this season.

Less swagger, more resolute, better Arsenal

Two trophies in as many weekends and a chance next weekend to make it three in a row, against the so-called unbeatable Mourinho, means we’re all riding pretty high at the moment. For preseason that is.

Yesterday’s Emirates Cup victory and subsequent lifting of the trophy may not have had the swagger of Saturday’s performance, but it still showed a resolution and steel to this Arsenal squad that we should all be pleased with, even if it was only a friendly. 

In Wolfsburg we had opponents who finished second in the Bundesliga and had won the German Cup, so anybody suggesting they should be football fodder for the team, would have had a bit of a surprise on them. De Bruyne and Schürrle as creative outlets and The Lord up top are a decent enough threat to pose, so perhaps we should have been less surprised by their opening half of dominant pressure, than we actually were. 

But much like the criticism of Arsenal that has been levelled historically, Wolfsburg only once or twice tested Cech and in the main, we looked relatively comfortable at the back I thought. The Germans had lots of possession, but less cutting edge, it seemed.

We should probably also look at the selected XI that Arsène chose as another explanation as to why we couldn’t really get any fluency in to our game. Sure, we had Mesut and Santi to pull the strings and there were definitely enough first teamers out there for us to look a little more polished, but it didn’t quite click without players like Ramsey to keep us going with his energy and movement at the top and bottom of the pitch. That’s what it felt like to me, anyway.

Özil only played the first half, but he looked the most threatening to score and I think you can certainly say with some comfort, that he’s ready to make a big impact this season. He’s dictated some of these friendly games and even bagged some goals, so if he can carry that in to the real stuff this season, we’ll all be the beneficiaries. 

The other star of the show went to Jeff Reine-Adelaide, the 17-year-old wonderkid whose lit up the Emirates Cup this season. His close ball control and ability to dart in between an opponent or two, had me at times thinking of some sort of Paddy and Wilshere hybrid, but I need to temper the praise a bit for a player who I didn’t really even know existed before this weekend. He was influential in Walcott’s second half goal and although many speculated over a loan move after the match, Arsène’s comments about him needing to train with the first team before that were interesting, because it’s clear he sees big things for him.

I don’t think Arsène will be thinking that he’ll be a regular starter and I would be surprised if we were to see him even make the bench against West Ham in a couple of weeks, but Wenger’s comments did make me wonder about how he likes to mould his players, ensuring that ‘The Arsenal away’ is ingrained in them before they are let out on loan. Perhaps he feels that a season at a Bolton or a Hull City, for example, would only serve to give him experience and not the technical requirements he’d need to operate in our team. Arsène’s Arsenal play neat, quick-paced interchanging of passes and perhaps he feels that young Reine-Adelaide would be better served learning that way before gaining first two experience elsewhere on a regular basis.

Let’s see what he does about Reine-Adelaide’s future. 

One player whose future looks to be coming to a positive conclusion, is that of Theo Walcott, who Arsène admitted is ‘close’ to agreeing a deal. The rumours started over the weekend that it had been done and with Le Boss making such an admission as he did, you’d like to think it’s all but dusted too, which I have to say will feel relatively painless compared to last time. It’s certainly fair to say the circumstances and situation the club is in makes a difference, but I was still expecting this to go on for some months now, so the fact that both parties seem to have reached an accord means it’s one more piece of the Arsenal puzzle moving in to place. 

For all the media bluster and fan chomping for a new signing of two, at least we have the balance and the harmony of the team at a point where we can all be happy that we will compete, which is all any of us want anyway. 

So we’re in a good place. Preseason has been positive, the team are playing positive, we’re looking like we could give Chelski and City a run for their money. This time next week we may have even broken the hoodoo of José over Arsène too. You never know.

Arsenal blitz Lyon, showing the importance of a decent preseason

Well how about that for a performance from the players yesterday, eh? Six goals, none in reply from Lyon and a table-topping performance at The Emirates Cup 2015.

The trophy’s in the bag, folks, the trophy’s in the bag.

Of course we all know this is a friendly and if we were to face Lyon in the Champions League we’d most likely see a different game with a different result, but what I’m noting from all of the preseason games so far, is that the team are looking sharp, fresh and ready to hit the ground running in two weeks time. That is what we will all be taking from these preseason performances. The better a team looks whilst building up their fitness, the more likely it looks like they will get off to a flyer when the real thing happens.

I remember a couple of seasons ago when we started brilliantly in preseason. I saw an interview with John Cross in which he had mentioned how well Ramsey was playing and how cohesive we appeared as a team during the summer. Low and behold, we started with a rip-roaring first half to the season and Rambo was banging in goals left, right and centre.

That’s what it feels like to me at the moment. It feels like we’re ready to have a proper go at this league. And it’s exciting.

What’s also exciting is the prospect of getting goals all over the park. Arsène mentioned it in his post match press conference yesterday, but the fact that we had six different scorers bodes well for us. He’s spoken of the need to have more goals spread across the team and it looks like the team are responding. Cazorla and Özil (both also scoring in the Asia Trophy) are picking up goals from midfield, Rambo had a really good toe-poke yesterday which was well picked out through a sumptuous pass from Mesut, as well as Iwobi finishing smartly on his left foot after Rambo himself turned creator and found him with a neat pass.

That Iwobi fella looked alright, didn’t he? Very composed, spraying the odd ball left and right, he certainly looks to be one to keep an eye on. The key to his rise to prominence, however, will most likely be how he reacts to a loan spell. Hopefully that put him in the shop window for a few clubs, despite what the manager says. I like the idea that Arsene is saying he’ll stay with the team and has hinted that he’ll potentially be used, but I can’t really see it other than the Capital One Cup and I do wonder if that is the best route for a player, if another Premier League club were to show interest, for example. Surely it’s far better to give Iwobi 30 games in a season playing for a Championship/Premier League club, like we did with Wilshere at Bolton, than to have him kicking his heels until the League Cup comes around (which we’ll play a round less than some Premier League teams because we’re in Europe)?

Hey, what do I know, I don’t know the players personally, I’m just a fan and Arsene will know what’s best for the boy so I’ll not get too worked up. He’s in safe hands.

But anyway, back to yesterday, in which I think a lot of fans will have watched the game and thought that we’re ready. We are. Just look at who played in last seasons Emirates Cup. Our scorers were Sanogo and Campbell on the day we beat Benfica 5-1 and although you look at those two and question how deep our squad was, these days you look at the line up and realise that even with rotation – which Arsene will do again today, there’s no doubt – we have a deep squad. No more littering the team with youngsters who won’t get near the first team, like we were doing four years ago. This competition shows that we have to switch things around and when we do, it’s first teamers and internationals that are playing.

In truth the second half became even more of a testimonial affair than anything else, because we’d stunned Lyon like the pray of a poisonous snake who strikes and then takes its time to devour its prey. Four goals in nine minutes just before half time saw to that. We set up aggressively and it paid off against a Lyon team who will no doubt chalk it down to pre season rustiness, but the same can’t be said of Arsenal. The passing looked composed, Mesut kicked on from where he left last season and pulled the strings and it was great to see The Ox back on track and firing, because if he can have an injury-free season he can be a big player for us I’m sure.

We didn’t see Petr Cech but Martinez did well enough in goal, beating away a few chances and he’s looking all the more like a ‘keeper and not a kid. I’m fairly certain that he’ll be one to go out on loan when Ospina comes back. He has to be, because he’s at an age now where he’ll want to play more regularly and we need to see if he’s going to be the player the club hopes he can be. Or at least do enough to secure a permanent move. Let’s face it, his route to number one is pretty choca-block right now.

So all-in-all a very good performance that underlines the importance of a decent preseason that isn’t interrupted by international competitions, injury or other disruption. Next weekend’s Community Shield should be fun. I can’t wait.

Speak tomorrow.

Bringing through youngsters like Akpom – the moral high ground?

The team are well and truly back on home soil, the Emirates Cup takes place this weekend, the pre-season preparation now notches in to third gear.

Arsène says he loves the Emirates Cup and, whilst it’s difficult to believe him when he speaks highly of Asian tours etc, it certainly seems feasible for him to feel more than comfortable with a friendly competition that’s on our doorstep. Le Boss calls it “competitive without having too much pressure” which sounds ideal from a pre-season perspective. It’s also an opportunity for him to do his last bit of large-scale rotation before the league starts in earnest, because the Community Shield will most likely see our strongest fit XI take to the field, with only a couple of subs likely for the duration.

Wenger will certainly rotate. We’ve seen that of Emirates Cups in the past. But as opposed to seasons past when we’ve seen a lot of youngsters dotted throughout the team, I think we’ll only see a spattering of lesser known players, because now our squad is deep enough for Arsène to be rotating full internationals.

It’s a competition that’s good for parents to take kids to get their first glimpses of footballers in the flesh, which is why you’ll nee see me there, because a stadium of kids and parents is not quite my thing. I’m glad Arsenal do it, but this weekend will be filled with other stuff for me to do. But what is important is that we don’t read too much in to it. After all, this time last season we were watching Falcao score a decent header for Monaco and saying “what a player” before he was promptly exiled to Manchester to cut a forlorn shape in United’s attack. So I think the mantra to say in ones head for the duration of this weekend is “it’s only a friendly”.

Remember: Gervinho scored a fabulous goal on his first game for the club in a friendly.

Unless of course it’s Akpom. If he bags some more goals then let’s all go flipping mental. Because he’ll be the striker saviour we all supposedly crave.

I’m developing quite a soft spot for old Chuba you know. And it’s not just because of his cool sounding name. It’s the eternal hope of bringing through young players you see. Young players like Akpom are the last bastion of hope that a player who is at the club truly ‘loves’ the club. Deep down we all know that really they all see it as a job and so being a boyhood fan doesn’t really mean much (see Rooney and Welbeck as examples), but until those days come when the player is good enough to make that choice, having a young player coming through the ranks allows you to make ignorant comments like “he’s one of us, he’ll never leave” and the such like. 

That’s where the Spud fans are at the moment with Kane. I say let them have their ignorance, for truth is far less appealing sometimes than reality.

The rise of a youngster from the youth ranks also affords fans an attempt at clamboring atop the moral high ground. It gives supporters licence to engage with other fans of clubs like Chelski and United and say “ahh, well, you don’t grow your own” and other statements that in reality mean little. If you were to ask a fan to replace all home-grown players for a bunch of Johnny foreigners and a Premier League, FA Cup or Champions League trophy, I’m pretty sure everyone would take it. But whilst you don’t have those bragging rights as a fan, the ability to take pride in the development of a youth player is a small victory in itself.

That’s why I think I might invest some of my own emotional collateral in the young lad. Not because I don’t think we’ll win a trophy, but because I want both. I want to get to the end of the season and be standing atop the imagined high ground with a beaming smile and a trophy in my teams cabinet. I want to be able to say “we beat you fair and square and we did it with some of our own”. 

It’s why the Invincibles season is also a useful shield against the moronic imbeciles of West London or the red Mancs. They can crow all they like. Theirs isn’t a small gold one. We have that ahead of any other team and the longer that record remains in tact, we shall forever have something else to retort to fans of other clubs.

Catch you tomorrow.

Arsène’s stability wall protecting the Premier League trophy

Life is short. I seem to recall that it wasn’t long ago that I was up north at Uni surrounded by Scousers and Mancs, whilst Arsène and Arsenal were doing me big favours by going unbeaten and giving me all manner of bragging rights amongst mates, one of whom was such a bitter United fan that he refused to acknowledge Arsenal were champions in 03/04 until the trophy had physically touched an Arsenal players hands on the final game of the season.

It was bliss. There was also just one Chelski fan in my large collective of Uni mates, as well as no City fans whatsoever. 

I took it for granted that we were the best team – arguably in the world at that stage – and when one guy said to me “your team won’t be that good forever. One day you’ll be like me and have to endure finishing a few places below first”, I mocked him with a “nah, not under Arsène mate” retort that in hindsight might have been steeped in fate and karma now that we look at the subsequent decade after The Invincibles.

But hey, when you’re young and impetuous, you think you’re team is indestructible and you say things that you look back on and think are naive. It happens.

Why do I bring all this up? Well, it’s Arsène again, really. If you read my utterances more regularly (firstly, more fool you, because most of what I say is drivel. But thanks anyway) you’ll know I’ve hardly been a complete Wenger convert since I started this blog, but the respect for the man and his achievements have always been there. However, having read his comments on the increased stability in the playing staff at the club which have appeared on the official site, I am once again reminded of the younger and more dynamic version of Le Boss who guided us to victory in those early years.

That Arsène was a ahead of his time. That Arsène was full of quips and there was something about him. He just seemed more effervescent. There was something in his eyes, a glint, something that made a younger incarnation of myself comforted that “it’s okay, he got this”. That Arsène seemed to have slowly eroded away over time, as he was weighed down by fan expectation for a reunification with the “good old days”, whilst struggling with the self-imposed Arsenal austerity.

What I’m saying is nothing new to you. You’ve read it all before on countless other blogs and from far more eloquent people than myself. But with the shackles now off and him in a position to build a squad bigger and deeper than ever before, I am starting to get the comfort back, which is pleasing me no end I can tell you. 

Perhaps it’s that pre-season excitement that is acting as an anaesthetic, but I feel like finally Arsène believes himself that we can compete. We’ve had sporadic campaigns in which we’ve competed, like in 2007/8 and 2013/14, but the depth of the squad has always lacked in that one position in which we needed it. This upcoming season, I don’t think we’re lacking in any position in order to compete, I really don’t. I’m not saying getting a Karim Benzema or super-mega-awesome-ball-busting-DM wouldn’t improve us further – you can always get better – but based on what I saw last season towards the second half of it, we should have enough to at least compete.

That’s what we’ve always wanted. To have the team compete. I mean really compete. Taking a challenge all the way to the final weeks. And we’re there now. We’re there because we have stability. We swat away rumours about players like Özil with a simple wave of our collective hands. We talk about not being 100% sure what our best team is and, even if you think you know what the best Arsenal team is, I bet you that I could find at least half a dozen other Arsenal fans instantly who would disagree with you. 

That’s what stability brings. It brings consistency. Of personnel, of confidence in the players, of team unity and of belief. By not offloading our star players for at least the previous two summers, the squad strength has been slowly built up, brick-by-brick. No more Jenga-style pulling away of a supporting block and seeing the whole thing wobble/collapse. Nope, we’ve build ourselves quite a wall and it’s strong. Let’s just hope it’s strong enough to keep the others away from that Premier League trophy. 

I think – nay, believe – it is. It could be even stronger with additions, but I believe it’ll hold, so too does Arsène I suspect. If he finds a stronger brick – probably a breeze block or something sharp to put on top like barbed wire – then he may top up the wall. But let’s just be happy that we have a decent looking one without any holes in, eh?

I am. And I hope to be telling a certain scouser (if I can find him), that it turns out he was right, I was wrong, but I’m right again now. Some people will never learn their lesson you know.