Arsène behaves like my mum wanted me too with press comments

Did you ever get told by your mum to ignore the chants of other boys/girls? To brush away callous name-calling with a simple rendition of “sticks and stones”? And did you find it really difficult to understand why your mother didn’t tell you to open up a can of whoopass on the individual in question? 

I did. I often found the idea of ‘turning the other cheek’ an irksome one. How can mothers understand what it is like when you’re in the middle of a playground surrounded by the mob that is your fellow school pupils? 

(My mum was a Maths teacher, so clearly in hindsight she understood more than any, but try telling that to a ten year old Chris)

I wanted to be able to brush away the name-calling, but I just didn’t feel strong enough to simply shrug my shoulders. That’s why I admire Arsène’s response to the press interpretation of the Mourinho comments yesterday. The season before last, after Arsène had made some comments about managers being afraid of failure, Jose took the baiting of the press and bit back with his “Specialist in Failure” jibe. At Arsène’s pressed yesterday, the reverse happened when the press tried to turn Mourinho’s comments into something to get a sound it’s out of Arsène.

He simply dismissed it. Doused the fire with good humour and essentially did what my mum had told me to do all those years ago. He shrugged it off.

That’s why Arsène’s the better man. He’s the more composed, more eloquent and I’m thankful we don’t have a snarling and over-reactive Portuguese as our boss.

Now, let’s start to reverse the recent history with a win against Chelski this weekend, Arsène. And afterwards, let’s take that Premier League trophy from Mourinho, just for kicks.

The early team news ahead of the game on Sunday looks like it will see the continued absence of Welbeck. It’s a bit of a shame really because it will mean he’s had absolutely no preseason and if we’re all honest, with players like Mesut talking about this importance of a good preseason for a footballer, I’m not sure it bodes too well for Danny. 

Even if he’s back for next week’s game, he’ll be nowhere near fully fit and unless he is able to fast track his own delayed preseason, I don’t think we’ll see him anywhere near his best until probably October time. It’s hard enough getting in to this Arsenal team with so many players fit now, let alone when everyone has stolen a march on you by having a full preseason, so I hope Welbeck can recover and not lose any confidence if he isn’t straight back in to the team.

I think he’ll get his chances though. Arsène promised as much to Chambers yesterday when asked about whether he’d go out on loan. Having only just celebrated his anniversary on joining the club, I suspect Arsène is still looking at engraining in him ‘The Arsenal Way’ of playing, which is why a loan is out of the question. But also probably because he will definitely play games. Four centre halves will almost certainly be used this season and, with Koscienly’s dodgy calfs, having both Chambers and Gabriel waiting to take advantage, it gives Arsène the opportunity to rotate actual central defenders rather than play full backs (even though Monreal and Debuchy made good attempts at it last season). 

That must be true for Welbeck too, so whilst there were some rumours of a move to Turkey in the press last week, I can’t see Arsène offloading him. He’s spent a season adapting to a whole new way of life, so it stands to reason that it was going to be a similar adaptation to his teammates and I expect we’ll see better things from him this season.

The countdown is well and truly on for the proper stuff to start and although the Community Shield is somewhat of a halfway house between friendly and the real thing the following week, I’m excited about how we might line up this weekend, because it’s a half decent indicator of how close we are to Chelski in terms of seriously believing we can take points off them this season. 

Sticks and stones may break some bones, but I’d rather we break Chelski hearts with what’s done on the pitch this weekend and come May next year.

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.

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.

Movement on players, but is it the ‘right’ players at Arsenal?

Mattieu Flamini to Galatasaray and Wojciech Szczesny to Roma on a one year deal, it seems, if the rumours across multiple newspapers and on radio shows are to be believed.

Firstly the Flamster who, if we’re all honest, probably knew his time was up at the club. The fact we’re picking up a fee for a player who we got on a free transfer and was probably expected to play only a handful of games, is pretty astute from Le Boss. 

Yesterday I talked about the need for adaptable players and it’s clear that as a player his adaptability whilst not that bad (we all know he can play at full back, having done so during the Champions League when we reached the final), does little to make up for his clearly limited technique. He’s a bulldog with plenty of bite, but if you want him to shepherd sheep or fetch your paper, it just wouldn’t work. He’d most likely chew the paper to within an inch of its centre. Then go after your slippers for dessert.

But he’s proved to be a useful transitional player, adding a bit of depth to the midfield, as well as a bit of bite. And this time he’ll leave the club with our blessing.

As for Woj, this transfer which I found out about via the radio last night, doesn’t feel as good for me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that a loan deal to get him game time won’t be better for him than sitting on the bench all season, but you just get the feeling that the second he departs, our shiny new signing might just develop glass ankles. Or wrists. That’s what tends to happen at Arsenal, you see. 

Perhaps a change of scenery would do him good. Perhaps a year in Italy will help him improve as a ‘keeper. But talk of Roma negotiating an option to sign the player at the end, suggests that his time is up and it will be Ospina who will play understudy to Cech, which I don’t necessarily think is the best option for Arsenal Football Club. Mainly because I think Szczseny is the better ‘keeper. He’s certainly the more attractive option for other clubs to go after. The age difference between Szszcesny and Ospina is one year and the Colombian played in a World Cup last year and the Copa America just a month ago, so he has been in full view of the world’s football clubs, yet Szczesny who was Arsenal’s number two and is also Poland’s number two has got a concrete offer in. Doesn’t that strike you as odd.

It does to me. 

I think Szczesny is the better ‘keeper and by letting him go instead of Ospina I think we’re weakening our reserve options somewhat. I know there was talk of Everton being interested in Ospina, but until something more concrete comes in, all it looked like from where I’m standing is paper chatter and nothing more, so to me it just looks like we’re trying to get one of the two out the door as quickly as possible. 

I have nothing against Ospina. He did ok at times last season. But that’s just it. Okay. Not spectacular. He didn’t really save us games, if you’ll excuse the unintended pun. He just did what you’d expect from your ‘keeper. The bread and butter. Szczesny form may have tailed off last season, but the season before that he showed he was capable of keeping us in games, to which I still think he’s capable of and it’s why I was kind of hoping we could solve a problem by giving Ospina a new home. But it appears that will not be the case.

Perhaps I’m getting overly worried when the reality is that we’ve already made an upgrade in goal and are likely to see Ospina rarely in the upcoming season. Only time will tell. But I just can’t shake the feeling that ditching the Pole isn’t in the best interests of the club from an ability perspective. Unless its got nothing to do with ability and everything to do with attitude and Arsène’s finally had enough. 

One things for sure; if Wojciech never plays for the Arsenal again, that crafty ciggie in the showers will go down as one of the most career defining puffs anyone has ever had.

Laters peeps.

Player adaptability will win Arsenal the league

Whilst hearing the news yesterday about Mattieu Flamini and his probable departure this summer (to Bastia or Galatasaray, depending on who you believe), I began to ponder Arsène’s next move in the fabled ‘DM’ position. It’s an interesting one because there is no simple hard and fast answer. There are so many different options open to Le Boss that a retort of “go buy another DM for £25million” seems a little bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, in my opinion.

I put the question out on Twitter as to what we should do: fast track Bielik, give Chambers some time to bed in or sign another player. The answers I got – including another intriguing alternative of moving Santi in as Arteta’s eventual replacement – all seemed sensible enough and I like the idea of Santi playing a bit deeper. But there was one point that I do find a little frustrating and mentioned it to a few guys online, which is that some people do tend to get bogged down in the idea of needing a perfect replacement for when a players time is up.

Perhaps I’m becoming a little bit old fashioned, delving into the recesses of my mind to when football was a far simpler sport, but I don’t seem to recall that the football of 25 years ago required exact players for exact positions, did it? Am I being too steeped in the halcyon days of when players played in a 4-4-2 and had to adapt to positions to get in to the team?

I don’t think so. I think that players who played in midfield were midfielders and could do a multitude of roles. A player who played in the centre of the park could be a good tackler, decent in possession and also distribution. Good players can have multiple attributes, surely? That’s what the piece I’ve highlighted above kind of gets at. Arteta has been intelligent over his career enough to be moved around from attacking midfielder, to left midfield and now he finds himself with more defensive duties, because he’s intelligent enough to play that role. He is a midfielder. He can do pretty much everything. Just like the blog mentions, so it seems, can Santi. 

That’s what Arsène should be looking for if he’s going after another midfielder. Not a tough tackling ‘DM’, but a player adaptable and intelligent enough to play multiple positions if required. In short, a ‘midfielder’. 

But I don’t think we need another midfielder. I think we have those players and I think if Jack and Rambo are intelligent enough like Santi, they should be able to adapt their games so that they can play in a multitude of different styles and shapes in the middle of the park. That’s what we should be looking at doing; cultivating our existing midfielders to play in more defensive positions, so that we have more options for cover. There’s no point spending £25million on a back up enforcer type. Not if we’re putting our faith in Coquelin, which it looks like the manager is doing.

I realise that’s probably not what a lot of people want to hear. People are looking for us to have the perfect mix of 25 players who play a certain way and are interchangeable in exact positions and until recently I’d have agreed with you, but you can’t keep players happy like that, I don’t think. If a player plays in a certain position and is not adaptable, his game time is likely to be limited, which means when he is called upon he will most likely take a few games to get up to speed with the ebb and flow of a Premier League match. We’re at the stage now where we can’t really afford to be bedding in players and affording them half a dozen games to play themselves into a bit of form, not if we want to compete for the league, so what you need is a core of players who could feasibly play in multiple positions so that their chances of game time and finding form are improved greatly. Just look at Monreal last season. I’m convinced that the reason he was able to win the left back spot from Gibbs was because he had played regularly in the team as a centre half. It was not a natural position for him and he readily admitted that, but he had the ‘feel’ of the games on a regular basis and as a result was able to take advantage of little injury niggles to Gibbs which saw the young Englishman become a bit-part player towards the end of the season.

I’m telling you folks, it’ll be a collective of adaptable players that can spot in when the injuries and suspensions come, who will play a massive role in determining whether we can win the league.

Even new boy Petr Cech has touched on that by talking about the players in a number of different positions all fighting to get in to the team. He’s asked about a number of differences between the two clubs he’s played at in England and whilst he talks about the team spirit, the ‘little details’, etc, it was the statement about having lots of players to play all positions that really stuck out to me – probably because it was whilst I was thinking about the need for us to have adaptable players all over the park. The days of the Arshavin’s only really being effective if he’s played in a certain position are over, my friends. We need a balance now and I think we’ve got it. Sure, there are one or two players who really only have one position – Giroud, Mertesacker, the ‘keepers, but they are not the majority of this squad and so I think we can cope with the odd player who has a fixed role in the team.

Yep, I’m excited about this upcoming season. For me it represents a balanced team with all of the boxes already ticked to compete for the league. I’m being serious when I say that I haven’t been this excited about a season since 06/07 When we signed Rosicky and we’re starting to build the team that should have won the league in 07/08. Let’s hope this current crop can get over the line.