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.

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.

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.

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.