And So It Begins!
It's that time of year again, finally. A new Premier League season is upon us and we as Arsenal supporters are eager to see if the squad additions over the off-season will be what we needed to get us crowned Premier League champions. Last season didn't exactly end like we had hoped but an FA Cup win over Chelsea helped minimize the pain a bit.
The off-season was pretty good (I’d be happier if we kept Szczesny). The signing of Kolasinac and Lacazette was a boost to a squad that while bloated, felt thin in key areas. One of the main reasons we struggled last season was in defense and a solid defender like Kolasinac hopefully will help that. From what I've seen in the two matches we have played it appears that he was the correct choice. The next military tank needs to be called the Kolasinac. Lacazette has an important role to play season more so if Alexis does leave. We signed him to be a leading goalscorer and to be a game changer like Alexis.
Last season was frustrating on so many levels. We had a squad that was very good but would play with a lack of conviction or confidence. So many matches that we lost or drew. A toothless showing against Bayern Munich in the Champions Alexis, opening day defeat to Liverpool, lackluster North London Derbies etc, the list goes on. Something in this club has kept us from maintaining a sustained title challenge for years. We either start poorly, fight to get in the top 4 or start well and fall out the hunt. Either way we can see the writing on the wall and we are left hoping something will change. Fortunately we may be seeing that something this year.
With several players like Alexis and Ozil heading into the final year of their contracts we have to make a decision: sell or risk losing them on a free transfer. Normally we would appear to play hardball but then sell to the highest bidder just make some cash. Wengers press conferences so far have been tough. He has made it appear that we will not be selling Alexis. Now while I’m skeptical that we will hold to this, if we decide not to sell Alexis it sets a new precedent for the club. We have been viewed in recent years as a pushover club in transfers, being able to sell low and buy high. To say no to expensive offers for a top player knowing that they have the option to leave at the end of the season is very bold. The gamble will take some time to see if it pays off though. If we win the league with the team we have without selling Alexis then it will be a great gamble. Otherwise it could be viewed as foolish. Regardless it's a gamble we have to take because we are better with players like Alexis and Ozil then without them. Keep them and sell the dead weight.
Unfortunately with us being in the Europa League instead of the Champions League we have to balance our squad. We will have to be careful who leaves as if we cut too many players then we will be forced to play many starters or kids in both the league and Europe. Players like Wilshere, Gibbs, Ox, and Perez may not make the cut. Opinions on these players varies but unfortunately they are fringe or squad players and may be sold to make up for a possible loss on Alexis. Wengers has a tough decision to make as the transfer window closes.
The Community Shield and the opening match of the season both resulted in wins but showed us that we will not be able to win the league without a fight. Sounds obvious but far too often do we watch this team walk onto the pitch and think the other team will step aside for us. We fought hard against Chelsea in the FA Cup and in the Community Shield and both resulted in wins. Against Leicester we looked poor in defense and had to come back several times in order to win. Only Arsenal can score 4 goals for a heart attack inducing win. Now I've seen some people rail the squad, Ox, Ozil, Xhaka etc for poor play. It isn't always unwarranted but I looked at the match Friday as a proof to my point. The squad didn't give up and we kept coming back. Individual performances can be improved and squad rotation can help but what you can't always fix is mentality and drive.
Going back to my earlier point about the matches last season. At 1-2 down and 2-3 down I was thinking that it was déjà vu. But we didn't roll over. Last season this would have been a loss but this was a win. It's only one match so I can't say that we have changed completely but it's a positive. We still need to fix some defensive errors and clean up the squad but so far so good. Three points is better than none. A match against the orcs in Stoke. Another tough test for this squad but one we can win as long as the drive it there.
Until next week. C'mon you Gunners!