With my naturally pessimistic disposition, I’m only too aware that no matter how delicious, all the pre-season appetizers can prove entirely meaningless, when the serious business commences.
The piercing stab of a single dodgy result will soon deflate the bubble of Gooner hubris. But if you can’t indulge in some fantasy-fuelled, pre-season optimism, before a ball has even been kicked in competitive anger, then you might as well pack in this whole supporting malarkey.
It made for a pleasant change to win our own Emirates Cup competition, after carelessly gifting this pot to our invited guests these past five years. Yet after doing so in such fine style, with a positively scintillating six-nil drubbing of the French runners-up and then backing this up with last Sunday’s Wembley win against the Blues, it’s easy to get carried away with the wave of eager anticipation that at long last, this might be our season?
Even some of my Spurs pals are fretting that in Petr Cech, the Gunners might have finally found the last piece in the jigsaw that could make us genuine title challengers. Cech’s imposing presence is bound to have a positive impact, both on and off the pitch. It’s the first time since Seaman departed that we’ve had a world-class keeper between the sticks, with the sort of reputation that can cause opposing strikers to fluff their lines, because they know that they need do something special to beat him.
Nevertheless, I can’t help question why Chelsea were quite so resolved to recall Courtois from Atletico, if there was no significant impact upon Cech’s competence, post the insertion of a metal plate in Petr’s skull?
We won’t have to wait long to find out if he is still the top-class keeper who’s capable of adding the crucial 10-12 points to our tally over the course of a season that would surely put us firmly in the frame as serious contenders. Doubtless Petr will be no less determined to prove this point.
Yet while Cech’s arrival is likely to have some influence out on the park, both in terms of his distribution and hopefully in his ability to spread an aura of calm and composure amongst our backline, aside from the potential emergence of the likes of Iwobi, Akpom and Hayden and the possibility that Arsène has mined another Clairfontaine gem in Jeff Reine-Adelaide for the relative pittance of only £1.75m, at this precise point in time we will be starting this campaign with exactly the same collection of outfield players who failed miserably to mount a challenge on Chelsea last term.
It remains to be seen if the pre-season cameo displays of our young guns has been sufficient to elevate them into our first team armoury and how quickly Le Prof can polish the fleet-footed French teenager into a first XI diamond.
Yet while all evidence suggests a burgeoning team-spirit amongst the existing, settled Arsenal squad, with us being deprived of the spark of our very own Duracell bunny for Sunday’s opener because of Alexis’ extended leave, I’d love to see Wenger bag at least one major outfield signing before the transfer window slides shut - purely in terms of the psychological boost upon squad morale.
The news of Jack Wilshere’s ankle troubles was disappointing, but thankfully, with pleasing strength in depth in most positions, the Gunners are far from dependent on the great white hope of the national team. However, the sad but inevitable decline of Arteta and Flamini leaves the surprising figure of Coquelin as just about the only immutable piston in the Gunners’ engine room. Unfortunately the ugly defensive midfield monster of my dreams is likely to be a complete anathema to our more aesthetically-minded leader.
Lord Harris appears to have slipped comfortably into the brogues of the bumbling Hill-Wood, with his ability to sink a fleet of ships by means of his well-lubricated lips. Doubtless Arsène will be left cursing the substantial premium on any new signings that will result from Harris’ revelations about the club’s replete coffers. Perhaps this will preclude any significant deadline day business.
I, for one, hope we don’t blow a huge chunk of the rumoured £200m war chest on the likes of Real Madrid reject Benzema, as the French striker has never really impressed me. I take his impressive stats with a pinch of salt, as my own granny could score 20 goals a season, playing up front in a Real side serviced by the game’s greatest talents.
Yet with some of our competitors splashing the cash, as if FFP was merely a Platini fantasy, the Gunners can’t be seen to be standing still, if we’re to be perceived as serious players on the global stage.
With Slaven Bilic already under pressure and the Hammers seemingly in disarray, obviously I’m expecting tomorrow’s lunchtime encounter to be a celebration of the feast of football to come. But such is the fickle nature of the modern game that if the Gunners should fail to get our campaign off on the right foot, all that pre-season momentum will instantly grind to a halt and the knives will be angrily drawn once again, as suddenly everyone will return to focusing on Arsène’s myopic shortcomings and his failure to plug any gaps in his squad bar the one between the goal posts.