With all the transfer doom and gloom surrounding Arsenal at the moment, it’s easy to lose sight of reasons that we should actually get pretty excited about the new Premier League season starting on Saturday (Sunday for us).
I’ll admit, I’m not that excited about facing Liverpool at the Emirates on Sunday. Despite previously complaining about the length of our pre-season, I feel somewhat underprepared and vulnerable. I think this is mainly down to the fact that we’ve lost Gabriel so close to the beginning of the big day. It’s like losing one of your Bridesmaids a few days before your wedding. Although he wasn’t an integral part of the occasion, we still needed him for the time being.
Of course, it’s also because we need another striker. Without Olivier Giroud, who’s still on his summer break after the Euros, we’re left with Theo Walcott or Alexis Sanchez up front. Although this worked out just fine in pre-season, when put into practice in the Premiership, it might be a bit different. Our side has shown we’re allergic to pressure.
So, what is there to look forward to?
1 – Granit Xhaka
Instead of stressing about who we haven’t signed, let’s look at who we have. Although Rob Holding is also a decent acquisition, Xhaka has been a real ray of sunshine. The signing actually seemed worryingly straight forward; we were linked, he had a medical and he signed with us from Wolfsburg just before Euro 2016.
Gooners watched his represent Switzerland with hearts in their eyes. His ability to dictate play, pass forward fearlessly and generally command the midfield is something we’ve been missing for a long time. It’s something we’ve needed and his contribution during pre-season wasn’t only positive, it was intensely exciting.
2 – Young Guns
Chuba Akpom and Alex Iwobi were particularly lethal during pre-season. The latter showed his potential last season when he stepped in the for injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott and became a regular senior starter, scoring two Premier League goals in the process. They’ve both impressed with Akpom scoring against the MLS-All Stars, Chivas, Viking FK and the winner v Manchester City, while Iwobi scored a brace against Viking FK and one against City.
Both young players are just 20 years old and have so much potential. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from both, particularly Iwobi, next season.
Another young gun who impressed during pre-season was Krystian Bielik. The 18-year-old was moved from midfield to centre-back, a role he now relishes, and although his technique is still very rough around the edges, he’s one to look out for in the future.
3 – Ya Gunners Ya
Mesut Ozil is hands-down my favourite players to watch. I used to marvel at him when he played for Real Madrid, never dreaming that a player like him would one day wear the cannon on his chest. The day he signed for us is still a blur.
Now that we have him, I can’t take my eyes off him. It’s honestly such a pleasure to get to watch him play week in, week out and I get so angry at anyone who doubts he’s anything less than a genius. I don’t even care how biased that sounds.
I can’t wait to watch him play again and although he won’t play against Liverpool, it won’t be long before he’s back on the pitch making us all gasp.
Alexis Sanchez is another star who I can’t really believe plays for us. His skill and work rate are practically unrivalled. Then there’s Aaron Ramsey, who was amazing for Wales during the Euros and seems hungry for competitive football. Hector Bellerin, who’s improving by the game; Santi Cazorla, who seems to be fit again; Mohamed Elneny, who had a fantastic pre-season.
Plenty to look forward to.
4 – Human conversation
If you’re like me and you would rather remain in the corner of the pub by yourself than make idol chit-chat with strangers, competitive football is a good way to fill the void when human beings do unexpectedly approach you.
Having people who support opposing teams asking me when Arsene Wenger’s going to spend some money, as if the boss is just emailing me daily updates, is getting very tedious. It’ll be nice to have something else for them to mock me about or for me to start bar fights over.
5 – Laughing at the misfortune of our enemies
I love a good laugh and on the final day of the season when Spurs lost 5-1 to Newcastle while we beat Aston Villa 4-0, allowing us to jump up into second, I was positively cackling.
If you can’t enjoy when our rivals are having a bad day, then you might as not rejoice when we have a good one. Football’s all about competition and watching clubs around you drop points is worth celebrating.
Last season, my brother (a Manchester United fan) and I had a good laugh at Chelsea practically every week.
And when they do it to us well… it’s character building.