by Nia Griffiths

Learn from your mistakes‘ has become a personal mantra of mine…

It’s found a home in between my ears and set up camp there until I stop screwing up, which considering the type of person I am, will be for the foreseeable future. In addition, as Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – or words to that effect.

I’ve seen the latter used a couple of times to bemoan Arsene Wenger’s approach to the Premier League, which makes no sense considering things have been changing. Slowly but surely funds have become available, players have stopped leaving and world class talent is joining our ranks. It’s not Wenger’s fault if people have been too busy painting banners and organising marches to notice.

I do believe the season before last was a watershed moment. When we bought Mesut Ozil, a player I still can’t quite believe plays for us, something shifted. We won the FA Cup and the next season, Alexis Sanchez joined us. We went on the win the FA Cup for a second season in a row and truly began to show signs of challenging for the title. However, something was still missing.

I’m unsure if the signing of Petr Cech will solve all our problems, but having a world class keeper between the sticks is something that hasn’t happened at Arsenal for years. I mean this with the utmost respect to Wojciech Szczesny, who I truly hope stays with us after his loan spell with Roma, and I believe can develop into an excellent keeper.

The squad is gelling well. We’ve been scoring bundles of goals, playing sharp, slick football and looking exceedingly more comfortable all round when compared to seasons gone by. Granted, it’s only been pre-season but the signs are there for a top, top team.

So, what can we expect from this new Arsenal team over the next season? Or, more aptly, what do we hope to see?

Consistency is key

Wenger probably sounds like a broken record to many when he talks about consistency but it’s true. Chelsea had it last season. They weren’t playing amazing football but they were grinding out win after win. It’s stringing together those results, grabbing those three points at all costs and most importantly, not losing, that keeps the point-count as high as possible, as well as the spirit within the team.

Last season, we lost seven matches and drew nine (winning 22), while Chelsea lost only three. Three matches all season. These losses in the league (against Newcastle, Spurs and West Brom) came spaced apart, not in quick succession. They were freak incidents, not patterns, which leads me onto my next point.

Mental strength

Again, another phrase Arsenal fans are probably sick to the back teeth of, but it’s valid. Although last season we had grown a bit better at recovering after a loss, in past seasons we would spiral downwards, finding it difficult grab a goal, let alone a win.

Our confidence was fragile and every time we took a kicking, we found it hard to bounce back. In turn, the fans began to lose faith and being an Arsenal fan at that time wasn’t fun at all.

Now, we seem to be strong enough to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and come out swinging the following week. The dip around the end of the season when we lost to Swansea at home, then went on to draw with Manchester United away and Sunderland at home was a bit concerning. Not anything like as shaky as we were but worrying nonetheless.

Next season, hopefully we completely eradicate this. Not necessarily losses, because they’re part of the game unless you’re one of the Invincibles, but allowing the loss to drag us down. Recovery is vital because dropping three points isn’t necessarily a disaster but more than this in a row and we could’ve completely dropped out of the title race.

Keep fit

Recovery is something that also applies to our players’ fitness, not just how we throw ourselves into the game after a loss.

We all know about our injury struggles and for once, after this pre-season, we still seem to have a fully fit squad – shocking.

However, injuries are part of the game, no matter how much we hate it. It’s a contact sport, after all, and the odd scrape, bump, bruise or tweak is only to be expected. This can be dealt with and if having one player sidelined for a week or two derails your title campaign completely, you have bigger problems than just injuries.

What we do want to prevent, however, is long term, serious injuries. Cruciate ligament damage, broken bones, torn hamstrings – Arsenal players love ’em. They take months to heal, then weeks, if not longer, to rehabilitate. Then you have to slowly reintroduce the player to playing football again, handling them with kid gloves in case something else snaps or their irritate the healing injury, then gradually give them more and more playing time.

If it’s infuriating for us as fans, I can’t believe what it must be like for the players.

This season, preventing long term injuries is key, because all it takes is a couple of these to the first team and we’re in trouble – just like the last few seasons.

Everyone always says, “if only Arsenal were fit for a whole season.” Well. Exactly.

Just shoot

One of the most irritating aspects about watching Arsenal play is when we don’t have a plan B and simply tap the ball around the outside of the area, not getting any closer to the goal or even contemplating just taking a shot.

This kind of behaviour has me out of my seat and shouting more than any other.

I understand we like to walk it into the goal. I get that, I really do. It’s Wenger’s way and the majority of the time, when we’re creating stunning tippy-tappy team goals, I’m in love with it, but when we’re into stoppage time and we’re drawing 0-0 against a team who’s parked the bus for 91 minutes, passing it back to the halfway line makes me want to claw my eyes out.

As much as I love Mesut Ozil, this is part of his game he’s got to improve. He’s almost too unselfish and needs to concentrate on gaining confidence when it comes to shooting.

Fortunately, during pre-season, the German playmaker appears to be showing signs of shooting far more and even scored against Lyon during the Emirates Cup, as well as against Everton in the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Hopefully this carries on because if so, Ozil will officially become terrifyingly deadly.

Ultimately, I do believe that this season we have a huge chance at the title. We’re learning from our mistakes and growing, if our pre-season is anything to go by, and I fully expect us to carry this over into next season. We’re fully fit, for the moment, have some good results under our belt and look ready for battle.

Here’s to next season.