That’s how long some Arsenal fans have waited for this season. While most of them didn’t spend all that time waiting for the club’s greatest ever manager to depart, there is no denying that the time for him to go came and went long ago.
And, boy, did change arrive in 2018. We’re so deep into change mode at Arsenal we might even be getting rid of Ivan Gazidis, the man who oversaw all this change in the first place. Steve Bould still isn’t safe with the rumour mill claiming he’s going to team up with Thierry Henry when the Frenchman eventually fools someone into giving him a top managerial position.
A total overhaul of the management and coaching system, new players, new scouts and fitness gurus have resulted in a new hope. Is this the season the Arsenal Empire strikes back? They certainly look better prepared for a challenge than in recent seasons and we haven’t even seen Unai Emery take charge of a competitive match yet.
That, in itself, is an indicator of how things had been allowed to rot under Arsene Wenger’s tenure like a prize-lobster lost down the back of the sofa that’s starting to stink up the house.
Go find an Arsenal fan and ask them the last time they were excited ahead of a new season. Ask them how they felt last summer when Wenger signed a new deal and they were facing another two years of repetitive mediocrity, the only uncertainties being who would get seriously injured and which top side would put six past us this time round.
No matter the FA Cups that Wenger won in his last years, fans knew that they were in for more of the same – a slow start, a burst, an awful November, another rally before falling apart and then trying to get their shit together to make Champions League. Or Europa League.
It’s hard to underestimate just how refreshing it’s been since Arsene Wenger left.
That’s not to diss the big man, but Arsenal have been crying out for a defensive midfielder for at least five years and we got two within a few nanoseconds of Wenger pulling out of Colney. A new keeper came in, too, as did defenders, and not ones from the French second division no-one had heard of. Actual footballers who play actual football that actual people watch.
One of the things that has impressed most about Emery are his words to the fans. He has engaged with supporters in a way Arsenal stopped doing long ago. He speaks as if he understands the connection fans have with their football club, rather than just expecting us to pay our money and shut up while the experts get on with things. That’s how it felt sometimes in the latter days of Wenger’s reign. He was producing art and we should just stand back and admire while he got on with things.
Arsenal also go into the new season with little pressure or expectation, at least not from the majority of their fanbase. Sure, sections of the media will fail to give Emery the time they have afforded Mauricio Pochettino, but Arsenal fans expect to see improvement, not titles, in 2018/19. If that happens to come with a side-order of glory, then who could complain?
Arsenal fans don’t have to point to FA Cup wins or top four finishes or a stadium move anymore to cover up their failure to win the title, this year they have the ‘new manager’ excuse.
12 months of blissful release before the pressure really ramps up again.
I can’t wait!