Well, here we are, the first game of the season. It’s pounced on us. I’ve barely had the time to miss football, yet here she is, back with a 3 game a week schedule for the next 3 months. I am VERY excited.
Fulham is a tricky game simply because we’re not really sure who is going to show up. Both teams could spring a surprise. Arsenal could turn up like they did against Villa. Fulham could roll over like they did that time we thought we had our Arsenal back.
We need a win. There’s no glory in a draw. Arsenal needs to start the season the same way they played the FA Cup final. Everyone needs to show up focused. This season we’re gunning for top 4. Arsenal can’t have another transition year. We have the talent to do it. Arteta picked up a bag of shite in December, he took us from 8th to 8th, but the half-season table showed that we finished 4 points off 3rd (in 5th). If we’re that close to 3rd in March, we have every chance of taking a Champions League spot.
There are 4 very important games coming up before the international break. Anything above 9 points will be classified as very good. Most would say the big game is the Liverpool one, but for me, it’s actually the Fulham, West Ham, and Sheff U games that pose the threat.
Arsenal’s challenge this season will be dealing with deep blocks. We lack creativity through the middle and we haven’t really addressed that this summer so far. There has to be a solution. Arteta needs to evolve how we play this season. It’s no good becoming the London version of Wolves. We need to rack up points against the little teams this season.
There are some potential solutions. The biggest bet we’ve made is that Willian will carry over his elite form from last season. He had a great record for balls into the box last season. We’ll need some of that trickery tomorrow. The big question is whether Arteta opts to play him out on the left, or whether he moves him into a modern #10 role.
We could also see Mesut Ozil back in contention. The German international is out of the cold and he’s making a fuss online that he wants to play. Say what you like about him, he’s a deep-block specialist and if willing, he’s more than capable of being a solve for us there. Question, as always, is how much does he care?
There are also some other potential solves that are little more far fetched. Saka ‘might’ get a shout as a #10 at some point this season. Could be a little early for that. Especially as he’s been so good from wide positions. We also have ESR who can play in those pockets. He had a great time at Huddersfield. Would Arteta take the chance? I’m not sure (not tomorrow as he’s injured). Especially not for the first game.
What we do know is this: Fulham under Scotty Parker are pragmatists.
They will set up with a sturdy team tomorrow and they’ll look to nick a goal on the counter. They clearly aren’t elite pragmatists (they finished 4th in the Championship and there’s been a serious debate about #ParkerOut among entertainment starved fans), but they’ll be an early test for us. They have some decent ball-playing defenders and they have a bully of a target man in Mitrovic. Those two factors combining have been the death of us over the years. Hopefully, there’s a strategy tomorrow to work around the obvious plan that’ll be rolled out.
So here we are, heading into our 13th year together (feeling so emosh). This should be fun. We have a solid setup. We have a brilliant young manager. We have a vibrant squad of young players eager to make it happen. We have a chance to make the top 4 if things fall for us. Let’s enjoy it, it’ll be a fun ride. Lots of ups and downs. But we’re heading in the right direction regardless. I’ve not been able to honestly say that in a very long time.
Enjoy the game and listen to the podcast. Whoever gave me a 1* review, I hope you have some mild internet disruption today. Yeah, I’m that serious about the slander.
Also, I fixed the link issue on the newsletter. It should not be working perfectly!
COME ON YOU GOONERS!