Me personally, I follow what Paul Gascoigne once said: I don’t make predictions and I never will. Other people do, though, which to my mind disrespects their position on the spacetime continuum. However, you may be interested in what the forthcoming season holds, so here’s a guest post from Dan Ahern with:
Five Absolute Certainties About Arsenal’s Season Based Solely On One Pre-Season Friendly
On August 8th, we got a glimpse of the new Arsenal when they took on FC Köln in Germany. After a long summer of subsisting on nothing but transfer speculation (okay, some actual transfers this time too), it was great to see the squad in action again. But really, how much can we expect to learn from a non-competitive match, using almost 20 different players against a relegated Bundesliga side we took Podolski from?
For starters, everything.
But as you’re busy actually doing things with your life, I’ll keep it rather more brief than that. Let’s look at five undeniable, irrefutable, absolute truths that shall transpire this upcoming season.
1. Cazorla is the best player on Earth. Sometimes.
Pundits will offer that there really isn’t just one greatest footballer, but several elite players who, at any given time, could stand atop the game itself. Well I fancy myself a pundit now, so I’m echoing that.
The man is a revelation. He’s the absolute focal point of the team, and he’s going to be the number one factor in making Arsenal tick this year. There’s no debating it: he’s a perfect fit. The way he pulls the strings you’d have thought he was coming into his fourth year with us. Technique, vision, accuracy, trickery – he’s got bags of all of them!
Who ever doubted this man? Do you want to know why he doesn’t start for Spain? Because they’re SPAIN! They’ve got more world-class midfield technicians than they do financial austerity measures.
But what puts him over the top is his set-piece assassinry. (That’s assassin conflated with artistry. Yes, you can use it.) We got a taste versus Köln on the corners. When Cazorla took one from the left, he landed a perfect near-post ball onto Mertesacker’s head, which the BFG flicked back to Vermaelen to convert. When he took a corner from the right, he was on the money again, this time to Giroud, whose snap header forced a reflex save from the keeper. I expect we’ll be seeing plenty more dead-ball brilliance this year – a far cry from ’11-’12 Van Persie humbly refusing to score unless it was during the run of play. Trust me when I say Cazorla will make the Arsenal midfield feared again.
Bet on it: Cazorla’s minimum stat line: 4 Goals 11 Assists 58 MakeTheoActuallyLookGoods
2. Van Persie would be an idiot to leave. Van Persie is an idiot.
I hate to kick dirt on Van Persie, because he really did carry the entire team last season. However, it’s just as true that he took all his goodwill from the fans, all his talk of always being a Gunner, all his points with the Statue Committee, and chucked them out the window like a Range Rover driver’s half-caff soy macchiato. Then he spat on the macchiato.
I really can’t overstate this: until this summer, Van Persie had real hero potential. He was AFC’s talisman, captain and best player by a mile. He certainly damaged that potential with his public statements, but even those were excusable at first. After all, Arsenal have been treading water for years on end, so it’s understandable that a player at the height of his powers would make a plea for improvement. But even as it became clear there wasn’t enough interest from outside the Prem, rather than acknowledge the upgrades to the squad we were making, our captain insisted on becoming a traitor. It’s too bad. In my estimation we were just a DM and some fullback reinforcements from being competitive. I don’t see how he can look on the team we fielded against Köln, watching their blazing tempo and defence-shredding interchanges, and still decide his ambition is far above ours.
But hey, go enjoy your tablecloth shirt and your status as second fiddle to a 26-year-old with a hair transplant.
(It’s since been reported by the BBC’s David Ornstein that Van Persie was told before the Köln game that he would be sold. If true, that was a pretty ruthless move by Wenger, making Van Persie first watch the new team, and then throwing him on for a few late minutes anyway once the B-list had taken over.)
Bet on it: Like all ex-Gunners, count on van Persie to maintain a 2.88 Arsenal Mentions Per Press Conference Average, regardless of questions.
3. Gervinho is… Gervinho.
Gervinho is that guy on the playground you pick to be on your team and are super excited about for about five minutes until you realise he’s a selfish tool who only dribbles.
Many people are predicting Gervinho will make the leap this year. I’m predicting more of the same. Brilliant, fast dribbler of the ball. Terrible everything else. I’m sorry, but Gervinho has worse awareness than a pensioner on the highway. And he’s a worse passer than one too.
Bet on it: Over/under on the number of times Gervinho advances the ball up the field and into the opponent’s box only to hesitate and pass to nobody: 645.
4. No matter what happens, Bouldie will get too much credit, or too much blame.
Apologies to Pat Rice: legend he is, but I for one am glad to have a non-sexagenarian assisting Wenger. With Bould we have a younger, but equally respected assistant who will, please, dear footballing gods, bring some more structure into our own half of the pitch. Honestly, there was virtually nothing to read into defence-wise in the Köln game, what with their five per cent or so possession. But we already saw Bould make his mark in another key area: we all saw that near-post flick-on corner I described earlier. You think Wenger drew that one up? Ha! No chance. But, he did consent to it, and that’s just as important. He’s listening.
So I think Bould has a definite impact, but here’s the thing: Our defence has been on such a slide the last several years, whatever happens is going to be all on Bould. At least in the fans’ eyes. There’s just too much focus the defence for a balanced appraisal.
Ship 40-plus goals again? Damn you, Bould! Never mind that we have the same under-manned setup as last year. We’re a goalkeeper injury away from the affectionately named “Flappianski” being top choice, followed by a man who’s spent years at a time at Hull City. And I’m really not sure what our top RB starting the season grapples with more: fans’ justifiable lack of confidence in him, or opposition players.
Or, let’s say the goals conceded column gets tidied up. Bould saved our entire season! Ignore the development of Koscielny, the necessary maturation and increased responsibility of new captain TV5, the year Mertesacker’s had to adjust to English football, the fact that Wenger might’ve learned Santos’s tendencies, and Ramsey – team leader in standing-on-the-ball-and-losing-possessions (SOTBALP in stat geek parlance) – moving down the depth chart.
There are a lot of reasons why our defence should be better. And probably just as many why it could be worse. But that’s too complicated. We just hope Bouldie can make the difference. One way or another, he’s the talking point.
Bet on it: Over/under on the number of Bould/Bold puns used by the papers: 83,047.5.
5. Giroud is the sexiest man alive.
Olivier Giroud. My god. What a body… of work this man has put together in Ligue 1. What about his abilities as a footballer? Well, I bet his first touch is amazing. I’ve had dreams about it.
I don’t mean to be too forward, Monsieur Giroud, but I like the way you move. Watching you, I think that your positioning and back-and-forth ability are just what I’ve, er, we’ve been aching for. You’re so smooth. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to cover you. With anything. And the things you can do with your head are astounding.
There’s no replacing the season Van Persie had last year, but if there’s anyone who can fill the gaping hole, it’s Giroud. I’m swelling with pride just thinking about it.
Bet on it: Projected date Darren Dein will contact Giroud to talk about image rights: yesterday.
Follow Dan on Twitter at @topical_storm
More importantly, follow me: @AngryOfN5