Here we are then. On the starting grid again and the lights are amber. Engines are revving, clutches are biting and one racer, our racer, says he’s ready for the battles that beckon on what will inevitably be a treacherous track to the Premier League title.
The season begins in earnest tomorrow and although we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see Arsenal in action when we entertain West Ham United, we did get some words from a bullish Arsene Wenger to help keep us occupied following his pre match press conference today:
I’m ready for a fight and of course motivated to start well. One of our targets is to start strong. We had a good preparation and that should give us the needed confidence. The Premier League is a fight in every single game so we have to prepare ourselves mentally for that and come out of the blocks straight away against West Ham.
From an Arsenal perspective, it’s the season of great expectations. The squad appears, on paper at least, our best equipped to become domestic champions in a number of years, and also talented and deep enough to provide a realistic challenge to the continent’s best, for what would be the club’s first-ever Champions League crown.
But rather than being intimidated by such a a huge wave of optimistic anticipation, Arsene says he much prefers the current challenge of being declared genuine contenders, to being dismissed as potential champions before a ball has even been kicked, as his side so often were in pre-seasons past:
Yes of course [there is expectation], but we enjoy that. Before we suffered sometimes from the fact that at the start of the season, nobody considered us at all because we lost our best players. That period is over now so we are happy to be under this kind of pressure.
Having ended last season in third place in the table and as FA Cup winners, to many, progress and success would no doubt be winning one of the big two trophies. Yet we won’t be the only club with those lofty ambitions and the reality is a maximum of two teams can win them. So what does the manager think would constitute a ‘successful’ campaign in his opinion?
For me, success is to get the maximum out of the potential of the team. That is the real success. We also want to do better than last season because we always want to move forward. That means that the target is quite high. We won the FA Cup last year and we finished third in the Premier League so our target is very high. Our ambition is to win the Premier League but we have to sustain that by performance and fighting spirit in every single game.
Besides getting his players to perform at the peak of their powers, we’ll also require a little more luck on the injury front and avoid the kind of long-term absences we suffered to the likes of Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud in the first half of last season.
Which is a point the manager made himself today, highlighting the fact that we were actually the league’s best performing side, points-wise, over the last 26 league fixtures of the previous campaign.
The boss then reiterated the need for a flying start and expressed his belief that his current set of players are good enough to win the league without further signings, saying:
Let’s start strong this season… I believe we have the needed ingredients. But we have a tricky start as well because we have two derbies and Liverpool in the first three games, so we have a difficult schedule from the start. We need to maintain our game. hat’s important as well – that we develop what we do well and do not stand still. That means we develop our cohesion, our passing game. If we are capable to keep the cohesion and the solidarity we have at the moment through the 38 games, we have a good chance.
Yet in typical Arsene fashion, he didn’t rule out new arrivals if the right opportunities arise:
But we do not rule it out if something exceptional comes up to do it. I’m very happy with the squad I have but we always look to strengthen and if that turns up, we will still strengthen.
He also kind of dismissed the Karim Benzema stories by labeling them ‘just media talk’, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from the boss really. All that tells us is no deal has been reached but doesn’t rule out the possibility of negotiations behind the scenes. That’s what I’m clinging to anyway.
There was also more from the boss on various other, stuff from rule changes to Alexis Sanchez and team news too but I’ll look at some of that tomorrow and also pick what I think will be our starting eleven on Sunday.
But finally for today, the club have confirmed Serge Gnabry has signed a season-long loan deal at West Brom, so best of luck to the young German at The Hawthorns. Hopefully he can earn a regular starting spot and help the Baggies take points from all our title rivals this term.
And by my estimation, with several loan deals now tied up for an array of our young stars, only Joel Campbell and Wellington Silva remain as peripheral players in the first-team squad.
Whilst the former has been strongly linked with Palermo in recent days and is still on extended holidays after playing for Costa Rica over the summer, the Brazilian is reportedly on a specially designed fitness regime at London Colney and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him stay with the club having spent the last 14 seasons on loan in Spain securing a passport. Another loan would just be cruel Arsene…