We can hear if we cannot see, from all directions, pressure coming hurrying with the whirling winds of the globally envied English Premier League. Another EPL season is nigh and the competition could not be any stiffer. We have more money coming into the Premier League, elite coaches gracing it with their presence, stadiums being redesigned, lodged in and new ones being built. You could not imagine the stage being bigger and more inviting than this. One could suggest the same for the magnitude of success attached to winning this league this season. You can sense everybody’s willingness to win the title but as we know it is not the will to win that matters – everyone has that – it is the will to prepare to win that matters”
The most important thing now, at least from an Arsenal point of perspective, is to look at how we are going to approach the season. “The commander must decide how he will fight the battle before it begins”
The season is coming off the back of a major international tournament (The Euros). How have we faired after major international tournament (the euros and world cup)? Can we capitalize on what will potentially be our whip hand and our rival’s downside? Can we correct our Achilles’s heel and turn it round to be an advantage?
Looking at our performances in the league after major international tournaments since we moved to the Emirates, would suggest a common trend of sadly below par performance from the start or early stages in the season.
The first of these was the famous fall from grace in the 2006/2007 season. We had just returned from the world cup in Germany to start life in our new home (The Emirates). We lost/drew 8 of our first 14 league games, dropping 20 points in the process. This culminated in the disastrous campaign we had that season which resulted in us scraping 4th with 68 points, even though we also won 3 of our last 10 games.
Then also, after the 2008, we lost 5, drew 2 of our first 14 league games resulting is 19 dropped points. Believe me, this was a very serious and potential differentiator in our final league position that season, which was 4th with 72 points. We lost just one game for the rest of the league campaign, though we drew a fair bit of games, but our start had definitely affected our campaign that season.
Fast forward to the season after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; we lost only Adebayor from the previous squad, we had a fairly stable squad and with such continuity came high hopes. However, a familiar trend greeted the start of our season. Again we lost 5 and drew 2 of our first 14 games. We went on a 17 games unbeaten ran afterwards, but I thought the damage was already done. We finished the season with 68 points and in 4th place.
2012/2013 season was not a different story. We dropped 24 points from our first 15 games, losing 4 and drawing 6 in the process. This could be described as unacceptable for a team chasing the title. We ended the league with 10 unbeaten games, picking up 26 points out of a possible 30. This was not enough to undo the damage wrought by a woeful start that season. We ended the season at the 4th position with 73 points.
After the world cup finals in Brazil, Arsenal won only 4 of their first 12 games, and picked up 17 points out of a possible 36. We finished the season with 75 points and 3rd on the table.
All the above incidents suggest a lame duck attitude towards the start of our EPL seasons after major international tournaments especially the World Cup and Euros. After these games, we seem to take some time to get into our stride and this hangover that has cost us a lot of crucial points and for that matter our title quest. It is therefore not rocket science to see that we seemed to have done well comparatively, in seasons that have not followed on the back of major tournaments. We have finished 3rd on 3 occasions, 4th once and a 2nd place finish in the seasons after no major tournaments compared to one 3rd place finish and four 4th place finishes in seasons off the back of major tournaments.
I believe this is caused by the slow start and dropping of points at the start of these seasons. Think we would have done better in those seasons if we started better.
This is yet another season after a major international tournament (the Euros) and as we approach the start, I think it is incumbent on Wenger and his players to begin with a hunger and desire we have failed to show in previous similar circumstances. We need to launch into the season like we mean business, all cannons blazing and start firing from all cylinders from outset, rather than wait till our rivals are long gone out of sight before we start firing.
Get your replica wall clock here
Given the compelling evidence and combining it with the fact that we had 4 key players always unlikely to make the start of the campaign due to their Euro success, Wenger’s reticence to buy early is even more surprising. Particularly when you add in the injury crisis at the heart of our defence with Koscielny’s absence. I hope his desire to save a few million at the start of the campaign will not cost us multiple millions and a title at the end of it. That said our pre-season has shown that we have a talented bunch of younger players with the talent and undoubtedly with the hunger to prove a point. After all as Bellerin and Iwobi have proved if you perform in the first team shirt it has to be taken back of you.
I believe if our beginning is better, we will gather a few more points than we usually do and it would prove crucial come the latter stages in the season, and will tilt the balance in our favour. This I believe can be possible if we get a settled squad and a settled first 11 from start or at least from the second game when the last of our Euro success stories returns. We cannot go into the season with an experimental first 11 or putting square pegs in round holes just to make sure that certain individuals always play, and expect to win or pick up vital points.
Starting well is not the “be all and end all” of the league campaign, but it is a huge pointer and the confidence gained from a positive start will grow and embed in the squad.
“A good start is half the job done”.