July. Wet, rainy, football free July. How on earth can this be considered the best time in the calendar for football fans I hear you cry? Simply because of all times of the year it is the greatest of them to feel that wonderful emotion.
This time last year we hoped Cesc Fabregas would stay (although really we knew he wouldn’t) Gael Clichy moved on, but many of us didn’t lose too much sleep over that, and the Samir Nasri situation was only just starting to grumble under the surface.
We all know what happened last summer and there is little point in dwelling on it, I for one am just going to wait for Arsene Wenger’s book that he promised to write on the subject.
The hope I feel today is from our business so far and the development of the team last term. If you will indulge me perhaps I can ‘turn that frown upside down’ and we can join the masses from Manchester and the Kings Road, and probably a fair few deluded individuals in Merseyside, in believing we can actually challenge for honours next year.
Wojciech Szczesny is not yet the finished article I will grant you, but his solid displays far outweighed his uncomfortable ones and there were a number of truly outstanding 90 minute shifts from the young Pole. Do I think he will get worse? No way. So there can only be optimism when regarding his future between the sticks.
We do need decent cover, but I am confident that will come in time over the transfer period.
In front of him we have one of Europe’s great emerging defenders and the sort of player we’ve been waiting for since Sol Campbell moved on; Laurent Koscielny.
Thomas Vermaelen is the guy who plays it out from the back, he is excellent and his desire to win is incredible, but in a defender there should be an even greater desire, one not to lose, and I think Koscielny has this in spades.
Bacary Sagna is world class (look how much France missed him at Euro 2012) and Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos both offer different choices for the left-back role. Carl Jenkinson has enough potential for me to like him too.
Mikel Arteta had an incredible impact of the team last year and Alex Song is another player, like our young ‘keeper, who is just getting better.
Aaron Ramsey is 21 people! The stick he got last year was pretty unremitting and undeserved, and Tomas Rosicky is having an Indian summer of sorts that could well carry on into next term.
We also have to return the most exciting young player in England in Jack Wilshere, a player who was more than a little missed. I am, that word again, full of hope that he will be back and chomping at the bit from the kick off.
We have signed two new strikers. They are, as yet, unproven in the premier league, but 100 caps for Germany and a place in the France squad and being Ligue 1s top scorer should not count for nothing.
In fact what makes me more hopeful than anything is that, assuming we keep RVP (and that is what we should do until given any REAL evidence to the contrary) we have a front three with 80 goals and 31 assists between them last season, combining this with the threat of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, if he can flourish in his second season Gervinho then we have an attacking threat that even City would struggle to replicate.
Speaking of Gervinho I do have reason for hope there too. Why? Because his stats and situation is almost identical to one Robert Pires, who came from Ligue 1, struggled a bit in his first season, scored 4 and set up 7. Gervinho has also struggled, scored 4 and set up 8. So let’s give him one more year shall we?
While on the topic of Gervinho, I read an article this week that placed him and Per Mertesacker in the top 10 worst Arsenal signings of the premier league era, I’m not going to talk about how much I disagree with it, I’m not, well I guess I have a bit here, but it was just so incredulous that I find myself talking about it when I promised I wouldn’t! Anyway, I digress.
I hope you also feel just a little of my sense of hope and anticipation for the coming year, I haven’t mentioned Mertesacker (apart from above), Abou Diaby (stop it!) Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Thomas Eisfield etc etc, there are reasons to be hopeful and let’s use a July in which we won’t lose a competitive game to enjoy them.
Go on, you never know, this might just be our year!