The wait is over (almost), at last! We get 'our Arsenal back' or to be more accurate, Stan's Arsenal. Too soon? Sorry.
The last time we played a competitive match was at Huddersfield in May, a game I'll never forget as I'm sure I was busy cutting onions whilst watching the match or something. It feels so long ago now, so much has happened on and off the pitch. A new head coach, new staff, new players, some old players leaving the club, the world cup, Ivan speculation, pre-season and finally real football.
Like all Gooners out there, I am intrigued to see how we approach a game like this. I'm fairly confident that I know what (I was about to say Arséne's) Emery's team will be. Well, I was before writing this, I'm now second guessing myself.
Think we go:
Bellerin Mustafi Sokratis Maitland-Niles
Özil Aubameyang Mkhitaryan
The only way he doesn't select that team is if he feels one of our three midfielders are not ready physically. I can hear Emery's voice when I write 'physic-ally' or 'tactic-ally'
Watching our competitors over the last couple of days it struck me just how everyone is lacking a little bit sharpness to coin a familiar phrase, how nice it was for those teams to be playing against FC average. Giving them a nice gentle introduction back to Premier League life. Awww, how sweet!
Not us though! We get the record-breaking champs who have everyone back and available for selection. The team that slapped Chelsea aside last week as if they weren't even there. Thanks a bunch, fixture generator.
I've kinda accepted that the fact that this has come too soon for Emery. When the fixtures were announced I had convinced myself that Pep would be forced to play the under 16s as all their World Cup lads were sunning it up in St Lucia on holiday or something, but that was kinda wishful thinking.
With all the best will in the world, Emery has had very little time to get his squad to play the way he wants them to while Guardiola has not only had the time on his side but he has an expensively assembled squad brimming with quality all over the shop.
But how do you start the season with zero optimism? You can't. Or at least, I can't. Football is about hope and unpredictability. So I am clinging onto the fact that Unai wants to play a high tempo pressing game, he wants to force the opponent into errors, he wants to win the ball back quickly. The only time last season I saw City remotely sweating was when Liverpool chased after them like men possessed at Anfield in that amazing league game.
As amazing as City are on the ball, Liverpool's continued sprints after them disrupted their game and allowed their quality attacking players into great areas to punish them and they did just that. 4 times no less. Let's not talk about the defensive part of Liverpool's display late into the second half, I'm going with optimism here remember?
I am kinda hoping that we've been holding back in pre-season and we will see the full force of Aubameyang, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Maitland-Niles and Torreira nicking the ball and racing past their defenders with the Emirates crowd roaring the team on.
I'm sticking to that hope even if I don't fully believe it, mainly because it takes time to get a team pressing as a unit both 'phy-sic-ally' and having the experience in doing so.
I guess that is what I am most excited about this season. What we do off the ball more than on it. I love Arséne, well as much as you can without actually knowing someone but man, watching many of his teams without the ball was a continued source of frustration.
The idea of Arsenal players chasing down their opposite number, putting continued pressure on the ball will be nice to see, even if I imagine it will get us into trouble at times when we don't manage to win it quickly.
I could write a few paragraphs about how worried I am about our central defence without the speed and recovery pace of Koscielny but think I'll try a new approach of watching them play a few games before jumping to definite conclusions. Weird I know.
Last season's game against City at the Emirates was somewhat painful. They looked miles ahead of us on that night, popping the ball around us for fun and picking us off in the first half, the second half was akin to an adult holding a child on the head and watching the child swinging punches without getting close. Confidence was obviously extremely low after the League Cup defeat but man that was tough to watch, both were in fact. I hope we can put up more of a fight than in those two matches but make no mistake, we are still some way behind them, as are every team in this division.
Before I go, I would like to point you in the direction of the new Arsenal Vision Podcast website. You can check out all the pods on that site now, including the season preview pod. Worth a listen if you have time.There will be new content for Patreon members so if you want some new stuff and or you want to support the podcast please check out the site here. We have some great ideas to push the podcast forward and give you new exciting stuff to listen to pre and post games. It is very much appreciated as is the fact that you listen in the first place.
Instead of the usual post match write up I am trying a sort of live write up of games and then publish at full time. I find it more interesting to write at the time of an event, I think it's interesting how your thoughts of a game develop and change so check that out at full time (ish)