The dawn of the season has finally come upon us. The curtain raiser for the season has now come and gone. We were victorious. We celebrated. They didn’t care. I didn’t care that they didn’t care. Care was a topic of force on Twitter. More on that later.
The stage for the season is now well and truly set as the big money signings have come in over the summer. We’ve done good business in bringing in Kolasinac alongside our record breaking fee for Lacazette. Chelsea have brought in Morata, Rudiger and Bakayoko. United have brought in Lukaku, Lindelof and Matic. City have brought in Ederson, Danilo, Mendy, Walker and Silva. Liverpool have brought in Salah and are on the hunt for more. Sp*rs are the only side to not have strengthened just yet and have also lost a key man in Walker; welcome to building a new stadium lads. They will find this is the way they must carry out business for the next few years. They’ll have to sell early and then reinvest right towards the end of the window for potential/2nd/3rd tier signings, purely because they can’t financially compete with the big boys. We had to do it for eight years and I feel that they may be in this shape for 4/5 years. It’s a lot less now than it would have been for us simply because the value of property has been surpassed by footballer worth. The game has gone bonkers and if the Neymar deal is anything to go by then sponsors will be going in for the kill over the next few years. Adidas were subtle with Pogba, the Qataris not so. Neymar’s deal has opened a new avenue for sponsors to fund club deals and I can see next summer being huge for this kind of deal until inevitably the footballing authorities create a rule on the matter. Until then it’s open season and I can see huge deals, huge contracts with huge agent fees being commonplace throughout the game.
I’ve mentioned this previously, but I do feel that we are in great shape going into the season. There was and still is uncertainty around the futures of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, however Wenger remains unmoved on all three of them and has been more determined than ever to keep a hold of his start players. It’s refreshing to see and with the way the money is in today’s game, losing Alexis on a free next season as a worst case scenario isn’t all that bad. His game is based on cut and thrust and he’s fast approaching 30 where the thrust becomes an asset you can no longer rely on. Can he adapt as Cristiano Ronaldo has had to adapt? Time will tell. But for today I’d much rather have Alexis Sanchez playing for Arsenal football club than have £60m in the bank and I’ll tell you why; who in God’s name is there available to replace such a talent? Not even the likes of Mbappe could completely plug the gap as he is so young. A tried and tested, seasoned pro who will get us 30 goals and 14 assists is just not on the market right now. Gambling by keeping him to give us more of a chance of winning the league is completely worth it and who knows, a title win may just convince him to stay beyond this year.
Onto footballing matters. We had the (dis)pleasure of playing Chelsea for the Community Shield and some early season bragging rights were up for grabs. This is always the game that if you lose, you’ll maintain it was meaningless but if you win you’ll see it as a ‘trophy’ and a successful start to the season. I put trophy in quotation marks simply because we all know it isn’t quite a ‘real’ trophy and more a nice day out if you win. It is of course far better than losing and having to watch the other team celebrate so whatever the Chelsea fans will have you believe about how little it matters, deep down the frustration and angst at losing to a fierce rival is something that will taste bad for a week at least. I’ve seen from the Twitterati that the fact Courtois took a penalty meant that they weren’t taking it seriously or that they didn’t care as much. LOL to that if the club were there just to banter off their paying fans. Conte maintained Courtois is a regular penalty taker in training as did Cech from his Chelsea days. To mirror it, both our LCB and LWBs took penalties so it’s not really to do with the position that you play more to do with the nerve that you can hold and whether you have ‘what it takes’ to step up and make the difference. Whether it was a ‘friendly’ or not you can believe the little things that occur over the course of the game will influence how those players go about correcting things. There will be a little bit of self-doubt when Morata is in front of goal; the heavy price tag and missed penalty will see to that. Equally the likes of Rob Holding will probably think twice about playing out from the back through his litany of possession based errors during the game. There are plenty more examples to think of, however my point is that while the game itself and the trophy itself may have no impact on the outcome of the prizes when they are handed out at the end of the season, the psychological impact of the performance may stay with certain players for a week or two.
Overall I thought that we acquitted ourselves very well over the course of the 90 mins and were well worth the win. I felt as though we controlled the game a little better than Chelsea and looked more threatening when going forward. Considering we were missing 5 of our strongest starting XI I felt hopeful. Chelsea were also missing Hazard, Bakayoko and Costa (although whether he plays any part in Chelsea’s season remains to be seen). But I feel us missing Alexis, Ozil, Koscielny, Ramsey & Mustafi was a bigger hole to plug. Added to this an injury to Mertesacker midway through the first half didn’t help our cause. Considering all these factors we looked sharp and that is an encouraging sign. My only grievances with the day were the way in which certain Chelsea players looked to be intentionally attempting to harm our players. It’s not a one off anymore, especially when you have the chief elbow merchant Alonso continuing to go about his business in a nonchalant manner. He really is a dirty footballer and one who I hope karma finds swiftly. Cahill is known for his shithousery, usually when he’s been pulled out of position, but his elbow to Mertesacker was again unpunished. It was all compounded by a diving Willian and then a studs up tackle on Elneny leading to a red card for Pedro. From the stands I must confess I thought it was a yellow, however on second viewing it’s clear to see why a red was given. Thankfully the injuries to any of our players was minimal and we should be able to start the season with a clean bill of health. And that’s the key here. We aren’t missing anyone who is recovering and we don’t have too many players that need some more rest. For once I’d like us to start off our league campaign in a winning manner. Please lads, bring home the 3 points.
And so the season is upon us. Just a few more days to go. Ah sweet football, it’s good to have you back old friend.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.