August 18, 2012
I can’t tell you how nice it is to have something to base my weekend around again.
It’s amazing how your life can slip you by when there’s no Arsenal to think about. ‘What are we doing this Saturday?’ ‘Erm…I thought we could go and look at tables’ ‘What?’ ‘Tables. We need a table. For the roof terrace.’ ‘So, sorry, what? We’re going to spend Saturday just…looking at tables?’ ‘Yes. Have you got anything better to do?’
Well, today I do.
It’s perfect first day of the season weather here in London. I got to pretend that the reason I woke up so early for a Saturday was the sun blasting its way through the curtains rather than the butterflies going mental in my stomach. And there’s something about those blood red shirts against the bright green of the newly prepared pitch under a crisp blue sky that sharpens every sense and takes me back to childhood. What is that? Why should that combination bring out such feverish childlike excitement? Is my brain that easy to manipulate with a set of well defined primary colours?
The new signings don’t hurt of course. Three of them today. Exciting ones too. Not a third choice defender amongst them. We’ve barely had a chance to see any of them perfom yet so they’re as yet unsullied by disappointing displays or tantrums or missed three yard sitters.
One man we won’t be seeing today is Alexandre Song Billong who is days away from agreeing a rumoured £18 million move to Barcelona. The timing couldn’t be worse I have to say. A day before the start of the Premier League season is no time to see your captain paraded in a Manchester United kit and one of the first names on the team sheet in the midfield clearing out his locker and taking that increasingly well worn path to the Blaugrana.
I fully expect for us to replace him but for today it leaves us, not short in midfield, but certainly taking a risk with a new look line up. But timing aside I’m not disappointed about the deal. I know that many are and I’ve heard people complain that we could have got more money for him. Really? More than £18 million for Alex Song? He’s become an essential player for us in recent years but I don’t know when £18 million became an insignificant lump of cash for a man who so readily splits opinion amongst the fan base.
Regardless of the rumours that Song’s been agitating for a move I get the distinct impression that this one is with Wenger’s full blessing. As much as I feel he’s been a good player for us I’m actually excited by this move. It feels like an entirely new category of transfer for the club. This isn’t a Cesc or Van Persie style transfer. A huge name player leaving the club against our will. And neither is it a Bendtner or Vela style transfer. A lower runged player who just hasn’t worked out. This is a player who has done really well for us, who we could have kept in the ranks but we’ve decided to cash in on in order to bring in somebody even better. And that’s why it’s exciting.
Alex Song has done brilliantly for the club and he’s come on magnificently since he joined from Bastia and was almost laughed straight out the door again. But to me the rumoured replacements Sahin and M’Vila look like a step up. And it’s the first time in a while that I can remember Arsene Wenger opting to discard one of his better players in order to upgrade. To me that’s exciting. That’s the only way we as a club can take the next step.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago Oxlade-Chamberlain has been used solely in the central midfield slot this pre-season and Le Boss confirmed in his presser yesterday that that’s where he now considers Oxlade’s strongest position to be. It marks a shift I think. A decision to fill that midfield with quicker feet and more technical players. The Ox, Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta… I can see why Song might be deemed surplus to requirements. In fact I’m fascinated to see what Barcelona will make of their new signing and how he fits into their system. Don’t get me wrong he may do well. Or he may be the next Alex Hleb.
With The Ox and Koscielny confirmed to miss the game today and Giroud rumoured to be tired I suspect we’ll line up something like this:
Jenks – Per – Verm – Gibbs
Abou – Art
Theo – Caz – Gerv
It’s an exciting line up no doubt about that. All eyes will be on Cazorla in the middle to see if he can pull the strings in the hustle of the Premier League. He showed a nice tendency to unleash through balls first time with either foot in the friendly against Koln last week. That could make a real weapon out of Gervinho and Walcott’s pace on either wing and I hope to see them give the full backs a nightmare first day.
Diaby’s had his best pre-season in a long time and we all pray for him to come through unscathed. He’d have added defensive responsibilities in this line up so I’d hope to see him cut out that tendency to hand over possession under little pressure.
What’s most noticeable about the team is how much it’s changed over the last couple of years. The only common starters with the team that lined up against Liverpool on the first day two years ago are Diaby and Vermaelen. For a man who’s always warned of the ‘technical risk’ of signing more than two players in a transfer window that’s a lot of changes made in a short period of time. I’m reassured though by the presence of some older heads in there who could help to keep things together through this transition, most notably Mikel Arteta. He was integral to our successful spells last season and he’ll be integral to help us through this tricky first day.
Right, well. I can’t sit here blathering on about it all morning. There are pints to be drunk and familiar red seats to be taken. There’s a bit more preview to come as I get the lowdown on today’s opponents from Sunderland blogger Simon from Roker Report. Check it out to see how they’re approaching the big day.
Other than that have a good Saturday. And, what else was there? Oh yeah…
…UP THE GUNNERS!!
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- Tomorrow’s line up should answer a few questions
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- Time for action as Arsenal hit by ‘friendly fire’
- Arteta bringing best out of those around him + Frimpong off?