Things continue to take shape ahead of the new season with the return, yesterday, of Arsenal’s World Cup winning Germans.
At first nobody knew how close they were, then the Instagram servers started going bonkers and everyone looked up, sniffed the air and said ‘Poldi?’. He was followed by Per and Mesut, and soon everyone was Instagramming and Selfie-ing everyone else, and normality returned, at last, to the training ground.
Each player will now undergo a specifically tailored training regime to get them fit for the new season, and the good thing about that is that the man who was tasked with keeping them fit throughout the summer is the man who has put those plans in place now. I doubt anyone knows how the World Cup affected them better than Shad Forsythe.
He’ll know what little aches, niggles and strains they carried from the end of last season to Brazil, and also exactly what they need to get them into shape for this new campaign. Quite how quickly they’ll be available is anybody’s guess right now. It might depend on circumstances and need. Our central defensive issues might force Per back more quickly than Ozil or Podolski, for whom we have plenty of cover, but I think we can trust they’re in good hands.
Speaking of the squad, Wojciech Szczesny has been talking up the overall quality of it, saying:
Except for Thomas Vermaelen, we’ve not lost any key players. Even if someone did leave on a free, we’ve managed to replace them with good players. As I said, we’re looking stronger and stronger and we’re very happy with that.
I think you might have called Sagna a key player, in fairness, especially given his versatility, but I know what he means. Even if we are short a central defender, the squad does feel stronger. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, you can improve not just by buying new players, but allowing for the ones you have to develop and contribute more.
Even Szczesny, for example: he’s now 24, still very young for a goalkeeper but he’s played 153 games for the club and is maturing into the top quality goalkeeper we’ve needed for years. The arrival of David Ospina will certainly keep him on his toes, but the number 1 position is his to lose, and he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would give it up without a fight.
I wonder too if there was some method to the manager’s decision to play Fabianski in the FA Cup final in May. Not just because he felt like he’d deserved the place because of his performances in every round but, in a micro-managing way, it would keep Szczesny on his toes and hungry to be part of that kind of success in the future. I’m sure he enjoyed the FA Cup final, but nowhere near as much as he would have if he played.
This season too, you’d like to see further progression from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and, of course, Jack Wilshere about whom much has been written this summer. If those players can continue their upward trajectory, then that too makes us stronger. When you add the new signings, who tick so many of the boxes we required, then it’s no wonder there’s an air of optimism around the place.
For more about Wilshere and the current set-up of the Arsenal midfield, check out this week’s Tactics Column in which Anam takes a look at where we are and how we might change things going forward.
Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla has once again reaffirmed his commitment to the club for the upcoming season. The stories, and whispers, about his future haven’t fully died off, but he seemed pretty unequivocal when talking about it after the 3-0 win over Man City on Sunday:
I’ve seen the links in the papers, but nobody has told me anything personally and the only things I know are from the papers, so I don’t know anything. I’m only focused on training here and preparing well playing with Arsenal. It’s paper talk.
I’m well, I have the confidence of everybody, the support of the fans and we hope to have a good season.
Although he didn’t quite hit the heights of his first season second time around, the fact that he’s made a major contribution to our last two games should highlight how important he can be for us. A goal in the cup final, a goal in the Community Shield, and he’s got the ability and creativity to make a real impact. With Ozil sidelined for a while, and so much football to play throughout the season, it’d be madness to even consider letting him go this summer.
Of course there’s plenty of competition for places at the top end of the pitch, especially with Podolski back, Joel Campbell hoping to make his mark, Theo on his way back shortly, and Alexis capable of playing off either flank, so James and I try and make some sense of that in this week’s Arsecast Extra.
If you haven’t already listened, you should get your ears around it today.
Finally this morning, in non-Arsenal related news, I feel quite affected by the death of Robin Williams. Mork and Mindy was my first real taste of American comedy, learning quickly that Williams was a comedian first and an actor second was kind of an eye-opener.
He made me want to be funny. I’m still trying. And it shows once again that fame and fortune are no protection from the demons.
This interview with Robin on the Marc Maron podcast is a fantastic listen, not just in hindsight. RIP.
News throughout the day in the usual place, more here tomorrow. Have a good one.