Good morning from an overcast Brixton.
We’re now just a week out from the start of the new Premier League season and it’s looking very likely that we won’t add further signings to the squad before we take on newly-promoted Brentford.
Ideally, we’d have sorted a backup keeper and another option at number 10 (I hear that Messi lad is on the market), but we seem to be dilly-dallying on both fronts as the struggle to offload fringe players continues.
When you take into account the injuries to Gabriel and Thomas Partey, Gabriel Martinelli still being on international duty, Bukayo Saka only just returning to training and a good chunk of our squad not knowing where they’ll be playing come September, it’s clearly not ideal preparation for upcoming games with a buoyant promoted side, Chelsea and Manchester City.
All the same, I’m excited about this season. Reservations about the state of our squad are offset by the prospect of proper matchdays at the Emirates.
I can’t wait to sit with my folks in our regular seats in the North Bank Upper, to see familiar faces around us, to hear the belligerent moaning of the bloke four rows in front, to be there in the flesh to watch us fall behind inside five minutes thanks to an unforgivably bad attempt to play out from the back, to lament our inexorable decline under Stan Kroenke while sipping on a Tolly pint.
Yes, the pre-season training for another year of gallows humour has begun in earnest…
Look, the truth is, as Tim Stillman points out in his latest column, we didn’t finish that far off the top four last season. Despite being abject for a solid four months we were only six points shy of Chelsea. If we can stop the brain farts and score some goals, getting back into Europe should be a doddle.
Also, I’m banking on a few of the sides who finished above us embarking on a spiral of negativity. Having cast an eye over their respective summer business, I’m pretty confident.
Aside from spending £105 million on Jack Grealish, the only signing Pep Guardiola has made so far is 35-year-old keeper Scott Carson. And he’s already spent two years at the club on loan! When you consider they’ve lost Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia to Barcelona and the fact that Arsenal have pinched their set piece guru (he’s been working wonders so far), it’s clear that Pep has his work cut out this year. I reckon we can shave at least five points off the 25 points that separated us from them last season.
He might have signed a four-year contract extension but I maintain that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a fraud and will be found out soon enough. Mikel just needs to call Unai Emery for a chinwag. Also, having gone unbeaten away from home last season, United can only really get worse on that front. You can’t argue with science. Or with Danny Mills who says he’s not sure “how robust” World Cup winner Raphael Varane will be week in, week out. Good point Danny. They’ve also spaffed £76.5 million on Jadon Sancho, a player who couldn’t get in a Southgate England team and can’t take penalties. You can see why Ed Woodward legged it.
No side that lost twice to Arsenal last season can rightfully claim to be European champions. What an absolute shambles. Hopefully, they’re still drunk on Pep’s tears to care too much about the start of the new season. The signs are there; Tuchel played Danny Drinkwater in midfield in last weekend’s friendly at the Emirates. In terms of outgoings, they’ve sold Victor Moses (a coup for Spartak Moscow following a nine-year stint at the Bridge) and goal machine Olivier Giroud. I’ve heard nothing to suggest they’re planning to replace the HFB’s attacking threat, so you fear the worst for them.
You know a club’s cycle of success is coming to an end when they have to rely on their keeper for goals. Klopp seems to be leaning into the situation by recalling Loris Karius from a loan spell at Union Berlin so he can deploy Alisson more regularly as a striker. Given Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are off to the AFCON in January, the Brazilian is going to be under a lot of pressure. The Reds’ biggest issue last season was bad knees; Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk both missed significant chunks of the campaign with injury which is why they’ve spent £36 million on centre-back Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig. I’m waiting to hear what Danny Mills has to say before passing judgment.
The Foxes have pulled off some enviable transfers in recent windows and this summer looks no different; Ryan Bertrand has joined on a free from Southampton. Wahey! On a more serious note, Patson Daka – who sounds like a practical family saloon car – is apparently quite good and Boubakary Somare sounds like a magician even if he isn’t one. Up until this week, I’d have said Leicester were in a good place but with Wesley Fofana suffering a horrible injury and James Maddison distraught that Arsenal won’t buy him, cracks are appearing. I also reckon this might be the year that Jamie Vardy’s fizzy drink addiction catches up with him.
I will give each of you £50 if West Ham finishes above Arsenal for a second successive season.
Their captain is on strike. LOL. They’ve recruited a manager who was 57th on Daniel Levy’s hit list, a goalkeeper who is a terrible rapper and a winger who looks like he’s come straight out of the 1978 World Cup Panini album. Let’s not forget they’ve also got to play in a competition where every other side looks like a typo. I don’t think Sp*rs have been in this much disarray since Sol Campbell binned them off 20 years ago. Honestly, if Arsenal don’t finish above them this season, we should just shut down the club and bulldoze the Emirates.
We’re on our way up. Trust me.
Right, before I go, let me point you in the direction of the latest Arsecast. Elliot Smith @YankeeGunner) from the Arsenal Vision podcast and Lewis Ambrose (@LGAmbrose), our very own tactics maestro, take on the ‘statement’ format which those of you with Patreon will be familiar with.
If Messi joins, we’ll cover it on Arseblog News.
Blogs will back tomorrow. Until next time…