Sunday, December 10, 2023

A new season begins – excitement and expectation are high

Morning folks. Well, here we go again!

The new season is upon us and we begin our campaign against Nottingham Forest. On paper, you couldn’t ask for a better start. At home on the opening day for the first time in five years, against a lower/mid-table side – albeit one that beat us towards the end of last season. Something that Mikel Arteta will no doubt have reminded his players of in the preparation for this one.

On paper doesn’t always mean much in football. On pitch can be random and unexpected, so it will be interesting to see what team Mikel Arteta picks today. My suspicion is that it won’t be too different from the Community Shield line-up. Oleksandr Zinchenko is back in training but having not played a minute in pre-season it would be odd to see him start, although not entirely surprising. If not, surely Jurrien Timber continues at left-back.

Up front, it could be Kai Havertz again. It could be Leandro Trossard as a false 9, or even Eddie Nketiah. I guess it might depend on how Arteta views the Forest rearguard and the best way to try and break them down. Beyond that, I think it picks itself based on the last game unless Arteta springs a surprise (or two), and while the manager is going to have to use his squad to the fullest extent possible, that’s something that we’ll see over the course of the season – perhaps not so much on the opening day.

Having said that, this might be a game of much more than 90 minutes because of the new rules, and it was interesting to hear Arteta speak of players as ‘finishers’ in his press conference yesterday. Not in the sense of converting chances in front of goal, but guys who come on to change the momentum of a game when you need them to. Sometimes that might be about finding a way to equalise or to win, sometimes it might be about securing a lead and hanging on. With the five subs rule now in full effect and the potential for games to routinely last 100 minutes or more, the decisions managers make from the sideline will be even more important.

Another aspect of this new season is increased expectation. After what we did last time, and with the investment in the squad this summer, we’re no longer a kind of dark horse. We surprised people last season, that won’t be the case this time around. This Arsenal team is very much in the spotlight now, and that’s something the manager and his players have to cope with.

Arteta said when asked if it pressure or excitement:

I think it’s excitement. This is where we want to be. We are building a team that has the belief and the quality to be fighting for those places. The competition this year is going to be even harder than last year. You see a lot of teams with the movements they’ve made and you have to expect something different of them. So we’re going to have to be much better this year than last year, and this is what we’re preparing to do.

Let’s hope we see that play out over the course of the campaign, starting today. Man City won last night, not unexpectedly, but it’s a first shot across the bows and we have to respond in kind. It felt like we really built momentum last season because of how we started, so let’s go again – there’s a title to win and every point is precious.

For your listening pleasure, we have a preview podcast over on Patreon right now, and we’ll have all the usual match day stuff for you too. Live blog coverage of the game, plus a report, goal clips, player ratings, reaction and more over on Arseblog News.

Also, a final reminder for season ticket holders, there have been changes to the system which require your attention – just in case you haven’t seen it already, details are here.

Right, that’s your lot. Catch you a bit later on for the game. Come on you reds!

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