By Brett Stein (@JerZGooner)
Before we delve into the start of the 12/13 campaign let’s jump into the Wayback Machine (link brought to you by me and the elderly Gooners at AARP) and take a peek at where we were one month into last season with some DVD-style commentary:
2011/2012 – Arsenal FC – Month 1
Newcastle (a): 0-0
(Wait, am I looking at last season or this season. I don’t like where this is going.)
Liverpool (h): 0-2
(I traveled to London for this game, I should have brought protection.)
Manchester United (a): 2-8
(For those who don’t remember, this was the weekend on the east coast that brought us Hurricane Irene. My wife and I were evacuated and we fled to Philadelphia to hunker down away from the beach. The next morning I went to a pub filled with United fans and soon wished I had lashed myself to our mailbox back home instead.)
Swansea (h): 1-0
(Hey! We won a league match! Hearty back pats all around!)
Blackburn Rovers (a): 3-4
(Please kindly return my back pats. It wasn’t all doom and gloom during this first month, we did narrowly win a couple group games against inferior competition in the Champions League. The months of October and November were quite decent as well but it was mostly the smoke & mirrors of Robin van Persie propping up our offense.)
For those of you lucky enough to have had your memory erased, I apologize for that rehash. Now, one month is a ridiculously small statistical sample size to make any real inferences, but I would challenge any Arsenal supporter out there to say that (to date) we have not played better this campaign compared to last. We’ve amassed three clean sheets to start the season against some decent competition and one can easily argue that we should have even won the first two of those efforts. This past Saturday we showed a newly promoted, and very upstart, Southampton side the door following a 6-1 drubbing. We are holding our own at the back line and now we’re starting to put shots into the net. Statistics aside, this team just looks a whole lot better than last September.
It doesn’t take a two-bit shrink to help us realize that we were scarred pretty badly by the mass exodus of top-talent over the last year or so. It is never a pleasure to watch two consecutive captains and strong supporting players walk out of the dressing room for greener pastures in two consecutive summers. Many people, me included, were devastated at the close of this summer’s transfer window deadline, as Monsieur Wenger did not make any last minute moves. Had we done enough? It didn’t feel like we did. The combination of Podolski and Giroud seemed like it could replace the production of van Persie. The addition of Santi Cazorla was a positive step for the midfield but how long would it take for him to adapt to the English game? These unknowns have been answered very quickly this season. We have gone from a one man show to an offense that plays as a cohesive, crisp-passing unit. The ball movement inside our opponent’s penalty area has been fantastic and something we have not seen in quite a few seasons. Cazorla and Arteta are managing a creative, aggressive distribution to not one but at times 3 or 4 effective players up front. Le Boss even recently said a lot about how this team enjoys playing together and there are positive vibes emanating from the players. All good signs as we approach the true test of our early fixture list: Montpellier (CL, away), Manchester City (away), Chelsea (home), and Olympiacos (CL, home) are four of our next 5 matches. In the next two weeks we’ll really know what this new side is made of.
It seems this summer Monsieur Wenger told the discontented players in the squad that they are either with us or against us. If you don’t want to be at the Emirates we will do our best to find a (profitable) destination for you. It was tough to see RvP and Song go, the same can be said about Cesc. But one cannot complain about where we are today. This summer was the before and after turning point, the club will move on without those who do not play for the badge and your brothers-in-arms. We brought in top quality players and still have more “new signings” to add in the coming months. Our side will be deeper than it has been in a very long time and well positioned to absorb any of the annual injuries we are loathe to incur. There is a lot of time still to pass for this campaign and one month a season does not make. But know this: on September 17, 2011 things were ominous, a year later Arsenal FC is optimistic.
Come On You Gunners!