Do you remember the time you are in a restaurant waiting eagerly for your order? Every time you hear the waiter bringing some food, deep down you feel it’s yours. For a brief moment there, you feel hopeful. When it’s not your order, you end up disappointed. But when the order finally arrives, you forget all the time you had to wait and all the moments of disappointments.
It has been 15 years since we last won the league. We have won 4 FA Cups since, but, we have to agree- the feeling of winning the league is a lot different and special. The league is like the main dish, the reason we crave to go to the restaurant.
We survived the transition from the Highbury to the Emirates and for that, I say a big ‘Thank You’ to Arsene Wenger. He somehow managed to keep us in the Champions League with the likes of Frimpong, Chamakh, Bendtner, Andre Santos and Gervinho. With the teams we were competing against, in a way, we were certainly overachieving.
With the arrival of Mesut Ozil, we knew for sure our days of excuses, struggles and hence the transition was over. We thought we were there in the race for the league title. For the past 5 years, we have been feeling hopeful that this particular season could be ours. However, the result has been a mere disappointment. The mighty Leicester took the league away from us, and even, unfortunately, Spurs have finished above us now. For the past couple of years, clearly, things were not working well for Arsene. We could just feel it in the air. A little late perhaps, but his wise decision to step down eventually came this year.
With this arrives the new savior – Unai Emery. He comes with a hopeful noise – the one that makes me feel the food we have been waiting for so long has finally arrived. I don’t know for sure, it’s just the noise from the footsteps. But I feel hopeful than ever.
The echo of hope has spread across the Arsenal Fans and others too. Last week, I was at a mobile phone store. I had a technical problem with my phone which I showed to the technician. Seeing the Arsenal cover, he, who was a general football fan, asked me if I was an Arsenal fan. I sure was, I replied. The next thing he said really captivated me – This season, Arsenal is the team to beat, man! Forget City, forget Liverpool.
It’s not the emotion that is talking right now. Rationally, we have a team we can truly rely on.
Last year, I was hopeless seeing Petr Cech in goal. He looked far from the Spiderman from the Czech Republic that we know about. However, in the pre-season, I saw him do the thing I was dying to see – see him confidently save penalties. It surely was just not luck or the technique. Our Spiderman seems to have gained his confidence back. If the plan A goes wrong somehow, we have plan B-ernd Leno. I think that was what we lacked in the past – flexibility, and competition in every area of the pitch.
Likewise, the ever-reliant defensive pair of Koscielny and Mustafi suddenly looked below average last season. Our boy, Bellerin, forgot that he had to cross the ball. The only stand-out in defense was Nacho Monreal who saved the day plenty of times last season. This preseason, however, I saw glimpses of the old-Bellerin – running down the wings, eagerly getting into vital areas and crossing frequently enough to cause the problem. The signing of Stephen Lichtsteiner, the Swiss mastermind, does not just provide us with more flexibility and options but a mentor for Bellerin too. Likewise, Papatathapolous only brings us more and vital experience. Lich and Papa have shown us through the years that football is played more with the mind than with the pace.
As I am thinking about our midfield now, the butterflies in my stomach flutter. I watched Lucas Torreira steal the ball from Cristiano Ronaldo and keep him shut in the Round of 16 of the World Cup. There were mere rumors linking him to Arsenal then. Watching him, I just thought he would be perfect for us and hope that he’d sign for us, and so he did. He with Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey would mean a nightmare for opposition attackers. However, I believe our strength lies in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Granit, Aaron, and Lucas would certainly and should give each other a healthy competition for the two central midfield roles. Emery has been spot on with his transfers. With that, I have to mention the sensation, Matteo Guendouzi. He has been the best player of the preseason for me. Matteo is one for the future as Emery hints, but for me, he already looks ready.
What happened with Mesut last month is unfortunate and unfair. But, he feels home at Arsenal and that is what’s important – for him and for the club. We often take Mesut’s role for granted. And I have felt him being inconsistent at times. But we know what Ozil can do on his day. So, Emery also has the challenge to bring the best out of the most important piece of the puzzle at Arsenal, Mesut Ozil. Seeing Jack leave was a personal disappointment. But seeing the club making such bold moves was again a hopeful sign that we are rebuilding.
Before Arsene left, he seems to have ensured we had plenty of world-class attackers in the form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. I am ecstatic seeing the ‘bromance’ build between Auba and Laca. This is the partnership to be feared this season, and potentially, our strongest and the stand-out weapon too. With Micki, his creative and attacking style is just what Arsenal is about. The other positive sign in our attack is Reiss Nelson, aged just 18, and has been developing extremely well. Also, our forgetting man Lucas Perez is getting another chance from Emery.
Everything around currently is giving me positives vibes. I bet all the Arsenal fans can relate with me. We might win the season? Well, it’s really tough. So, I don’t know. But there certainly is a different kind of fresh hope around the club. And I just love this feeling.
C’mon you Gunners!
Article by – Bibidh Subedi