Is it that time already? Some are still playing for their countries in the Copa America. Down Chile way when they aren’t advancing new techniques for rectal probes, there is a bit of football being played with Alexis among the hosts XI to face Peru on Monday night. The rest of the squad will be returning to pre-season training just as he clocks off with the first friendly only three weeks away.
By which time, the second qualifying round of the European club tournaments will already be well under way. Let that sink in for a minute. Some teams will have already played three competitive match as Arsenal stretch their hamstrings for the first time, in Singapore.
And that list includes opening day opponents, West Ham United who are suddenly wondering if scraping into the Europa League via the Fair Play Table is such a good idea. Especially if they lose.
Whether that means they will be any sharper than normal is debatable. Their opponents don’t seem to be any tougher than anyone they would have ordinarily expected to face in pre-season but these are competitive matches which you would think, accrues some advantage.
Danny Welbeck thinks that won’t matter. Arsenal have the momentum and with Chelsea at Wembley in the Community Shield part of the pre-season, they won’t be dull in the competitive sense. Welbeck believes that the champions led the way but Arsenal aren’t that far behind,
At the start of the season we weren’t getting as many points as we should have and that’s obviously held us back further down the line. We don’t want to set our aims low, we want to be the best we can be. After the run we went on, it shows that we can handle it in the Premier League and keep racking up wins and three points after three points
That’s something we want to do and I think that’s something we can look to do again next season. We’re determined to keep on improving and are determined to come back stronger next season
It’s a new thing for Danny but we’re old hands with false dawns. Remember the Fourth Place Trophy being cast aside because we were Calendar Year Champions? There are grounds for optimism in the post-Christmas form but warnings as well. The dip in form ahead of the cup final was a warning not to take the run of 19 wins out of 26 for granted. At that point second place was still within Arsenal’s grasp but the stutter killed that off.
There’s no guarantee that winning the Community Shield will continue the post-Christmas run. Look how comfortably City beaten last season. The victory didn’t translate into Premier League points. Perhaps it had the opposite effect and imbued a false confidence in the players? Who knows but the reality was that it didn’t provide the platform for squad to maximise the opportunity that a relatively straightforward fixture list should have presented.
Adding to the squad, for improvement or competition, remains a priority in making the aspirations a reality. Much is being made of the relaxation of FFP, about how the monetary advantage has skewed the playing field. Post-war Arsenal has always been on the back foot financially compared to others yet still delivered titles and challenges.
The difference now is that there are at least two other clubs who can win the league with United looking to invest in their squad to build on last seasons’ fourth place. The manager has a group of players that could also improve on last year, it’s simply finding the consistency. For six letters, ‘simply’ is a big word.