2019-20: Erasing Bad Memories?

Baku doesn’t seem that long ago. Nor the preceding weeks which saw us throw away a top four finish in Unai Emery’s first season in charge.

However, a turbulent summer is over and the new season is upon us. Meet the new squad; is it the same as the old squad? I hope not.

In a month, the summer changed from the brink of a disaster to far better than we expected.

We lost Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, and Danny Welbeck; probably in that order of importance.

Like Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny was a stalwart of the later Wenger period. Unlike Ramsey, the centre-back displayed an overblown sense of his importance. He got his way in leaving but to the detriment of his bank balance, Arsenal received a fee.

Alex Iwobi and Carl Jenkinson joined Ramsey in giving him a lesson in exiting with dignity. And with genuine passion for Arsenal Football Club.

Replacing them is a sign of the new era we face. Willy Saliba, 19 and untested, is a signing for the future at a price which invites financial profit if he proves as good as the club thinks.

It’s harder to see Nicolas Pepe turning that big a profit. £72m is a big fee; he’s going to need to be the greatest showman since Michael Crawford ruled the West End.

Pepe is the headline act but the emerging youngsters are vital to the club. The likes of Willock and Nelson will feature more frequently than Burton, Saka and Medley. Our hopes don’t rest on the kids but they offer more depth than we previously had.

They are the main reason Alex Iwobi was released, beyond 38-million smackers, is their ability and potential. Rarely have we seen such a promising crop of youngsters come through at once? The mid-80s?

Tighten Up

The defensive shambles of last season continued for a large portion of the preseason. Ten-man Real Madrid threatened to spank us as soon as Sokratis received his red card.

The same disarray engulfed us in the second half at Camp Nou. Yet the opening forty-five minutes saw us perform in a disciplined manner. The defence and midfield worked in tandem; god knows what happened at half-time but that display is the benchmark.

David Luiz is seen as the answer. I’m still not able to get past the Sideshow Bob whose calamities stick in my mind using Mustafi glue. Hopefully, he won’t be the heir of Silvestre and Squillaci; new Arsenal is buying solid older players. For the moment…

Kieran Tierney is out for 4-6 weeks but his reputation even as a young player is such that I already have high hopes he will play a big part in settling us down.

Hector Bellerin’s return at a similar time will add potency to our attack. Emery likes his full-backs to bomb on. We were undone by the lack of defensive nous from other players in these situations.

This is a key area for Emery on the training ground. Our naivety in succumbing to counter-attacks was disheartening; we learned nothing as the season progressed. That’s unacceptable for professionals and isn’t just down to one centre-back.

It’s about footballing intelligence and coaching ability. If he can’t cure this ill, questions will rightly be asked of Unai.

Like a number of players, he has a point to prove. Last year was tough on many levels, particularly the change at the senior levels. Now, more settled behind the scenes, is the time for Unai to deliver.

He’s been backed in the market to a greater extent that we thought probable. It’s on his shoulders now.

Targets for the Season

But what is ‘it’? What are realistic targets for us?

Primarily, a top four finish. The club’s finances dictate we need to achieve that for next summer. Robbing Peter to pay Paul as we did this year isn’t a sustainable philosophy; only a return to the Champions League can. That’s the unpalatable reality.

We’ve gradually improved in the Europa League. Losing semi-finalists, losing finalists; one step further would go some way to erasing Baku from my mind, at least.

Of the ‘existing’ players in the squad, Lucas Torreira is the one who I hope/expect to reach the next level. The Uruguayan had a ‘bedding in’ season last year but being the first name in the midfield on the teamsheet is surely his target?

In short, usurping Granit Xhaka from team. The Swiss on form is a great link player. However, more often than not, he seemed ponderous; was he overrun by the defensive aspect of the game?

Certainly, when I’ve seen him for Switzerland he seems more confident and attack-minded. Will that improve at club level if we tighten up our play?

One thing which helps is an identity, a style of playing. In preseason plus the signing of Pepe, we are looking at playing with pace, using the full width of the pitch. If we can get a midfielder to join attacks, we might score even more goals.

I’m not sure Ceballos fulfils that role. Like Pepe, his YouTube reel looks good; not many goals though.

And goals we need. New contracts for Auba and Laca is probably the best business of the summer. We, however, need to keep them injury-free; Eddie Nketiah’s loan to Leeds robs us of wafer-thin depth in the squad. It’s the only area we look genuinely light.

Until the defence develops some backbone, we won’t be resting easy with one-goal leads.

Same old Arsenal? We’ll see which Arsenal we get very soon now.

‘Til Tomorrow.

11 thoughts on “2019-20: Erasing Bad Memories?

  1. freddo says:

    boom, or whatever!
    Are there any circumstances in which Luiz and Xhaka would play in the same team? You only need one quarterback. Looks like Xhaka is heading for a long spell on the bench.

  2. Ryan Shefras says:

    Nearly 🙁
    You could have let me – it is my birthday for 10 more minutes!

  3. jonnygunner says:

    YW…wtf is going on?…your singular kidney is messing you up mate.

  4. YW says:

    Why? Well, aside from me being off the booze at the moment…

  5. Ryan Shefras says:

    YW,

    Thanks! A good post as always Yogi.
    Going forward all I can say is that I’m far less apathetic than I have felt towards Arsenal in years. Fingers crossed for a good start tomorrow

  6. Blue Yonder says:

    I’m looking forward to this season with quiet optimism. I did last year but that was based solely on a new coach. This season we have new blood in and some old blood out and Emery has a season under his belt and the changes he (presumably) wanted.
    As such, he must regain CL football. If not…

  7. Dukey says:

    Hang on is this the 11th August post on the 10th August?

    New season just like the last. Pool and city winning with ease and spurs getting out of jail in the last 10 minutes.

    Looks like ozil and kolasinac could be off. Seems a gang war has broken out! Can’t see their wives sitting around watching that.

  8. Bojangles says:

    It’s nice to come to a civilised blog. Been visiting another, which will remain nameless, and it’s like a warzone, everyone sniping at everyone else along with so much negativity.

    The guy’s put on a dogged show against NU, if uninspiring but it’s always good to get three points away from home with the clean sheet added. The young guns acquitted themselves well. Auba became Arsenal’s highest scorer in first 50 games. As much as I hate to say it Xhaka and Michi had a couple of good moments. M-N had a better game too, showed great anticipation to intercept the pass, race away and put in a good cross which Auba controlled brilliantly, then low lobbed the keeper to score the only goal of the game.

    I’m looking forward to when the new signings are bedded in and the injured players return. Think we can give 3rd-4th a shake this year.

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