The new season is just a couple of weeks away, and even in these gloomy times for Gooners, here are the few glimmers of hope I’m expecting to lighten the bleak Arsenal horizon, writes Tim Palmer.
However bad things are on the pitch, at least we’ll look stylish as we slide further into mediocrity. The new Adidas kits are a huge improvement on the unfortunate outfits of the Puma years (a deal that might have been worth it had it yielded the promised on-field benefits). And in harking back to the almost-glory years of the mid-90s, the new strip is a welcome reminder of the days when the club stood for something – and success wasn’t dependent on the genius of Arsene Wenger.
Welcome to Project Youth 2.0. This time around it’s more by necessity than design, but it looks like we’ll be seeing plenty of the club’s young talent in the next 10 months. I don’t see anyone rising to Cesc-like heights (or anyone who’ll provide as many laughs as Nicklas Bendtner), but if a couple of the crop make significant strides, that will at least give us something to cheer. It’s impossible to say who’s most likely to make the breakthrough, but I’d love to see AMN get the chance to stake a claim to a spot in central midfield (dribbling, tackling and laughing at Spuds are all qualities we’ve been lacking). Joe Willock looks like he’s got the right attitude and if Reiss Nelson can provide some end product from wide, that will plug one of our biggest weaknesses of last season.
The men behind the kids
The promotion of Freddie Ljungberg suggests the hierarchy has realised that we haven’t been getting the most from our young players, both on the pitch and in transfer revenue. And while many of us have doubts about Unai Emery – what he stands for, what he does, what he puts in his hair – I hope most Arsenal fans have nothing but respect for the man behind the academy. Along with Freddie, Per Mertesacker is the closest thing to a true Arsenal hero still at the club. He’s a dedicated long-term servant, thoroughly decent bloke, and in that cup final against Chelsea gave one of the most memorable, heroic performances of the Emirates era.
And hope for hope’s sake…
This may be a sign of desperation, but we are in a period of transition, which means that things could improve. It’s been a rough road so far, but there are positives. The executive jobs have been filled (not by the first choices, but still), and if our transfer dealings have been generally shambolic at least we’ve beaten Spurs to a couple of signings (If Ornstein says so, it must be true). Both those signings look like sensible business for an ambitious club with a limited budget. Ceballos is a fee-free Ramsey replacement (buying us 12 months earning time).
And William Saliba is a classic example of the only policy that’s realistically going to improve our fortunes over the next three to five seasons – buy ‘em young and sell ‘em dear, even if he isn’t going to available to help plug the gaps in our leaky back line for another 12 months.