Because Gabon didn’t qualify for Russia.
While Belgium and England did qualify and France played seven games and won it.
Unai Emery has taken over a squad whose norm in this decade was to qualify for the Champions League and get knocked out in the Round of 16.
Then Arsenal slipped down into the Europa League. But they could not even win that trophy.
So the club has signed a batch of players who will play a different way. With more collective intensity and desire to win the ball back.
Emery’s philosophy is is shape/pressing/shape.
A collective game-plan where attacking starts when we have the ball and attacking continues as soon as we lose the ball.
What is pressing? It’s attacking when we don’t have the ball.
So watching Arsenal will now be a bit like watching Klopperpool.
Last night I re-watched a Klopp game.
Twice a year I like to watch highlights from the most thrilling football match of the last five years.
The second leg of Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund at Anfield.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the first goal, slicing into the box to produce a sensational right-foot shot that flew high inside the near post, giving Mignolet no chance. A very unusual strike that most footballers would not attempt. If you saw that goal and hadn’t already realised what a special talent Auba is, you did then.
He’s very fast and accurate, an athletic predator who is also reliable.
This Premier League season? It could be the most competitive ever.
I don’t think Man City will run away with the title again.
And I’m convinced that Unai Emery can motivate Arsenal for every match. Having said that, the rebuilding process will take three years.
In 1996 Wenger inherited the finest back five in Europe and Ray Parlour, so he had a lot to build on. By contrast, Emery has inherited Aubameyang, some good pros and a talented kid called Maitland-Niles.
My hunch? Auba will score goals. His form and fitness will be crucial in this campaign.
And all his goals will valuable because Arsenal will keep clean sheets again.
The first three games are at home to Manchester City on Sunday August 12th and away to Chelsea on Saturday 18th and at home to West Ham on Saturday 25th.
I don’t expect Emery to win all three games. And neither do you. The EPL is a 38-match marathon with multiple bumps along the way.
What is my mantra every July? Pre-season is for managers.
Repeat after me: Pre-season is for managers who train and play friendly matches and the friendlies are part of the training.
Last week my gambling greengrocer said one of his customers is Sex Pistol Paul Cook, “a really nice bloke.”
Today John said, “Man City will win the league again.”
“Pep Guardiola, best manager in the world!”
John also boasted about his deep education.
“I’ve studied biology, sociology and triganology.”
“Triggernology – gang crime.”
Research showed that I did NOT blog that pulsating contest, just posted this looking forward: