24 September 2021

A Leviathan Rises From the Deep...

Three wins from three. Five goals scored from five different scorers. At a risk of sounding melodramatic, there is absolutely no other conclusion to draw other than the Arsenal, the mighty, mighty Arsenal, are back. Okay, so that was a touch more than melodramatic, but, still, it's hard to resist letting just a touch of optimism creep in after such a dire start to this campaign and after such gloomy campaigns prior. Consecutive 8th-place finishes are nothing to write home about, and it's perhaps little surprise that yours truly had stopped writing. This, my friends, is my first post since April 2019—approaching 30 months, give or take. I wonder if I'm as bad as this now as I was back then. Time will tell. Enough about me. It's my least-favorite subject. Back to the action on the pitch and, well, adjacent to it.

To be clear, one should hardly draw too many conclusions from eking past Norwich, already penciled in for relegation, and Burnley, although it is always satisfying to provide Sean Dyche an opporunity to complain, not that he's so shy as to await the invitation. Even easing past West Brom and AFC Wimbledon in the League Cup doesn't put much of a spring in our step. Still, after losing our first three Prem matches by a combined scoreline of 10-1, pitchforks were being sharpened, tar was being warmed, and feathers were being plucked. There was open talk of ousting Arteta and bringing in someone like Antonio Conte (as if he'd sign up for a rebuild without demanding a massive investment in new players).

Speaking of massive investments, we've done a fair impression of the Chelsea-Man City-Man U triumvirate by spending some £135m (colloquially known as a ha'Peppy) to bring in Ben White, Martin Ødegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga, and Nuno Tavares. Add in injuries to key players such as Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhães, and Ben White; as well as intelligence deficiencies such as to Granit Xhaka (red card suspension, failure to get vaccinated and then success with getting infected with covid). It would be quite the feat to integrate so many new players into the squad at the best of times. Throw up those injury obstacles, and a tough task just gets tougher.

Still, the fuzzy outlines of a vision are starting to look like they might be thinking about imitating something tha resembles an artist's rendering of a plan. It's not overly generous to suggest that our abysmal start was at least somewhat attributable to perfect storm of integrating new players, injuries and illness, and two of the four toughest fixtures of the year to start things off. To have gotten those out of the way early one when we were out of sorts anyway may turn out to be a blessing of sorts, followed by three relatively easy fixtures (including AFC Wimbledon). 

Of course, the next real test comes Sunday when Tottenham, who are on a trajectory roughly opposite ours, pay a visit. After a "strong" start that saw them top of the table after three jammy wins, they've stumbled through a spanking at Selhurst Park, barely earned a draw against Rennes in the Europa Conference League, got swatted away at home by Chelsea, and needed penalties to get past Wolves in the League Cup. They've had to fight through their own spate of injuries, but I won't even comment on the form of Harry Kane for fear of jinxing it. Hell, even having typed that sentence unsettles me. Well, we'll have to take a closer look at that in the match preview, due out Saturday.

Right. It's good to be back. I can't promise that I can return to daily posts. I'm a lazy, lazy man. Still, there's enough optimism around the season that I feel like saddling up and seeing what I can come up with. 'Til next time.


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