A burst of new-season optimism

Posted by Sam Limbert

Whatever has gone beforehand in the summer before the new football season, I always get a random burst of optimism just before it starts. To many, the situation at Arsenal Football Club seems to be anywhere on the scale of OK to apocalyptic. Wherever your opinions fall on that scale, if they can't be improved by the mere presence of opening day, then you've enjoyed the lack of club football too much this summer.

I'll be like a kid at Christmas on Saturday morning when Aston Villa visit the Emirates. Yes, there won't be that new train set, doll house, magic wand or game console to see for the first time with nothing "new" to look forward to, but Christmas can be fun without new toys. The new season can still be fun without new signings. Whatever age you are, it's difficult to lose the child-like enthusiasm and excitement for the new season. The Arsenal summer of nothing might have left some fans feeling slightly disillusioned by their club, but now is the time to try and be hopeful again.

-Giroud: Walcott better out wide

If you can't be optimistic now as a fan, when can you be? Arsenal have some form from last season, and with everyone on the same number of points, the new season represents a level playing field. Well, that last point might not be strictly true given other sides have used the summer to strengthen their squads rather than thin them, but no matter, I will give you some reasons for Arsenal fans to be optimistic going into 2013-14.

The good run of spring form: Had Arsenal not beaten Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena last season, it's painful to think about how bad this summer could have been. Yes, it's not been great, but it could have been so much worse had that impressive win not sparked a run of 11 unbeaten games. While Tottenham did fall away, they didn't do so without a strong fight, so Arsenal had to grind out results to stay ahead of them. The Gunners did that and have to continue it into the new campaign.

Team spirit: From the outside, this appears to be the most together group of players Arsenal have had in a long time. Even though there have been a lot of departures, there have been no major ones to majorly derail the squad. The players were strengthened by the way they toughed out wins last season, and that spirit will have grown during the preseason tour of Asia. With no major international tournaments, the majority of the squad have spent plenty of time together the past few weeks and should be ready for the important run of fixtures early in the season. You can't help but think a new addition or three would improve morale even further, though.

Olivier Giroud: OK, Arsenal haven't signed a striker yet, but they do have a frontman who has found the net plenty of times in pre-season. The likes of the Indonesian Dream Team and Vietnam national team might not be Premier League class, but it always helps a striker if he is finding the net. Giroud has taken the confidence on from those early games, and showed it when lobbing Joe Hart in Helsinki last weekend. Realistically, he's still not quite comparable to the best forwards in the league, but all the signs are good that the Frenchman will build on a solid first season to have a stellar second one.

Jack Wilshere: If (a massive IF) he can stay fit, Arsenal fans will never tire of watching a player with his commitment, drive and quality. Gooners aren't placing too much pressure on him because of the injury problems, and the emergence of Aaron Ramsey enables Wenger to be more cautious when using his prized young midfielder, but Wilshere has the potential to one day be the Premier League player of the season. That might not happen this year. but he's someone fans should be very grateful to have in red and white.

The back four: The defence that got Arsenal back into the Champions League last season is the best Arsenal back four I've seen since the Invincibles in 2004. Barcary Sagna has rediscovered some form at right back, the Per Mertesacker-Laurent Koscielny partnership just works and Kieran Gibbs has quietly improved. One injury and Arsenal's defence is in real trouble, but the first-choice four are up there with the best in the division if the end of last season is anything to go by.

So it isn't all quite doom and gloom for Arsenal. It could be by 5 p.m. on Saturday should they limp to a draw or defeat against Villa, but for now we can have some new-season hope. It's felt like a ridiculously long summer, so I can't wait for the Arsenal to return.


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