Eyes facing forward

Posted by Sam Limbert

Once again, we’re about to put ourselves through another nine months of emotional highs and lows, potential disappointment and possible elation. We all know being a football fan brings difficult times, but that still hasn’t stopped me being really excited for the season to start tomorrow. We’ve already suffered one disappointment before the season has even started, so let’s be positive and look forward.

I’ll only mention Robin van Persie once in this blog, as his name has helped fill so many column inches in the media over the last week. The saga has ended, so we can stop worrying about what might happen, and just deal with it.

Thomas Vermaelen has been confirmed as the new club captain with Mikel Arteta as the vice-captain. Personally, I’m really pleased with both appointments. I still think there are some questions marks to as whether Vermaelen is guaranteed a starting place with Koscielny and the improving Mertesacker in the squad, but the Belgian undoubtedly has the respect of the squad, has captain experience with Ajax and Belgium, and he signed a new contract last season with no fuss. We’ve seen loyal players backtrack quickly before, but we can only be encouraged by Vermaelen’s desire to play for the club. Mikel Arteta is another respected player at the club, and has shown the value of signing some more experienced players.

Wenger confirmed the two appointments in this morning’s press conference, where he also hinted that Alex Song might leave the club. I think a lot of fans would be more disappointed to see Song go than that other big name that left this summer (Manuel Almunia moved to Watford!). Song does have time left on his contract, so if sold, we can make sure we get a good fee. He’s an excellent player, and one that’s been important to the team in the last few seasons, but holding midfield is a position we can improve upon. It remains to be seen if we do sign a better player if he’s sold, but we have plenty of central midfielders in the squad so I can see why Wenger is considering letting Song leave.

Sunderland come to the Emirates tomorrow, and they’ll provide a good first test for the squad. Due to our slightly strange pre-season schedule, a lot of players who featured in the Euros and joined the club this summer have had little game time to gel with the rest of the squad. We won’t see Arsenal at their fluid best tomorrow, although hopefully they’ll do enough to win the match. Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud are likely to start now the deed has been done with Manchester United, and Santi Cazorla might get a chance if he’s deemed ok after a midweek trip to Puerto Rico. Koscielny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are out, and there is a slight doubt over Theo Walcott, however the strength of the squad at the moment means their absence shouldn’t cause too many problems. Gervinho has arguably been our best player in pre-season, so deserves a chance to start the season in the first XI.

Sunderland haven’t signed many players, but Martin O’Neill will make sure they’re organised. He started well as the Sunderland manager last season before they tailed off, but he’s experienced enough to do well in this campaign. My mind goes back to when he was the Aston Villa manager when they were the first visitors to the Emirates on the opening day of the 2006-07 season, and we scraped a 1-1 draw through a Gilberto goal. I suspect we might see a similar game tomorrow, but I’ll back Arsenal to do enough to win.

We can never quite know what will happen during the season, so let’s start positively, get a win on the board and focus on what happens on the pitch, rather than off it.

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