The season is once upon us again and while we debate our chances of any glory this season through our summer signings it’s only what we do on the pitch that counts. This game needs no introduction after last seasons colossus collapse at St. James park that highlighted our defensive frailties which quite frankly are still there.  Arsenal had the chance to go within two points of Man Utd and equal their goal differences after a loss to Wolves and although the draw didn’t put us in a bad position to mount a title challenge many fans, and players, saw that game as the catalyst in the demise of our season.

Do stats back us up?

Since the 05/06 season we’ve played Newcastle 13 times (10PL); winning 7, drawing 4 and losing just 2. In those games we scored 26 goals against their 9 with RVP (5) an TW (3) our most frequent scorers. Having said that Arsenal haven’t won an away PL game in the last 4 games (Drawing to Spurs/Fulham & Losing to Bolton/Stoke with RVP scoring in all 9 of them, if you fancy a bet he’s your man! Newcastle also attempted 19 shots at home v Arsenal, more than in any of their other PL games. This baffles me somewhat, Newcastle don’t have the most impressive attacking force in the Premier League so do we play more open against them? Given the fact Diaby got sent off wouldn’t have helped as all know on a good day Diaby can rule the midfield. Having a player sent off in both our PL fixtures last season, picking up 1 point, we really need to look at keep all 11 men on the field, especially if we end up losing Cesc & Nasri.

Ok, ok. So we all want some defensive signings. And we have done for quite some time. Can anyone remember the last time you watched Arsenal and didn’t have your heart jump into your mouth every time the opposition put in a cross, or their keeper launches a long-ball over the top? Me neither. Lots of us fans were hoping that our manager, Monsieur Wenger, might finally address these issues in the close-season. Wenger had the appearance of a man who had seen his life’s work burn to the ground toward the end of last season. At the risk of sounding dramatic, that may well have been the case. However, it may have been worth it if our famously-stubborn manager had decided to adapt his strategy of purist football. It was finally time to accept that all beautiful things in life have an ugly side.

Disappointing summer

Fast forward several months and yesterday the Club announced the signing of Southampton youth product Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It is easy to be negative given the summer us Arsenal fans have had to endure. It started out with optimism, dare I say it, even excitement. I thought that Arsene Wenger, with the appearance of a broken man after the capitulation that left us trophy-less for a sixth straight season, had finally awoken to the realities of the situation.

Kyle Bartley has signed a new contract with Arsenal, which will typically be ‘long term’ as we do with most of our players these days. I think it’s brilliant news; I’ve rated Bartley for a while and for him to go to a club like Ranger’s, start games and play in an Old Firm derby will only do his experience the world of good. My only worry is will he get his chance to play? With our current crop of central defenders being; Vermaelen, Koscielny, Squillaci and Djourou plus the up and coming Ignasi Miquel, you wonder where he’d fit in the side this season? On top of that we’re constantly linked with the likes of Jagielka and Cahill so will this mean he’ll end up on loan, leave us for a Championship in a year or two years and that’ll be it.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic or negative but it’s only because over the last season we’ve seemed to get rid of a few decent youngsters I hope would break into the side.

Arsenal finished up their tour in Asia with a match against Hangzhou Greentown. It was the first opportunity for Arsenal fans to see them back in action after a two month layoff. The first goal for this tour was obviously to get the players match fit for the start of the season, considering that Arsenal must start the season without any hiccups. While conducting their regular practice sessions the squad got a chance to meet with some of the fans and also tour both cities, something which they haven’t been able to do at past training camps in Austria. This was an extremely good opportunity for the club to see the support that they have during the year.

Fans

It was definitely a new and exciting opportunity for Arsenal fans in Malaysia and China as they were able to see many of the Arsenal stars that they can usually only watch on TV. The club had set up many different events for some player/fan interactions. I am sure that for most of these fans it was a once in a life time opportunity to be able to meet many of the players and to actually be able to see Arsenal play live at the stadium. The fans could be seen everywhere Arsenal went, and I for one was extremely surprised with the fan support received in both Malaysia and China.  The football culture, and support for the club seemed to be very similar to that in England.

Arsenal for the first time in many years are going on a pre-season tour purely for commercial benefits. This year sees them visit Malaysia and China for two pre-season friendlies. The last few years have seen the team go on quiet, yet effective pre-season training and friendlies in Austria and Hungary among others. But with football becoming more and more of a commercial battle between the top teams, Arsenal have been forced to buck their own trend and join the others in utilizing the pre-season for not only increasing the fitness of the players but also increasing its commercial value over the world.

Asia for long had been an untapped market for English clubs. Being from Asia myself, I know how crazy my city would become if any team from Europe was to visit. While this is a good opportunity for Arsenal, it will result in the decrease of local fans attending said matches. It was reported by someone in the AST the other day that only 25 or so season ticket holders are making the trip to the far east to watch the team. While the rest can catch these matches online or on TV somewhere it will definitely disappoint fans in England no doubt.