Well, it has started. The 2009/10 season officially kicked off today for Arsenal when they traveled the short distance to Barnet for the regular preseason friendly.
Arsene Wenger named a 21-man squad, all of which played. The final score was two each. Arsenals from Arshavin and Barazite, and Barnets from Yakubu and Charles.
Arsenal could have had more, but so could Barnet. On the whole, the scoreline fairly accurately reflected the performance on the pitch.
But that isn't what this match was all about. It wasn't about the score. It doesn't matter who won. Even the referee got into the spirit, producing no cards at all during the 90 minutes even though one of each colour could have been shown.
This game ended the two months of waiting since the 24 of May. And it's been an interesting couple of months that has seen the best and worst of Arsenal.
On the positive side, Arsene signed Thomas Vermaelen, an experienced defender and the previous captain of Ajax Amsterdam. Robin Van Persie has also signed an extension.
No major players have been sold, although Adebayor may leave for Manchester City. I don't know how this will affect Arsenal because he is very useful as a lone striker, but if he does go, I don't think it will have the impact that losing Hleb and Flamini at the end of last season did.
The youth development team at Arsenal have another batch of stars in the making ready in the wings. I expect to see a lot of new faces in the squads that play in the Carling Cup, and even in a few league games. Gibbs really came of age last year filling in for the injured Clichy.
The team is carrying no injuries at the moment. That's right, you read correctly, no Arsenal players are listed as injured either on the official site or on Physioroom.com. This is astounding, Rosicky and Eduardo both fit.
Gallas, Clichy, and Almunia all fit after suffering injuries late last season. Walcott, Fabregas and Van Persie all fit. Even though Eduardo returned last season, he still wasn't quite right. Having him and Rosicky back again is as good as two new signings.
So, pretty rosy. Well that's how it seems to most of us. However, if you belong to a select group, it's not looking as rosy as all that. This group is split into two sub groups. The Ignorant Press and the Plastic supporters.
The Ignorant press includes most of the UK press and Internet News sites. Naming and shaming isn't going to change anything, but heaps of ridicule make me feel better. Firstly there are all the scurrilous stories suggesting the top players are looking to play in Spain, or are unhappy about the tax situation or are leaving because their house is haunted.
Some of these are ridiculous in their own right, but having constant speculation about the future of the players unnerves fans. What was a journalists fantasy for breakfast becomes gospel on the blogs by teatime.
As of today, Arsenal have been linked with 171 different players in the last two months, and that number is sure to rise before the transfer window closes. Unbelievable you may think, but the evidence is clear.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, the amount of speculative stories involving Arsenal, their Players or Management increases daily. This tide of negativity which is picked up and regurgitated ad nausea m on Internet news sites slowly permeates the brains of the weaker fans which in turn leads to some of the most negative and ill informed soccer blogs.
The team is too young...We need to sign more experienced (expensive) players. ...Song, Denilson, Diaby, Gallas, Adebayor, Van Persie, Silvestre, Pat Rice and Arsene Wenger should all go...The board should let Usmanov take over and plough money in like Abramovich...We haven't won anything for four years...
The obvious retort is WHO? Who will replace Wenger and the players? In this vastly inflated market no one is getting value for money. How long do you give the new management before they get the old heave-ho?
The only possibility of funding such a move would completely undo all of the hard work that has been done over the last few years to make Arsenal financially solid and sustainable.
Why would the board want to emulate Manchester United or Liverpool's financial situations. The 60 million Sterling left over from the Ronaldo sale isn't even enough to cover Manchester United's losses last year. Liverpool are in the same boat with both teams spending considerably less than in previous seasons. Their past financial mis-management is coming back to haunt them.
Anyway, back to the match. For true fans, this match draws the line under all that pish. Its onwards and upwards from here on in. There are six more preseason friendlies before the league and the cup competitions start and we will get to see more if not all of the squad in action.
Today we saw how well Rosicky went into challenges, and how well Vermaelen defended, and reminded ourselves just how good Arshavin really is. As each match is played, our positivity will be even further strengthened as the players remind us why Arsene Wenger has so much faith in them.
A teams strength can be best measured against their peers. The Premier League as a competition is certain to be hugely exciting this year and Arsenal are in for some stiff competition. Liverpool's squad remains largely unchanged, and with Reina, Carragher, Gerrard, and Torres on board they are very much going to be a presence this year.
Chelsea have strengthened their squad further this summer and with or without John Terry, they are also to be reckoned with. United haven't gone overboard this summer, but Alex Ferguson isn't the manager of the most successful British football club for nothing. Even the sale of Ronaldo and Tevez shouldn't worry him too much.
Manchester City, the new big boys in town, have been spending like mad. We will have to wait and see if Mark Hughes can gel his new team quickly enough this season to make their challenge viable.
Everton and Villa are the other pretenders in the arena. Certainly they are both good enough to beat any team in the league, but have they got the legs and depth of squads for the season ahead. Again we will have to wait and see.
Whatever happens over the next 10 or 11 months is anyone's guess, but as an Arsenal fan, I know that my team will have undoubtedly played the best football all season. For me that is enough...Let the show begin.