Preview: Everton vs Arsenal
Friday’s tense press conferences are back, Saturday’s heated lunch-time kick-offs are back, ‘grand-slam Sundays’ are back, post-match controversies’ fuss are back, those alive and derailed title hopes are back, fights for survival are back, the fiery derbies are all back.
The Premier League is back.
And so is Arsene Wenger and his sides’ familiar ‘unprepared’ look for what should be a title hunt rather than top four scrap.
Outside expectations of Wenger’s crew are unchanged from the year before. Punts are betting on Arsenal to settle for a top four finish or less again. After all, it has been another summer of more sales than purchases.
The Gunners begin 2009/10 in a ‘double race’ yet again. On the evidence of Manchester City’s emergence, Arsenal will be mentioned among the fourth-place battlers again while they probably won’t be neglected in a debate on the title race either.
That is a tag Arsenal shares with no other member of the so-called ‘big four’. Thus, the sort of contest Wenger’s men will be involved in this season – whether fourth place chase or title challenge – should be determined by their start as it is no myth that a team’s targets are made clear during the first months of the campaign.
Get off to flyer like 2007/08 and you may have a sniff at the title, but begin sluggishly like 2008/09 and end up scraping for fourth spot.
Arsene has become very aware of that rule over the past barren seasons. And he may have learned his lesson this time around.
“I look at last year’s season as a product of bad circumstances,” said Wenger. “We had a bad start and that is why maybe we feel a little bit under pressure to start well this time because we know that last year after 14 games we had lost five and that was too many.
“At the moment, nobody looks at us as a potential fighter for the title. Maybe that should not add too much pressure on our shoulders but it can. Basically there is a demand there to show how good we are.
“So I believe that we have to keep serene, focused and not put unneeded pressure on our shoulders. We should just focus on how we want to play.”
With all action resuming, so will injuries and back for treatment is Abou Diaby, Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott while Lukasz Fabianski, Samir Nasri and of course Tomas Rosicky remain long-term concerns.
Let this be the season for once.