It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve written anything. To be honest, the negativity that surrounded the club last season, except after when it was announced that Arsene will step down as the manager, was too much to take. There was no excitement watching Arsenal play or even writing about it.

After 22 years of Arsene Wenger, 22 years of the same person being at the helm, a new era has begun at the club. This new season is different. Its Unai time now – well, after quite a confusion, maybe even mess. Mikel Arteta looked all set to take over from Arsene, didn’t he? Could only hear his name being taken to be the next Arsenal manager. It wasn’t to be, for whatever reason. After reports on Unai impressing the 3 man Arsenal team, who were to appoint the new man-in-charge, with his apparent detailed presentation about each player at the club and how he would change the way team plays.

For the first time after so many years, there seems to be a plan – a plan in the transfer market, a manager who is aware of the players he needs to effectively implement the plan he has. The contract extension of Granit Xhaka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles shows that. Also, the reportedly offered contract to Aaron Ramsey is an indicator. We’ve let Jack and Santi go on a free to West Ham and Villareal respectively which are brilliant decisions if you ask me – professional decisions.

After our January window, where we brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and swapped Alexis Sanchez with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, we were pretty much sorted on the attacking front. Two massive players coming in, both having played together and lit up the Bundesliga with Borrusia Dortmund. These additions along with Lacazette and Ozil pretty much sort our first team concerns of the front line. There were gaps in the defense and the midfield that needed addressing, and the new setup at the club of Sven, Ivan, Huss, Raul and Unai have gone in and done some really smart and swift business so far.

Signing Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Leno, Torreira has filled those defensive gaps. We have been craving for a Torreira kind of a player for so many years and for £25m, he seems to be a steal. A 22-year-old defensive midfield player, a DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD player, finally! Another long-lasting problem at the club was that of a goalkeeper. Now, Leno may not be a world class goalkeeper, but he has a lot of potential. He still has his prime years ahead of him, and with a new staff working with him, he can get to his actual potential and go beyond. I really hope he comes good. He was the captain at Bayern Leverkusen, and we definitely need leadership at the back.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos is one player I am unsure of. He had a great partnership with Mats Hummels at Borrusia Dortmund, but from what I have heard about his performances last season, watching him play doesn’t give me that assurance. Like Leno, maybe a new setup at Arsenal rejuvenates him. Despite that, I think he is a stop-gap solution. He turned 30 last month and there aren’t a lot of years left in him. I hope he is solid for a couple years, at least – he does bring in a lot of experience though. Lichtsteiner is another stop-gap signing and that is clear with a 1-year contract for him. What I like about him is that he still has the hunger in him which was seen during the World Cup. He has a winning mentality given his time in Italy with Juventus. He still looks very fast and will provide good cover for Bellerin. He is also naturally aggressive and we might need some of that during the run-in. It all looks superficially good but there are areas of concern which are going to be imminent in another 2 years.

Another player that we have signed is Matteo Guendouzi, a French U-20 international. That last accolade should be, in itself, enough to tell you that the boy has potential. After losing out on another young French starlet in Yacine Adli, it was good to see us sign Matteo despite interests from other clubs. Unai Emery has already spoken of him highly and has also stated that he will be involved heavily with the first team. Personally, I don’t know a lot about him, but I am really excited; maybe we will even get to see him in a few cup games.

The signings of Sokratis and Lichtsteiner are good for the time being. It all looks superficially good right now, but the same concerns are imminent in another 2 years. The cycle of replacing these two players are going to come again and at that time, the likes of Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang are going to be in their 30s. The road ahead is not as smooth for Unai & Co. as it may look like.

But, this is the very beginning of the Unai Emery era at Arsenal. I am glad, that he has come in knowing the gaps and filled them. The training sessions seem to be more intense, not that they were not intense. The involvement of Unai and his assistant, Juan Carlos Carcedo in quite high, Carcedo even taking part in the training sessions as a player. It’s a new era, a new regime, a new system and with it there is new excitement, new hope and renewed positivity. It is truly the beginning of something beautiful and I hope it lasts for a long time.

Until next time. Cheers.


P.S. I haven’t used Google to check the magnificent spellings of our new signings. Don’t be surprised to see me competing in the Spelling Bee Championships in coming years.



Kshitij Gokhale

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