A Real Test

After what seems like an eternity, we are finally back to business this weekend with a massive home game against reigning title holders, Manchester City, in what is shaping up as an early season epic.

The previous two weeks have been so deathly quiet that not even this weeks podcast could muster up the strength to run longer than a standard episode of The Simpsons! Sure there has been football of sorts, in the form of some meaningless international friendly followed shortly thereafter by an early euro cup qualifier, but really most have us would have preferred to have watched the paint dry at a newly refurbished animal rendering facility.

Make no doubt about it, this is the first big test of the campaign, the result of which could have major repurcussions throughout the team and fans for the rest of the season. Aware of our somewhat unpolished start to the season, even though undefeated, this match looms like a tornado in a stormcatchers review mirror. Will we have enough at our disposal on the day to sit back and watch the joyful destruction or will we be sucked into an early season vortex of heartbreak? A little dramatic yes, but i think we have a lot on the line this week.

There’s already so much to this game without even mentioning what may happen on the pitch. With former right back Bacary Sagna making the switch to the sky blues in the freshly closed tranfer window, he joins some of the less eulogised former gunners in Clichy and Nasri which always adds to the drama. Whether or not the french full back makes a start against his former club is yet to be seen, but I’m sure if and when he does enter the field of play there will be no quarter given.

For mine, this game is a real test of where we currently stand on the mental side of things. We are well and truly aware of our performances against some of our rivals in the chase to the title and although this fixture returned a point for us, we were also soundly beaten on the away leg. And it was a pattern which repeated far too often, especially when you consider that we trailed City by 7 points come the end of the season. It was these types of games that ultimately decided our fate come the close of the season. I dont doubt that with each poor performance and failure against these “big teams” there was a residual scarring which reared its head more loudly with each opponent we faced that was built up in the same way.

An early season victory against City in the Community shield will have done no harm confidence wise, in at least some small way and the additions of quality players like Alexis and new boy Danny Welbeck, who scored a brace against the Swiss midweek, we now have a different looking attacking threat which could cause our opponents to rethink the way they setup against us defensively.

Injury concerns, too, add to the drama leading into the game with the likes of Ozil (who took no part in either of the German games even though selected in the squad), Arteta and now Ramsey looking to overcome ankle issues in time to make the lineup for the early kick off could cause us to be tested creatively in the middle of the park should any of them miss out. Kieran Gibbs will probably take one more week before regaining full fitness, but is ably covered by the solid Monreal for the time being.

So far this season we seemed to have lacked a little bit of flow in that final third of the pitch, albeit against some teams set purely to defend, we were unable to cause much in the way of real concern for any length of time. Against the likes of City however, we can expect a team with the attacking prowess to want to get forward and test us, especially in the early stages where they will surely be keen to neutralise any home ground atmosphere from the Red and White in the stands. A win will have the Emirates buzzing and will serve as notice to the rest of the competition that the flaws of last seasons big game perfomances are being put to bed, one match at a time. A loss will surely see the hellfire of a media blitzkrieg rain down upon all and sundry as the scars of recent seasons are again brought to the fore.

The draw of an early kickoff for us aussie gooners will give us a chance to watch on in relative comfort as we gather in local pubs, clubs and lounges all over the country to cheer on our beloved Arsenal.

Here’s hoping for a solid 3 points and a new found confidence that carries into the rest of the season!

-The BFG


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