I usually start a new season brimming with a blend of optimism and ludicrous over confidence. I assume we’ll win every game, a delusion I maintain right up until the first dropped points when I cheerfully downgrade my expectations to an unbeaten season. After the first defeat I shrug and assume we’ll just win every competition in which we compete. And so on until the conclusion of the campaign.
It’s a happy and harmless approach to my hobby, doesn’t hurt anyone and put simply means I always hope for the best of all possible outcomes. If that ends up meaning fourth place or a Europa league position or just avoiding relegation then that’s what I’ll be cheering for at the death.
Not this time though. Having been stung by the season which followed the World Cup I watched in horror as the Euros dragged on to see all those Arsenal players not getting a break, not resting and recharging. I realised that this would be a difficult season. Now it seems that we will not only have to catch up after a slow start but also assimilate all sorts of new faces into the squad, which, when allied to the inevitable injuries ( a knock on effect of the international bullshit we all had to endure) simply means disruption and disjointed performances.
So when I saw the result of our opening fixture I was as angry as everybody else, but not surprised. Not angry at or with any individual just at the entire wasteful, pointless distraction of those international matches. I was told by many of you to try to enjoy them. I was gently chided for wishing Wales would lose at the first hurdle because it must be nice for Aaron to do so well. I can only assume those gentle chiders are deeply regretting their position now. I’d happily sacrifice his summer of fun for a prolonged healthy season with Arsenal where he could enjoy lifting a trophy at the end. Success with Wales or success with the club which actually pay his wages. He’d be happy either way wouldn’t he?
Anyway it is what it is and with the hateful circus of the transfer window at long last beginning to pack up its tent perhaps we can get back to real football. Perhaps my return from the muddy wastes of the North Somerset coast will coincide with the return of Wengerball. Stranger things have happened. Maybe the stutter against Liverpool and the blunt if resolute performance against Leicester were simply the prologue. Maybe we turn the page to chapter one this afternoon at 3pm.
Historically Watford versus Arsenal always produces a decisive result. Well, almost always. Of the twenty four matches between the two teams only one has ended in a draw. We have won every Premier League game ever played against them, their shock FA Cup victory at the Emirates back in March was their first win against us since 1988. Normal service was resumed a couple of weeks later with a resounding victory built on Iwobi’s effervescence, Alexis’ sharpness and a Coquelin / Elneny midfield axis which kept the ball moving and denied Watford almost any meaningful possession.
I will happily settle for more of the same today: Fast, fearless and inventive in possession, fierce, decisive and tireless in defence. Sounds like the perfect recipe doesn’t it? Whether we can produce such a display after a difficult first couple of games remains to be seen and whether I’m allowed to watch any of it with Liz’s birthday barbecue happening in the house and garden is a similarly moot point. The lack of Arsenal fans or even football fans on her guest list suggests it will be a big ask. Luckily enough my dogs are deeply antisocial so if I position them in the doorway to my room I might manage to go undisturbed for the requisite couple of hours.
As with Arsenal it could all come down to how much I want it, how far I’m prepared to go to get what I want and how well I can ignore the catcalls and anger of the baying crowd who little understand the pressures I’ll be operating under. They can all go hungry if it means I get to see a couple of halves of vintage or even near vintage Wengerball. I’ll face the music afterwards and take my punishment like a man.
Anyway time for the proper football blog. After last season where I sometimes strayed so far from the facts and indeed any mention of the game that I could have been auditioning for a job on the Daily Mirror, it has been made abundantly clear that readers come to football blogs for predictions, selections and wisdom with which the common herd is not blessed. I shall endeavour to give the people what they so desire.
I predict a tight game with either lots of goals or no goals or at least not many goals and a win for either the home or away side with a draw also a possibility. The Arsenal squad will feature the likes of Ozil, Cech, Cazorla, Xhaka, Bellerin, Giroud and Alexis among others, and many if not all of these will play in certain positions on the pitch. There will be a referee who will be deemed a bastard to either the visitors or the home side at various times, unless you are Andy Nic in which case you’ve probably got his autograph and photo on your bedroom wall. Arsenal will play defensively, keeping it tight and quieting the home crowd or will attack furiously like drunken Mongolian horseman with a point to prove. There will be a moment of controversy.
I hope you enjoy the game, it promises to be one.