So here we go again, another season and another sense of springtime in late summer. The year may be on the wane, but for all football fans it’s a time of new beginnings, new hope. Ever since last season ebbed away with those two disappointing away games at Tottenham and Newcastle there has been much debate as to whether Arteta’s side had done well, or whether 2021/2022 should be seen as a disappointment. It was probably a bit of both to be honest: after a shocking start which saw the Arsenal bottom of the table with nil points after the first three games top 6 would have been seen by many as not so much a success but a bit of a miracle – but to have had top 4 in our own hands with three games left to play and to throw that away with two supine performances against that lot down the road and Newcastle left a bitter taste in the mouth. A final match 5-1 romp against Everton only served to remind us that there was more than a bit of the ‘flat-track bully’ about the side. And the disappointment of missing out on a Champions League sport was made all the more acute with the much-repeated warning that top signings would be impossible without the lure of football at the very top level. Any sensible supporter would have turned their back on it all and set out to enjoy the summer. I wish I had been able to! But as it happened, good signings were made, the power of the KSE cash at least equal to a belief in Arteta’s project. There has been whispers about Gabriel Jesus this time last year, but now that has become a reality, and if his pre-season form is anything to go by he looks as if he might be the attacking player we have been looking for for some time, offering as he seems to both goals and work-rate. Saliba has come back into the fold and looks ready to show his quality, his time away on loan giving him both experience and a greater physical presence (he looks a bit of a unit now) while Zinchenko seems to be the canniest of business. I know little about Fabio Vieira and suspect he won’t feature much in the near future, but it will be interesting to see what he is all about, as it will be for another young Brazilian, Marquinhos. It is rumoured that there will be one more important signing, possibly in midfield, with Tielemans name the most often mentioned. Taken all in all, the squad looks better balanced and more experienced than this time last year, and if our young players who at times did do well last year can improve again then there is much to look forward to, even if the hullaboo about Thomas Partey seems as if it has still a fair way to play out. And I guess the first indication of that will be the reception he gets from the Palace fans this evening: I don’t expect it to be a comfortable experience for him, or indeed for us, now linked shamefully as we are with the most unsavoury of alleged behaviour. And what of tonight? I could have wished for a quieter start than Palace away on a Friday evening – something like a Saturday afternoon at home to Southampton would have been easier I guess – but if we are going to be a serious side, a side able to drop the flat-track bully tag, then this is a game we ought to be winning, especially given the strength of our preseason form. Whether we do or not will tell us much.