This Saturday, Premier League football returns to the Emirates Stadium. In more than one sense, it feels as if we’re going back to the beginning.
Back to the beginning in that we also opened up the campaign with a match against the Citizens. In the Community Shield at Wembley, Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners. Something tells me it won’t be quite so easy this time round.
Back to the beginning too in that this feels like the start of the season proper. It’s ridiculous that transfer deadline day falls several weeks in to the campaign. Squads are rarely fully assembled until the end of August. Everything that occurs prior to the deadline feels curiously underbaked. Business is not done, teams are in flux – even the Champions League contestants are still to be decided. In truth, those early matches feel like little more than an extension of preseason.
Arsenal’s performances have reflected that mood. It’d be fair to say the Gunners haven’t quite got going yet. We laboured to a win against Palace, scrambled a point at Everton, and scraped past Besiktas in the tightest of two-legged affairs. Our last outing was the dispiriting draw at Leicester.
In time, we might be grateful for that dour draw – not because I expect the KP Stadium to prove a particularly fearsome fortress, but because it probably went a long towards prompting the purchase of Danny Welbeck. Had Yaya Sanogo scored any sort of goal in an Arsenal victory, Arsene Wenger might have been convinced to persist with the fallible Frenchman. Instead, our problems in attack convinced him to move for a new striker.
Welbeck might not have been Wenger’s first choice. The indications are that he made late enquiries for Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao, only to discover he had been beaten to the punch by rivals.
At 7.30am on deadline day, Wenger telephoned a reputable football agency and asked them to help broker a deal with Manchester United and Welbeck’s brother and manager, Chris. Talks began over a £3m loan deal. By the end of the day, amid fierce competition from Spurs, Welbeck had signed a five-year deal with Arsenal for a fee of £16m. It may prove to be a masterstroke.
Anyone unconvinced by Wenger’s decision to bring the athletic Mancunian in should be forced to watch England’s 2-0 victory over Switzerland on Monday night. Welbeck grabbed a brace in an electric display, showing pace, power and a surprising dose of composure.
It’s back to the beginning for Welbeck too. He’s left behind the club of his life for a new start elsewhere. You have to admire his courage. This prodigiously talented son of Manchester has left home to make his fortune.
He couldn’t wish for a better start, facing off against the club he has been raised to regard as rivals. A goal on Saturday would make it a memorable occasion for all involved, and restart the season with a bang.