So much has gone on in the past few days it defies belief.
Our boys started the season with a respectable 0-0 draw at St James’s Park, Gervinho got red-carded on his debut for slapping Joey Barton, Alex Song looks set to join him in the naughty room after his stamp on the same man was charged for a stamp on Newcastle’s favourite philosophical criminal.
Oh, and in the aftermath, Cesc Fabregas finally left for Barcelona.
Rather than getting distracted by the fireworks I have been far more focused on assessing our actual performance on opening day and in particular, how very different this team looked from last season.
For starters, there were the set pieces.
Just how cool did our new zonal marking system look? After years of benevolence it was refreshing to see some serious mental energy expended on this area of our game.
In a defensive sense we were almost flawless against Newcastle, a fact that was lost on a lot of people who were quick to make note of a lack of creativity in the final third.
One person who did not fail to notice it was last season’s most consistent defender, Bacary Sagna, who made the following comment which was lost between Barton’s tweets and Fabregas kissing the Barcelona badge.
“I think it was very important to start the season with this kind of game. We were very consistent throughout and I think we were all defensively aware, from the forward players to the back four.”
It might be early doors but this sort of comment suggests that this season’s team is one that Wenger wants to build from the back. What a refreshing change that would be.
For all the talk of a central defender being a must Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny were absolutely superb. They are two players who can concentrate for 90 minutes and it might make all the difference.
Wenger has a task to fill the enormous creative hole that Cesc and (probably) Nasri’s departures will leave. But a lack of creativity and star power may force us to be even more defensively-aware and team-focused, something that Sagna’s comments suggest has been a major focus in the off-season.
Either way, by choice and by chance, we look a very different Arsenal.
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