The first 90 minutes of the new Premiership season has come and gone and there is real expectation at the Emirates. Arsenal fans really do believe that this year they are on the verge of something special. Chelsea play tonight (18.7.14) and should roll over Burnley without too much difficulty. Out of the all the other teams who have played this weekend Manchester City probably put in the most impressive shift as all the other Premiership hopefuls appeared to struggle, albeit they all picked up three points eventually.
So who is going to be Arsenal's main stars this year and who will flop?
If I can start with the flop side first. Arsenal have an abundance of options in midfield. With Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Zelalem, Rosicky, Gnabry and Podolski waiting in the wings Arsene Wenger really is spoilt for choice. However, the starting line-up demonstrated to me, especially after the inept first 45 minutes, that when we play both Arteta and Jack Wilshere together we have a distinct lack of pace and innovation in the middle. Jack readily falls to the ground and he does not appear to put in a shift. There was an excellent article recently which cited Arsenal's legendary Tony Adams who was very critical of Jack and said this was a make or break season for Jack and that he had to find consistency at a higher level of performance. I really hope I am wrong but Jack is showing all the signs of 'Joecoleism', a player who had so much going for him and who was a regular for England but things sadly did not work out for Joe Cole. The other 'flop' has to be our captain, Mikel Arteta. There is no doubt Mikel plays with his heart on his sleeve and he loves our club, as does Jack. Yes he takes a decent penalty, particularly under pressure. But this apart does not represent value for being in the starting XI and his performances remind me of Vinny 'sideways' Samways (sorry Arsenal fans for the comparison). Mikel has a distinct lack of pace and a tendency to pass sideways or backwards.
OK, that is enough depressing writings, now on to the more positive notes. Fortunately for Arsenal fans there are far more players who will help to make things happen for Arsenal. I expect at least four players to have a really significant input this season. The return of Theo Walcott will be a massive boost for the Gunners. I have no doubt that had Theo been fit longer than he was last year Arsenal will have pushed the eventual winners much closer than the 7 point gap which stood between them and City. His pace frightens defenders to death and he has also shown he has an eye for goal. Rambo, or Aaron Ramsey is a priceless commodity to Arsenal and again his absence was felt by Arsenal who suffered a dip in form which coincided with his injuries. Already this season he has shown he is the main man at Arsenal. Since his return from injury he has had a hand in 27 goals from his last 36 competitive fixtures. This includes 18 goals and 9 assists - this is some going. Rambo is a machine who sets a fabulous example for his Arsenal colleagues and if he and Theo can remain fit for most of the season this will be the bedrock of Arsenal's push for honours.
Mesut Ozil had a disappointing first season at the Gunners, although there were flashes of obvious brilliance. He has the ability to be our Eric Cantona. Arsenal fans should not expect him to battle back and win the ball when he loses it, as this is not his game. He is a creative machine and if he does what he is good at Arsenal will at last begin to get a decent dividend from their record £42.4 signing.
Calum Chambers, Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez all offer excitement and potential - in Sanchez they have the finished article and a truly world class footballer. Campbell is lightening quick and very direct and Chambers looks assured on the ball and is also quick for a centre-back.
So as you can see there are many more plus points than negatives for the Gunners this season and this is why there is so much expectancy. Who do you think will shine and who will flop?