Our captain, top scorer and stand out performer of last season is sold days before the start of the season, triggering the familiar tabloid explosions about Arsenal facing meltdown. But this time round I feel rather more optimistic about the future.
There is no logical reason to be quite so sanguine about our prospects but the signing of Santi Cazorla has had an odd, uplifting effect. He has flawless technique, has won major competitions and will make the team more bold. It’s dangerous to set him up for a fall like this - I may well have said exactly the same stuff when we signed Arshavin. But Cazorla has an air of professionalism, of solidity, that the impulsive Russian lacked.
His arrival this summer, along with Podolski and Giroud, reflects Arsenal’s ‘be prepared’ approach to the inevitable departure of Robin Van Persie. Compare that to the way Arsene and Ivan appeared to be the only people in the world unaware that Fabregas and Nasri were going to leave last season.
Looking back at the timeline of events, I forget that Fabregas actually left after our first match at Newcastle, things were left that late. The rush of signings at the close of the transfer window screamed of panic but this time round there is a sense of calm and a confidence that things will not be undermined by the awful four-points-from-fifteen start of last year.
The more I think about it, the more I think Arsene has pulled a fast one on Fergie in the RVP deal. The quoted £24m will look massively inflated if Van Persie suffers a repeat of his injury record of any of his past eight campaigns except the last one. Yes, he is great player and is getting better as he gets older, but it is a massive gamble to bank on a man just a likely to strain a ligament as he is to score.
Part of my renewed optimism comes from the uncertainty surrounding our potential rivals. Chelsea have spent heavily but you can’t guarantee any of their purchases will pay off. Spurs have lost their biggest asset, Harry Redknapp, and are in the process of selling one of their best players, Luka Modric. You would expect Liverpool to improve under Brendan Rogers but even he has suggested it will be a long-term job.
So even with the sale of yet another captain, we are in a much stronger position than this time last year and I have far fewer doubts about us staying in the top four. It makes a change from the recent sense that the coming season would just bring the same problems as before. Like millions of other supporters across the country, I enter the season with hope in my heart. While I’d rather be confident we will challenge for the title, that’s a start.