After the quintessential turbulent Summer of discontent on Tyneside, we reconvene this Sunday as the brylcreemed Unai Emery brings his Gunners to St James’.
It was just three short months ago that Rafa’s Mags put Fulham to the sword on the banks of the Thames. A flotilla of half cut Geordies cheered the lads on in the sunshine and left dreaming of more to come.
This was quickly followed by claims of a ‘done deal’ from the Middle East (in respect of an NUFC takeover) and even the mackems pitched in to further enhance our collective ‘joie de vivre’ by fluffing their lines at Wembley (again) and consigning the wearyside ‘faithful’ to another season in the Pontins Div 3 North. Mirth.
Does football supporting life get any better?
Those of us a bit longer in the tooth remained curmudgeonly and sceptical. Where there is sunshine, expect some pretty dark, Ashley sized clouds around the corner. It’s fair to say, our rotund ‘want away’ owner didn’t disappoint, sending the proverbial typhoon of buffalo dung our way.
Our lauded Spanish maestro, after suffering a three year diet of bullshit from his paymaster has finally exited stage left and with him about 80% of our 18/19 Premiership goals have also flown the coop. Señor Rondón has elected to join him in China with Ayoze plumping for the East Midlands. Oh yeah, the Arabs didn’t have the wedge either. As the latterly mental Morrisey once opined, ‘stop me if you’ve heard this one before….’
So, where are we now?
Well, Tubby Johnson is still at the helm, leading to circa 12000 season ticket holders jacking it in. Mike went down his list of three (or was it ten?) and finally got a new Manager (sorry, Coach) and then spunked £40 Mill on a young Brazilian chap many of us knew the square root of frig all about.
We’re Basket Case FC.
The new man ‘in charge’ of things is Stephen Roger Bruce. A lad from Northumberland but raised in North Tyneside who ‘bleeds black & white’ yee knaa. I still recall him kind of waddle-skipping down the touch line in a Sunlin tracky, when a last minute deflection earned his team a spawny point in a Wear-Tyne derby. But, whatever….
What does he bring to the table?
Well, experience is one thing. His managerial CV is longer than this preview. What else? The forced survival, austerity tactics favoured by the most recent incumbent will soon become a distant memory. He wants to be more erm ‘expansive’ – shudder. Whilst Rafa has had his mitts on the most glittering of silverware, Steve’s most notable achievement thus far is a particularly unfortunate FA Cup final reverse as his plucky Hull City lost 3-2 to this Sunday’s opponents in 2014.
His top flight average is circa 1.1 point per game. That’s probably more telling. Keep that stat and it’s just about enough for Ashley to keep on milking his monochrome cash cow.
To Sunday. Arsenal have been latterly active this Summer bringing in winger Nicolas Pépé from Lille for £72 effing million and William Saliba from St Étienne for a further £27M. Zut alors, that’s a lot of candy for two ‘up & comers’. To counter this, they’ve lost their decent Welsh midfielder, Ramsay to the old Lady of Turin and defensive transfer martyr, Koscielny to Bordeaux.
The natives of Arsenal fam bruv TV remain incensed at the club’s owners. Their hated neighbours, Spurs are looking the more upwardly mobile in North London these days and their side’s worrying penchant for shipping too many goals is still to be properly addressed. One of them even threatened bringing in a loud speaker to shout nasty things at an absent Mr Kroenke, if he doesn’t spend at least another £100 Mill. Brutal.
If I can add some optimism to this admittedly slightly downbeat view of all things black & white, there are a few positives. Our record signing, the aforementioned Joelinton is someone to look out for. As is the tricky looking Allan Saint-Maximin. Our new Dutch left back, Jetro Willems is a player of some pedigree. Rafa wanted him months ago and you get the feeling he’ll slot in nicely.
As disappointed as I was to lose Salomon & Perez, I thought the list would be longer. I’m rather surprised that both Schär and the elder Longstaff are still here. You can possibly add our mint custodian, Martin to that list too. However, as I write there are still about 36 hours to go before Jim White lets us gleefully know that the window has slammed SHUT!!!! Here’s hoping I haven’t jinxed that one, then.
Prediction time…. Hello Darkness, my old friend. It’s a proper mare trying to work out what’s gonna happen. We’ve got a (possibly) stronger set of players than a year ago. But a poorer manager.
If Rafa was at the helm I might even verge onto the less travelled path towards ‘bullish’ land. He’s not though, and all I can see is goals. Lots of them. Unfortunately, more for them than us. I’m going United 2 Arsenal 3, closely followed by a slightly sweaty, breathy, scenty bottle ‘hard luck’ set of answers from wor Steve.