By The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)
Five Songs: The Soundtrack to Our Season
If you’ve stuck by me through my blogs here on A Bergkamp Wonderland, you likely know that they typically follow a bit of a formula: feature a title that seemingly has nothing to do with Arsenal, start the blog with a personal anecdote, tie it into a seemingly arbitrary footballing concept, connect both anecdote and concept to the Arsenal, and finish by (hopefully) making you feel good about being a Gooner.
With that in mind, I will not typically write match previews or reports, transfer news, or statistical pieces. That’s not to say that I won’t touch on those subjects, but there are some great bloggers out there tackling all of these subjects far more proficiently than anything I can produce.
With all of that out of the way, I unapologetically break with my own format to bring you my 2014/15 Season Preview. Of course it wouldn’t be an “Other Geoff” blog without a bit of randomness. To elucidate how this works, I’m presenting my 2014/15 Season Preview as a soundtrack.
Below you’ll find each section accompanied by a related classic rock song. Click the link at the top of the section and listen along as you read through the preview.
Train in Vain – The Clash
“Say you stand by your man…”
I can hear you right now: “He’s on about Diaby isn’t he? Surely he’s talking about Diaby?”
In a way I am. I mean I certainly would love it if the big man returned and played 20 games this season – and in doing so – helped us win the Premier League. This portion of my 2014/15 preview isn’t specifically about Diaby, but rather injuries and the impact of our off season hiring of Shad Forsythe.
If ever there was a clue to the totality of Arsene Wenger’s vision for Arsenal, then Forsythe must surely be it. His experience is second to none after joining us from the German National Team – he is, by all accounts, one of the best in the world in terms of training athletes. I would recommend Amy Lawrence’s piece in the Guardian on Forsythe for a full background.
How often did we lament injuries and their impact on our title bid last season? It became a narrative that revised all other contributing factors to our league collapse. Improving our fitness regime, along with adding squad depth, should hopefully allow us to push on this season and capture the coveted League title.
Train in Vain? Not if we win a major trophy.
The Kid is Hot Tonight – Loverboy
“We just heard of a brand new way…”
Something happened in preseason that I wasn’t totally expecting. At the Emirates Cup against Benfica, we showed shocking pace and electric movement to open them up for five. I mean let’s not get too carried away here, it was, after all, preseason; but the manner in which we eviscerated Benfica for our goals was astonishing.
I think the thing that really stood out for me was the pace that Joel Campbell brought to the side and how it had an impact on the rawness of Yaya. We were direct and instinctual in front of goal. That pace and directness really was missing from our game last year after we lost Theo in early 2014.
Another guy who can play in that style is the Ox – but he too suffered a stop start season due to injury after promising so much in preseason last summer. In fact 12 months ago, I would have picked him as the one guy to watch for a breakout season. He looked so powerful running on the left flank, and he genuinely looked to be forming a relationship with Giroud, best characterized by our goal against Villa last year. His injury changed that game and when he returned last season, he was played in central midfield – a position Arsene has said he sees as his future role.
A year later and I hold by my prediction for Alex. I’m excited to see what he can do given a healthy season. More importantly, I’m eager to see the impact of pace on our opponents. Campbell, the Ox, Yaya, Walcott, and Sanchez add a speedy depth that can have devastating consequences in the Premier League.
Pick any one of these “kids,” and you can understand why I picked The Kid is Hot Tonight.
Should I Stay or Should I Go – the Clash
“Darlin’ you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go…”
I love how no matter how you look at that first line in the context of my preview, someone comical has to be “Darlin.” Whether it is on field via Per, or a member of the coaching staff like Steve Bould, the results always produce a smile on my face.
Should I Stay or Should I Go should be the anthem for our tactical Jekyll and Hide last season. Throughout the early parts the season, and indeed from the run in from the prior season (12/13), we showed an ability to defend deep, concede possession, and hit teams on the counter attack. I loved how we kept teams by their throats at arm’s reach – and then absolutely and soul crushingly dominated them through precise and pacey passing moves leading to goals.
In the latter part of the season though, we reverted to a more familiar high line defense and style of play which was more dependent on possession. It was an interesting reversion that I found a bit inexplicable due to the success we had with the contrasting style of our early season. I say a bit inexplicable because I’m sure injuries forced our hand during the same period in terms of tactics to some degree.
I’m curious to see how we go about this season tactically. Will we defend and counter, possess and press, or some combination of both? Can we get our tactics right against our Premier League rivals in the big games? I’m certain this will form part of the narrative in 2014/15.
Note: I realize that this is the second Clash song on the soundtrack, and Joe Strummer was a Chelsea fan, but he was also a Tony Adams fan, so I’m willing to overlook it for the case of this blog.
The Boys are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy
“Guess who got back into town today…”
This song might as well be an ode to a boozed-up, ripped-sleeve Flamini, folded wooden chair held aloft as John Terry emerges from the Emirates tunnel. SMASH!!! Like our mental Frenchman it oozes attitude.
Before I came up with the soundtrack concept, this section was called “Deutscher Maturation.” We’ve got three World Cup winning Germans coming back to our Arsenal and I’m fascinated with how that experience can translate into on pitch success. There is a confidence and an attitude that should emerge knowing that we have three Germans who are at the pinnacle of World Football. I think that level of success combined with our own FA Cup and Community Shield wins, can have a massive impact on our fortunes this season.
It isn’t the first time we’ve had this stimulus either, the ‘98 winners in our dressing room in Patrick and Manu, and later with both Bobby Pires and Thierry Henry, led to a sustained period of success in the Premier League and had an influence on both professionals and youngsters alike.
The other piece to this that shouldn’t be overlooked is that Özil has the benefit of a full season of Premier League experience now. He’ll be acclimatized to the pace and strength of the Premier League and to the movement and runs of the players around him. Add his World Cup medal to that and I’m licking my lips in anticipation for his sophomore season.
The Boys are Back in Town is a warning; a warning that some crazy, attitude-riddled beast men are back and they’re ready to contest anyone that doesn’t heed them. Our Germans are back, you’ve been warned.
Good Vibrations – the Beach Boys
“I’m pickin’ up good vibrations…”
More than the specific lyrics of Good Vibrations, the entire story of how it was composed over an entire year – with no one knowing how all the pieces would sound together except Brian Wilson – is one of the most fascinating in rock history. The result is a masterpiece of complex vocals, cellos, bass, and theramin assembled by a genius in Wilson.
Our genius has been composing his own complex masterpiece too. Arsene Wenger has assembled a beautifully well rounded squad – one capable of challenging on all trophy fronts this season; he’s addressed our injury concerns by bringing in one of the most talented fitness experts in the world; he’s got a team with a distinct tactical Plan A and B that can soak up pressure and counterattack with dynamic pace OR press high up the pitch and maintain possession; and we’ve got three World Cup winners in the squad to add the experience and composure to win trophies.
The 2014/15 season? I’m picking up Good Vibrations…are you?
You know it!
The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)
Credit – conceptually, this preview was inspired by a Portland Timbers blog set to a Flaming Lips song (@BackOfficeGavin). Genius.