So yesterday marked a true turning point for English football. It’s fair to say it was a day and an event that a generation or two of supporters thought we might never see happen. Years of the same old thing with apparently ever shortening chances of winning the major prizes maybe turned on their head with one glorious sight. I am talking, of course, about the first Arsenal training session under the charge of Unai Emery. Surely you didn’t think I’d be referring to those Tottenham cretins playing for England?
I have to admit it felt very weird seeing photos of Arsenal in training with someone other than Arsene Wenger carrying the stopwatch or the clipboard. A bit like the first sight of Sol Campbell actually playing for Arsenal this was the true moment to realise it’s actually happened - Wenger’s era has passed and Emery’s has begun. Thanks to the access via Arsenal Media we see much more of this kind of thing than we ever did a few years ago and I wonder if Emery may be more open in the way he does things than Wenger was. We will see.
Noteworthy is the fact that so many of the first team squad are actually in attendance as not a lot of them went to the World Cup. A stronger team than usual will take the field at Boreham Wood a week on Saturday. The youngsters who made their breakthroughs last season - Nelson, Willock and Nketiah - were all involved with the first-team once again but it was notable to me that none of them have been given (at this stage) what might be termed a first-team squad number. The very promising Emile Smith-Rowe, who was the star of Arsenal’s youth teams last season, was also training with the senior players and may well get a run out or two in the pre-season schedule. Carl Jenkinson, Emi Martinez, Chuba Akpom and Lucas Perez are back from their loan spells and also back in the first-team group.
I half-joked about the England team above and the fact they’ve got through to the World Cup quarter-final. I know many Arsenal fans are very excited by that and were no doubt jumping about in celebration last night. Good luck to you if that’s you. For me I really can’t get joyful about England winning, and in the same way I won’t be upset if they lose. I no longer feel any great affinity to the national team and I haven’t for a long time. I think it would be a great thing for the country if England were to do well out in Russia and maybe even win it - they will surely never get a better opportunity - but it simply doesn’t make me nervous or excited at all.. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the whole World Cup, but I don’t “support” anyone in it. If Danny Welbeck makes it on to the pitch again my main concern will be that he does well simply because he is an Arsenal player. The slightly sad fact is that the sight of the Arsenal team back in training yesterday and today, with the new boss overseeing things, has filled me with far more excitement than Eric Dier’s winning penalty for England. Roll on the pre-season fixtures.