Its that time of the year again when you wake up to the smell of freshly mowed grass and the referee's whistle and the fans' roars. Thats right its time for European football to awaken from its slumber and get the ball rolling again.
For us Gunners, these are long summer worrisome summer days and sleepless nights. Valium, where art thou? A string of departures in the summer window has left behind a largely inexperienced squad brimming with youthful exuberance. With FC Barcelona prising away the talismanic Thierry Henry with the lure of continental silverware and West Ham's Magnusson moolah landing a surprise coup in the shape of the Swedish attacking midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg, its time for the youngsters to rise up and answer the call.
Jeremie Aliadiere also left for pastures green, adding nip and bite to a Middlesbrough attack that lost Viduka to Toon. Fabrice Muamba and Sebastien Larsson, were sold to Birmingham after a rather productive loan spell that saw the Blues win promotion. Muamba, a DR Congo born youngster could well be mistaken for Vieira for their lanky, ebony musculature and commanding midfield presence are so similar.
Nicklas Bendtner, the young nineteen year old striker is back with Arsenal after a year long spell at St. Andrews, having hit the back of the net with frightening frequency as he terrorised Championship defenders with his pace and skill. A lot is, needless to say, expected of this blonde teenager as he steps in to fill the enormous vacuum left by Henry.
Eduardo da Silva. Eduardo who? He moved from relative obscurity: from Dinamo Zagreb to the bright lights and glitz of London. All of fifteen when he left his native Brazil to play football in Croatia, he has developed into one of Eastern Europe's most feared strikers, shattering scoring records in the Prva Liga. Granted Croatian citizenship, he has featured recently for Croatia and also found the score sheet as the gritty Croats scalped England. One hopes he will not the way of another famous Croat who donned Arsenal colours not so long ago but faded into oblivion, Davor Suker. Wenger, ofcourse, is a man who chooses players like a jeweller diamonds. Infact, he even carves them into masterpieces. Take Henry for example, from warming the Bianconeri benches to the world's best in a matter of years and Vieira, Rossoneri reserves to Gunners captain and now a Nerazzuri lynchpin. Bacary Sagna, a tough tackling, no nonsense defender arrives from Auxerre to provide some steel at the back. Havard Nordtveit, a seventeen year old defender is one of the latest arrivals at the Emirates from FK Haugesund along with Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Money has been flowing freely from England this summer with the big name arrivals heralding another super season for the most popular league. Chelsea have been surprisingly thrifty while Manchester United have splashed cash on young foreign talent. Liverpool and Tottenham have strengthened their squads.
With the Stan Kroenke takeover looming large and the David Dein walkout still fresh, Arsenal have made a promising start winning the inaugural Emirates Cup at home, recording victories over PSG and Inter Milan with a depleted side. Robin Van Persie looks sharp as a tack, back from injury and Bendtner has shown oodles of promise and a sure sign of future greatness. Sagna too looks solid at the back.
With Arsenal taking on Fulham on the opening weekend, they go into the game obvious favourites but writing of the Cottagers would be folly as under the tutelage of the wily Lawrie Sanchez they have grown resurgent with plenty of grit and courage. The summer's catch has been especially bountiful for Fulham and the one to watch out for will be Northern Ireland's David Healy as he ties up with his former boss once again. With back to back hattricks against Spain and Sweden,yes, you read that right! he will be the dangerman. Diomansy Kamara, another proven goalscorer with Premiership pedigree has also arrived.
Thus, with the young Fabregas taking on the mantle and Wenger's future still in the balance, it sets the stage for a very interesting season start. Eduardo too will be holding his breath for so much is expected of him but is it too soon? It's time for Hleb and Rosicky to pull their game up a couple of notches, banish mediocrity and embrace brilliance. But Tottenham are already smelling fourth place and Champions' League football.
Not just yet I say, not just yet. They may be young but they make up in talent and perseverence what they lack in years. This could be the season in the sun for Arsenal's young guns.
So be warned.