A lot of Arsenal fans seem remarkably relaxed about how things have panned out during this pre-season campaign for the Gunners.
How I envy those people, those rational, level-headed souls who are capable of looking beyond inconsequential, one-off friendly fixtures and taking in the wider picture.
That’s not to say that I’ve worked myself into a red-faced, perspiring mass of anger and hatred, demanding mass resignations and sweeping reform lest we face an eight-month relegation dog-fight.
Rather I find myself a little befuddled. For me, things don’t seem to have gone quite as smoothly as I had hoped. I feel like I have as many questions now, as we approach the end of pre-season, as I did when the team stepped off the plane in Australia.
I realise my own lack of perspective plays a part in that (I struggle to cope with anything that doesn’t result in a crushing Arsenal victory) but there seemed to me to be a real makeshift, disorganised discombobulation about our pre-season campaign, at least from a public perception.
I know the nature of pre-season means that we will often have lots of peripheral and youth players taking part, getting used to the setup, and gaining valuable experience with the senior squad. Players taking part in post-season tournaments also means that extended breaks are needed and people report back to training at wildly different times these days. That is football.
But the way in which we lacked any sort of consistency during this pre-season campaign, both in terms of performance, personnel, or playing style, had me scratching my head at times.
Of course, this could all be entirely moot by Saturday evening, should we crush Chelsea in the Community Shield. If the team shows in that game what it has, more often than not, failed to do up until now, then it will go some way to reassuring us that there has been method in the madness.
One thing is certain, however, we cannot afford to defend as we have done at times this campaign. Even in victory, we have seen some decidedly underwhelming defending.
Ok, there was a touch of good fortune about both Sevilla goals in our most recent outing but there were also moments in the lead up to both goals of needless self-destruction, basic errors that have followed us from last season that simply must be cut out if we hope to push on in 2017/18.
Much of what has happened can be pinned on the inexperience of playing personnel, and some of it on constant rotation – both of which are necessary in pre-season, up to a point.
But there does come a time when relationships have to be forged and consistency must replace chaos, and I would like to have seen a little more of that before now.
In short, I really don’t want to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles line up in the back three, nor do I want to see Joe Willock or Reiss Nelson lining up at the start of the match. All three players have performed well in patches during this pre-season campaign, but it is time to either promote them to the squad, or send them back to the youth setup and let the focus be, in its entirety, on getting a strong match day squad up to speed.
A change in system and vastly improved defending were the cornerstones of our late upturn and cup success at the end of last season and we will need to see much more of the same if we hope to get off to a good start in this campaign.
The time for experimentation is done, let’s pick up where we left off and treat this Community Shield game as if it were the Premier League opener. Regardless of whether it is inconsequential or not, it will be a real barometer of where we are as a team going into the season and I hope that there is no sign of hangover from all the chopping and changing and travelling of this pre-season.
When we last faced Chelsea, in Shanghai, we were, if we’re honest, utterly overrun. We posed little or no threat and there were times when we simply struggled to keep Chelsea from turning a decisive victory into a real thrashing.
That can’t happen again.