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A new era is dawning at Arsenal

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Things are changing at Arsenal. They have been for a while. The rewards are now starting to come.

It's been nine years, but the FA Cup still fits your hands the same.
It's been nine years, but the FA Cup still fits your hands the same.
Steve Bardens

For the first time since I've been an Arsenal fan of any stature (read: since I started regularly watching games and actually knew what I was talking about), I think the team is significantly better as the new season dawns than it was at the beginning of the preceding season. I have expectations and hopes beyond just "try to stay close to the leaders, get Champions League qualification, get out of our group in Europe, and don't embarrass ourselves in the cups." And it's honestly a weird feeling, that I don't really know how to deal with.

Since the last time I wrote a preview we've added two world-class players (whatever definition you choose to use, if you tell me that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez do not fit I will laugh at you), Aaron Ramsey has ascended, the transfer record has nearly quadrupled, Arsenal spent almost half the season leading the league (128 days!), and topped it off by winning the FA Cup. A lot of shit has gone down.

And it's all led to an era of (mostly) good feelings that are extending into the new season. Part of it is that the last game was the FA Cup final, which ruled, and then we had the World Cup to basically reduce the offseason to nothingness. But mostly it's that there aren't really major problems in the club or in the squad right now, unless you really hate Olivier Giroud or you're desperate for a defensive midfielder. There are certainly holes, imperfections, whatever you want to call it - but last year I said this:

Players can come in, and honestly they should. With a couple of good additions, this team looks a lot different. It looks dangerous. But without them, if the market and the club can't figure out a way to mesh, it's likely to be another nine months or so of chasing the Champions League places.

And that's me, y'all. The guy who would literally jump off a bridge if Arsene Wenger told me I'd survive it. We're so far from that place now, it's crazy. And with the cash reserves we have, and the new income from television and kit deals and stadium naming rights and the fact that 60,361 goddamn people want to watch this team twice a week...this team's ability to Do Things shouldn't take a step back for a while, I'd wager.

Does all this mean we're going to win stuff this year? Does it guarantee silverware? Of course not. The top end of the Premier League is better than it's been in a while, with more teams fighting for Champions League places and for the title. Knockout competitions are unpredictable, and full of good teams. Anything can happenat any timeno matter how good the papers say you are.

What it means is that the era of impotence is over, and an era of possibility has begun. Arsenal can attract and acquire the world's best players. Arsenal can win trophies. We've seen itthere's proof. These are things that only the most optimistic or deluded among us actually believed only a few years ago, as we bled talent and lost to teams like Blackburn and Birmingham City and goddamned Bradford. It's not a guarantee, but nothing's ever guaranteed in sports, no matter how amusing it is to go back months later and make fun of old predictions.

So what's my prediction? What's going to happen this year? The hell if I know. But I think it's going to be fun, and it's going to be fun for years.

Actual Attenpts at Prediction-type Things

First XI

Szczesny; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil; Walcott, Giroud, Alexis

Top reserves

Ospina, Cazorla, Chambers, Monreal, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo, Bellerin, Rosicky

Competitions

Premier League: 2nd
Champions League: Quarterfinals
FA Cup: Semifinals
League Cup: oh come on like you actually thought I was going to predict the League Cup