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Wednesday Cannon Fodder: tempering expectations

What a strange post for Aaron to write.

Arsenal v Brentford - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

There has been a lot written about Arsenal’s Champions League chances this season in the last few weeks. People have said that it would be a disappointing failure if the club doesn’t make it. People have reminded us that even if this team finishes 5th, it would be an improvement on the majority preseason prediction of a 6th-8th finish. The statistically inclined have suggested that the Gunners have the best chance among their rivals of finishing 4th (although Spurs taking 3 highly unexpected points off Manchester City didn’t help things, grrr).

I’m no different; I’ve written about it as well. I’m not sure I’m officially on the record about this, so I’ll make it official — I think Arsenal will finish 4th. I believe in this bunch, and I think they are going to get the job done.

But.

Arsenal’s games-in-hand over their competitors are against Wolves tomorrow, Chelsea, and Liverpool. So let’s cool our jets on the projected table; Arsenal aren’t defending many expected points those latter two fixtures. There’s a decent chance they’ll end up like Tottenham did back when they were Games in Hand F.C., 7th when they started to make up matches, 8th when their matches played were the same as the clubs around them.***

Another thing to bear in mind with this roster: it’s really young. Yes, Arsenal’s young players (especially our beloved Hale End-ers) have impressed at every turn and performed well beyond their years, but we need to keep in mind that this is the youngest team in the Premier League. Something like the 18-20 youngest starting lineups this season by average age belong to the Gunners. They’re going to make mistakes, and some of those mistakes may end up being costly.

Qualifying for the Champions Leauge would speed up this rebuild, but missing out isn’t going to derail it. This isn’t the last gasp of a team in a salary cap league with expiring veteran contracts that have to win it this year before the roster needs to be overhauled the next season. Arsenal have been there and done that. We’re on the other side of those older, veteran-laden teams trying that particular route to success.

Things are trending in the right direction at Arsenal regardless of how this season turns out. So I guess I did temper expectations a bit, but I came back to optimism. It’s impossible not to with the way things are going at the club, in both the immediate and longer-view sense.

I think that perhaps the most important take-away is not to get too negative and down on the team if they stumble. We’ve heard them talk about their bond with the fans and how they feed off Gooners’ energy. We play a (small) role in the club’s on-field success and should be mindful of that. We should want to support them, lift them up, and give them every possible bit of advantage we can.

***on the flip side of that games-in-hand, table projections discussion, there is the tweet below. It’s there for the taking for the Gunners.