Watching the Amazon Prime Video series about Arsenal’s 2021/22 season brought back horrible memories of our poor start last year, not least an opening day defeat at newly promoted Brentford.
Despite our encouraging form in pre-season this summer, I was concerned that playing away at Palace for our first fixture of the new campaign was another potential banana skin.
If we slipped up, I wondered, would all the positivity around the squad start to evaporate?
In the end my worries were banished by a solid all-round performance from a much-improved Arsenal team compared with a year ago.
It was certainly no walk in the park. If pre-season was all about flamboyant cavalier football, last night’s game was trench warfare.
Palace are a team comprised of heavyweight and middleweight boxers, some of whom have the speed of sprinters.
Overall we stood up to the physical battles well and deserved the win, despite some scares.
Here are five takeaways:
Saliba is a Rolls Royce Player
I keep telling myself not to get carried away by one performance but, boy, Saliba looks good. It’s not just his physicality and athleticism, or his passing ability and the timing of his tackles. It’s that he seems to instinctively make the right decision every time. And he’s only 21!!! As far as ceilings go, this lad is heading for the Sistine Chapel.
The Defence Stood Up Well
Not many teams will withstand the sort of fast, physical onslaught we endured at Selhurst Park last night. All the defenders did well, particularly the CBs. I felt Ben White was pulled out of position at times but his stats look very good and he coped better than most with the very real threat of Zaha.
Let’s Hear It for the Set Piece Coach
The opening goal was vital in that game and it came from a clever routine from a corner. Our new set piece coach, Nicolas Jover, has already had an impact on our campaign and we’re only one match in. I’m excited to see what other tricks this magician has up his sleeve.
Starboy Keeps Improving
I haven’t seen much mention of Bukayo Saka’s performance in the reports, perhaps because we spent 60 minutes of the match on the back foot. But I was watching him closely and his ability to bamboozle defenders and drive into dangerous areas is getting better and better. I don’t think there’s a more effective winger in the PL.
Our Fans are the Best
The Sky Sports pundits made numerous comments about the intimidating atmosphere at Selhurst Park (true) and the noise from the home fans. Yet it was quite clear from the TV coverage that it was the Arsenal fans making the most consistent noise. Our away support is amazing. The icing on the cake was the rousing rendition of the Vieira song towards the end when the points were in the bag (not that poor old Paddy seemed to care).