Downhearted? Despondent ? - Do me a favour!

Last updated : 05 August 2003 By Bernard Azulay

I Wait for the rattle of our letterbox signalling the arrival of my absolute favourite, first-class delivery, the small padded brown envelope containing the two red booklets with our guarantee of another season of heart-stopping thrills at The Home of Football.

Every summer I see jaws drop ever further when informed of the extortionate cost of our Arsenal addiction (currently running at over £3300 for the two of us - and that's just home games!). And yet despite the increasingly desperate annual struggle to conjure up such vast quantities of cash according to accounting principles which are more insane than creative, with Highbury prices only edging above those charged at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road for the first time, I have to admit that by comparison to the paucity of entertainment on offer from Glenda's motley collection of good-for-nothings, the cost of our Highbury pleasures would be appear cheap at twice the price.

No, messrs Dein & Fiszman, I am not suggesting that you take advantage of our limitless loyalty to dig the club out of our Ashburton grave. We have already seen some not so poor punters prepared to stump up five grand, for a bond which seems to promise little more than a seat at some point in the future. It sounded unlikely at the time and events (or the lack thereof!) during the summer have proved their plans unfeasible, if not positively foolhardy but it seems an appropriate juncture to remind the powers that be of assurances heard with my own ears, concerning the clever commercial arrangements set in place to ensure that our ambitious building project would have zero impact on the playing side and Arsène's ability to challenge for trophies.

Nevertheless the sole purchase of a bargain basement replacement for Spunky in the Arsenal onion bag, a middle-aged keeper who some suggest might be more suited to the Edinburgh Festival than a footie pitch, hasn't left me feeling like the harbinger of doom and gloom that's been heard from some Gooner quarters. To the contrary, I am quite optimistic about starting a season where for once the insatiable expectation levels are slightly less than usual and looking forward to laughing at the absolute lack of impact of all the Oshow me the money' mercenaries elsewhere.

It is indeed ironic that some pundits are suggesting that the Abramovich millions will allow Chelski to usurp our capital crown, when last season they were writing about the best team spirit seen at the Bridge in more than thirty years engendered by their lack of summer spending? I am hoping that the absence of any arrivals with divisively large egos in the Arsenal dressing room and all the external problems will foster that famous Ous against the rest of the world' spirit which was sadly lacking when the chips were down last season.

A dour 0-0 at Underhill did little to inspire such faith. In fact seeing a strikingly similarly built Yaya Touré attempting to fill Vieira's vast shoes, I couldn't help but wonder if we were about to cash in on Patrick and hope that no-one would notice. Yet any fears I might have felt about the Arsenal's future were soon dispelled, as Martin Keown came off the pitch displaying reassuringly familiar pride in 'Another clean sheet!'

Moreover there might be another silver lining to our prospects for the Premiership poorhouse, if it proves to be a platform for the sort of scintillating skills of Aliadière at Celtic Park. Having seen Volz score a brace against St. Albans, I only hope there will be room for a couple of Brady's boys from slightly closer to home, to redress the cosmopolitan balance. Meanwhile if there was one thing to be deduced from the first of our Ofriendly' Glasgow duels, it was a second-half performance from Patrick Vieira which demands that in answer to any queries about Paddy's salary, the club's response must be 'we pay him whatever he wants'

Pires might have struggled for form last term, but we Gooners were more than generous on account of his injury. However he and Freddie both have to prove they weren't one season wonders. I wait with baited breath for the sight of them flying forward, firing on a few more cylinders this season, with Bergkamp serving up the ammunition as his flame burns brightest in one last burst of oxygen. Leaving the best until last, I cannot wait to have my appetite whetted by Titi Henry, but no one is more deserving of a few more days to catch their breath. What price can any lover of the beautiful game put on one of its greatest ever exponents (certainly more, I pray, than Abramovich can afford!).

The whingers don't know they're born, when we are slap bang in the middle of an era that many of us wouldn't have dared to dream about only a few years back, privileged to be watching footballing artistry which might not be bettered in our lifetimes. Instead of counting down the days, searching for signs of the almost inevitable cyclical decline, put away your prematurely drawn knives and just enjoy!