What a difference a year makes as just 3 remain from that night in Brentford

The media, and Sky Sports in particular, love a narrative.

So it was no surprise when Crystal Palace v Arsenal was picked as the opening fixture of the 2022/23 season.

12-ish months ago, Arsenal travelled to another London club on a Friday night for the 2021/22 opening game. As one media outlet has since put it “the Gunners were humiliated”.

That night in 2021, a Covid-hit Arsenal team gave Sky their big opening day story of the season – with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville almost jumping into the crowd to join the celebrations.

When you add in that Arsenal lost 3-0 at Selhurst Park last season and have beaten the Eagles just once in the last seven games, putting us on Friday night is clearly an attempt to create an opening day story.

But what a difference a year makes.

Of the XI that started that night against Brentford, just 3 are expected to be in the starting line-up tomorrow night.

Ben White, Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli are likely to be the only survivors of the Arsenal team from that night.

Of the starting XI that started against Brentford, Kieran Tierney is the only other star that is still considered a first team regular – he is out injured for tomorrow.

Bernd Leno and Calum Chambers have since both been sold, whilst Pablo Mari is likely to be playing for a new club in the next seven days having only played once more for Arsenal since that Brentford game.

Albert Sambi Lokonga – who had only just joined as an Arsenal player – will be “relegated” to the bench versus Palace.

Emile Smith Rowe ended up having a breakthrough season, but like Tierney he will miss tomorrow injured.

Nicholas Pepe is somehow still at the club, whilst Folarin Balogun has been loaned out to Reims in France.

And it was not just the starting XI that has been ripped apart, but the bench too.

Coming off the bench that disastrous night were Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson and Nuno Tavares.

The first was clearly unfit that night, the second will be at a new club before the window shuts and the 3rd already loaned out.

Hector Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Karl Hein also took a seat on the bench that night. None of whom would finish last season at the club.

In-fact, of the 20 players in the match day squad, 7 players would finish the season at a different club.

Now it was a Covid-hit team (this was before the Premier League decided to postpone games because a couple of Spurs fans had the sniffles).

Covid ruled out our teams 3 most senior players – Alexander Lacazette, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Willian. None of which are at the club anymore.

Leno, Chambers, Mari, Pepe and Balogun would go on to make a combined 9 more Premier League starts for Arsenal in 2021/22.

Since that frightful day, we have recruited a new goal keeper (Ramsdale), right back (Tomiyasu) and left back (Zinchenko), whilst William Saliba has returned from his loan deal.

We also added a new attacking midfielder (Odergaard) and striker (Jesus). The team that will start tomorrow night against Palace shows a huge shift:

Ramsdale
White Saliba Gabriel Zinchenko
Partey
Odergaard Xhaka
Saka Jesus Martinelli

Now Sky Sports might get their story tomorrow night. It might all go wrong after a very positive pre-season for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.

But no one can deny that Arsenal are a very different club from where we were 12 months ago.

Nevilla said shortly after the Brentford defeat that he did not really understand Arsenal’s recruitment policy.

Ramsdale, White, Odergaard, Jesus and Zinchenko clearly shows that Edu was targetting players with Premier League experience.

Whilst Fabio Vieira, Marquinhos, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares mean that almost every player we signed were 25 and under.

This is a clear plan of Edu signing players that are ready now, but also capable of being part of the next 5-8 years of Arsenal.

I am buzzing for tomorrow. Will probably get to a pub in London Bridge early doors. And hopefully this “new Arsenal” get us off to a winnign start.

Keenos

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