The outlook for a season can change on a dime. The hopes of optimistic supporters can be crushed by news of a key injury, while event the most dour of fans will have his or her spirits lifted by a big signing.
Since the start of the 2013/14 campaign, Arsenal supporters have experienced both of these scenarios, and predictions made in early August are now about as outdated as the worst of the 2012 end-of-days prophecies.
Despite an ugly opening day loss to Aston Villa and a very difficult Champions League draw, Arsenal currently sit on top of the Premier League and their Champions League group tables. We turned to our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to find out if recent events have altered the expectations they had previously set for the rest of Arsenal's season.
Question: Have your expectations for Arsenal changed since the beginning of the season?
My expectations at the end of last season were to build on the winning formula that had worked for the last 10 matches in 2012-2013 -- and to see the continuing development of our newer signings Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla. There were areas in which I had expected the club to strengthen over the summer and they had with signing Flamini as back up to Arteta and general utility man. However, I felt that the club fell short in signing a much-needed back up striker. Giroud had looked promising during pre-season but the squad still felt short in that position.
I will have to be honest and say I was not very optimistic in August. The new season was almost upon and Arsenal had yet to spend a cent on signings (Sanogo and Flamini having signed for free). The disappointing Villa result brought a new low. I remember that I had deemed last season one to forget personally and at that point this season was shaping up to be much of the same.
That is, of course, until transfer deadline day. I had thought nothing could ever outdo the trolley dash of two summers ago but I was wrong. That day Arsenal broke the club transfer record and acquired one of the most talented midfielders in the world.
When I had first learnt the possibility of us signing Mesut Ozil, I thought that someone must have been playing a practical joke on me.Zara Bashir
When I had first learnt the possibility of us signing Mesut Ozil, I thought that someone must have been playing a practical joke on me. There was no way the club would be able to afford him. Why would Real Madrid let go of their most creative player? That’s just nuts!
Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so concerned for Real Madrid. They were silly enough to let go of a player of his calibre and for that I thank them. It’s impossible to describe the immediate impact the signing had on the Arsenal fan base, especially since it just came off the North London Derby win (against a well-touted Spurs side). World Soccer Shop had announced that Arsenal shirts with Ozil’s name on them were outselling Bale Real Madrid shirts. We were the envy of other clubs and it felt good to be back in that position again after a long time.
With Arsenal being top of the league table and Champions League group table right now, it difficult not to be hopeful of doing well in the league and possibly even…I know, I know! It is still early in the campaign and we have had a couple of hiccups with the Capital One Cup match against West Brom and Aston Villa (ugh!) but the team has put in stunning performances against sides like Napoli in the Champions League, Swansea and Tottenham. With the return of important players like Cazorla, Podolski, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby (and hopefully a January signing or two), I expect the team to better last year’s standing in the league and to be competing for top spot until at least April.
Cup competitions are much more difficult to predict but I do expect Arsenal to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League. The upcoming Dortmund fixture in Europe will be a difficult one even though Klopp will miss being in the sidelines through a UEFA ban (something we are all too familiar with). I know the Champions League is the one competition Arsène Wenger has yet to conquer but I do not think it is realistic to be expect anything more than good run this season. The same goes for the FA and COC. The league matches are much easier to strategize and plan for. If we do somehow end up in a semi-final or final of a cup competition, I will start having real expectations.
Have my expectations changed since August? Absolutely.
I'm not afraid to admit that when I first saw the Champions League draw I privately confided in my fellow fans that I thought Arsenal weren't going to get out of the group stages. Arsenal had lost to Villa and drawn Napoli and Dortmund in the Champions League, plus the club looked like it lacked any plan in the transfer market. So there I was wondering what the future held for Arsenal.
And now we know, the future was and is Ozil. I know that it's not popular to put so much pressure on one player but the reality is that whether he likes it or not his signing is the pivotal moment of Arsenal's season.
Even when Ozil doesn't make the stat sheet he makes others better.Tim Bostelle
Sami Khedira has said that Ozil makes Arsenal title contenders, Jose Mourinho has said that he refused Arsenal Demba Ba because Ozil made us title contenders, and I think we have all seen with our very own eyes what Ozil brings in terms of assists, creating chances, and putting in dangerous passes from set pieces.
But what we may have missed is that he's making others around him better. With Flamini sitting deep and Ozil in front it's freed Ramsey to roam the midfield and that's paying dividends both offensively and defensively. Arsenal are now scoring loads of goals from midfield and the key 1-2 midfield play of Ramsey and Ozil is a huge part of that. Even when Ozil doesn't make the stat sheet he makes others better, witness his free kick which Ramsey put away to score against Stoke.
So, yeah, my expectations have changed. I'm not tipping Arsenal to win the title, that would be foolish right now. But I am expecting that this Arsenal team will play better than they have in a long time and that will be largely down to signing Mesut Ozil.
I echo both Zara and Tim’s thoughts on pre and post-September expectations, especially when it comes to the transfer window and the impact I thought Arsenal’s business would have on the squad.
Ozil’s arrival was always going to be a massive statement of intent from the club, but I honestly never anticipated the extent to which he has liberated our attack and empowered the performances of some of the younger players. This Arsenal squad has always had the mindset and technical ability to test most defenses, but Ozil seems to have provided the creative key and extra sense of belief they sometimes lacked to be able to do that consistently.
I honestly never anticipated the extent to which Ozil has liberated our attack and empowered the performances of some of the younger players.Joel McNamara
The impetus he’s added -- along with the improved defensive integrity brought by Matthieu Flamini -- hasn’t exactly overhauled my expectations for how much silverware Arsenal will bring in this season.
Given their relevant lack of depth in the striker position, I still expect them to compete most strongly in the Premiership and possibly the FA Cup while only remaining outside favorites to go deep in the Champions League.
But, like Tim, my expectations for how effectively this offense will perform have changed now that Ozil is at the helm, and I think that could prove the difference in big games against the stingier defenses.
And who knows: with one or two solid additions in January I’d be open to change those expectations again.
The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 14 Oct 2013