By Giuseppe Muro
So calendars flip into November, the clocks go back and we embark on another no doubt bleak English winter. Though you wouldn’t know it judging by the vibe around the Arsenal training ground.
There is a real sense of anticipation, excitement and energy flowing through London Colney at the moment as Arsene Wenger’s side mount their charge for silverware on both domestic and European fronts. But it’s not just the senior boys adding to the air of enthusiasm - Neil Banfield’s Reserves are in the thick of their own title race.
“You can sense that there is a feeling that this could be our year,” said the second-string manager. “There’s a buzz with the first team on a winning streak and I think that generates excitement and you can sense it right the way through the Club.”
At Reserve level, that buzz the manager talks of is down to a number of factors.
Banfield’s team remain unbeaten after five games and put four goals past a previously unbeaten West Ham last time out. The continued improvement of scholars such as Chuks Aneke, Ignasi Miquel and Benik Afobe add to the feel-good factor. And on top of that there’s a new batch of trainees ready to step up with so many established Reserve team players out on loan.
“It’s going to be very interesting because we will have a new central defensive partnership because Gavin Hotye has gone on loan to Lincoln City,” said Banfield.
“So it will be interesting for the new young central defensive partnership. It will be a good challenge to see how they cope with Aston Villa. I hope they will rise to that and I fully expect them to.”
Another reason to be cheerful, on the eve of a Champions League game, is the return from injury of a player who has already played in Europe’s elite club competition. Teenager Thomas Cruise has recovered after two months on the sidelines with a lower abdominal strain.
“He’s back and he’s in the squad for today,” said Banfield. “Tom has been in full training for about ten days and obviously he’s had two or three weeks with the fitness guys before that. He’s had a slow return but he’s ready for a game and he wants to start playing again.”
Confidence breeding confidence, the future looking bright and players returning from injury. Try telling Banfield and the Reserves that we’re in for a bleak winter.
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