Chapter 1: Arsenal win the Community Shield

Good morning and welcome to the 2023/24 football season and your Community Shield Champions, The Arsenal Football Club!

Before we get started, I’m changing the rules for commenting around here: I am going to require registration in order to comment. I’m doing this for a number of reasons. You have to register everywhere else in the world to comment and so I’m going to do the same here. It will make it a lot easier to moderate comments and it will make people more accountable for their comments. I will not be allowing any transphobic, racist, or other types of hateful speech and I will also not allow any rape apologists to comment on the blog.

And now before you get angry and say “what about free speech, Tim?” Well, free speech only applies to the government, not to individuals and certainly not to businesses. As we recently found out, the Supreme Court ruled that businesses no longer have to treat LGBTQ+ customers (even ones that don’t exist) as equals and can in fact discriminate. So, I will also be discriminating; but against homophobes, conservatives, QAnon supporters, 911 truthers, Birthers, MAGAs, racists, transphobes, sexists, and misogynists. 7amkickoff has never and will never be a platform for your hate. And before you get all “but aren’t you doing what they’re doing?” please take 15 minutes and educate yourself on the Paradox of Tolerance. I’m not interested in arguing this at all. If you feel compelled to argue with me on this point, go ahead and write out your argument and then delete it before you hit send. And whatever you do, don’t try to argue with me about it on twitter. I’ll just block you. I have no tolerance left for the intolerant and the weasels who want to argue these “intellectual” ideas that cause real world harm.

The other good thing that forcing you to register does is that it makes banning you sting a lot more and cuts down on people pretending to be multiple people. In the past when I would ban someone, we had people just put in a bunch of different fake email addresses and I would have to ban them by their IP address, which is messy and annoying. This cleans some of that up. I know some of you will have multiple email addresses and there will probably be at least one weirdo who goes out and makes up a new email address after they get banned but hey if you want to do all that work, be my guest. I’ll just keep banning you and if you keep at it, I’ll ban your IP address.

So, anyway that’s the main change. The other change here is that I no longer give a fuck. I mean, I love Arsenal still (of course) but I’m really not interested in debate about the Arsenal and honestly don’t enjoy most of the interactions around the club. I love the football, I love some of the fans, but the vast majority of the culture around football is toxic and annoying. Writing about football is incredibly repetitive, the conversations are insanely repetitive, and people only seem to live these days to point out how they were right (once) and someone else was wrong. When I started this blog in 2008 I was one of those people. I pretended that I started the blog to practice my writing but in reality most of the motivation was in ORDER to tell people they were wrong and I was right. Then there would be a big public fight and we’d block each other. Yay! Football!

But look, folks, that was… 16 years ago in January. I mean, fuck. I’m tired of it. I really want to try to stay positive this season and just enjoy the football. You know? So, please, I beg of you, please, do not start engaging with me (or anyone else) in the “I was right, remember when you said, etc etc.” nonsense. I’ve been writing what is essentially an opinion piece nearly every day for 16 years. I’m bound to get things wrong! I’m bound to have at least 600 bad opinions for you to pick apart. Congratulations, on finding one.

Please just try to have fun and don’t hate vulnerable people. That’s all I ask. Ok, and now for some bad opinions for you to complain about!

Arsenal beat Man City in what I thought was quite impressive manner yesterday. With Gabriel Jesus out we saw what I think is going to be the hallmark of the season; Arteta’s tactical flexibility. Arteta clearly went out and got players in who can fill a number of roles on the pitch. So much of the debate this summer has been “what position is Rice/Havertz/Timber best at” or “where will Rice/Havertz/Timber play this season?” and what we saw yesterday against City is that they will play where they are needed.

I believe that Havertz was bought to play in the Xhaka spot but the great news is that he can also fill in at #9 and can even play on the right when Saka needs a break. Yesterday, I was impressed by his hold-up play at the number 9 and while he didn’t score a goal (he only got two chances) I think the misses he made were quite exaggerated as “big chances”. The first was entirely manufactured by his own turn. The idea that “he should score from there” is not quite how I viewed it. Both times he was under pressure and had multiple bodies stopping him, these weren’t empty netters or one-v-ones with the keeper. If he’d have scored, it would have been impressive, rather than just banal.

The second player I was impressed with is Rice. Yesterday he showed off his versatility and leadership playing in the sort of #8 role that Xhaka played in last season, albeit not quite as adventurous. Rice is going to get a lot of stick this season. But this is my second main point about Arsenal FC this year: I think this is another developmental season. I know some folks expect Arteta to win the League this year but if you look at the age profile of the players we have and bought, most of them are going to be hitting their prime over the next three years. It’s also true that Rice has come from an entirely different football program into this much more intellectually demanding style of play. I think he understands it (sort of) but to go from low block countering into the Arsenal system of high pressing and positional play is going to take a few months to get hold of. This is going to be exacerbated by point number one: that tactical flexibility that is required of all the players now. In essence Rice has to learn two new positions at Arsenal. That’s going to take time.

That said, Rice seems to have a good grasp of the system and even remonstrated his teammates (especially Partey who had another atrocious match) on where to press and how they were supposed to be positioning themselves. This for me is probably going to be Rice’s real strength, his on field leadership. Arteta was Wenger’s on-field general. He knew exactly how Arsene wanted to play and transmitted that to his teammates. I think Rice will be able to do the same. At least he seems to have already taken that on. That bodes well, in my eyes, because I was expecting him to take a year to bed in but it looks like he’s already got a strong grasp of the Arsenal system.

That said, he did look a bit out of place in the #8 role and didn’t quite get forward the way Xhaka used to. That could be an instinctual thing. Some of us just don’t like going forward! I felt like he was being a little too conservative, which I understand because I think he didn’t trust Partey’s defense at all and for good reason.

Jurrien Timber was yet another impressive signing for me. His ball control is superb and his defensive awareness is very good. Despite being played out of position on the left, he was excellent throughout his cameo. He will be able to play a number of positions across the back line and – this is my third point – adds serious depth to Arsenal’s defense. People complained about Arsenal playing Rob Holding last season – a complaint I felt was unjust and which I showed was mainly actually Partey’s fault – and so this year, we probably won’t have to play Rob Holding.

Arsenal’s depth is now what I would call “pretty good verging on fuckin’ excellent”. We have a number of players who can play a number of positions and multiples for each position. Leandro Trossard, for example, came on for Havertz and scored the tying goal yesterday!

Arsenal’s depth will get “fuckin’ excellent” when we sign Raya. Raya is going to push Ramsdale for the starting spot at Arsenal, I’m telling you. He is probably a better keeper than Aaron and I say that with a ton of love for Ramsdale but it’s just how I feel and what I’ve seen of both keepers. At the very least Raya offers another option for Arteta: his long balls are so absolutely eye wateringly good that Arteta can drop Raya in with Havertz and it really stretches the opponents. This isn’t a bag on Ramsdale, he made a crucial save to win the Charity Shield yesterday! But it’s just a fact that players need competition or they will get stale.

Oh by the way, I told you all that Arsenal would be shopping for a top class backup keeper this season. I mean it was obvious that Matt Turner wasn’t up to the task and Runnarson outright sucks. It didn’t hurt us last year but I love that Arteta will no longer have a problem with starting keepers next season. I mean barring a calamity! (uncomfortable grin emoji)

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a new season at the Arsenal. Should be a good one!



  1. Thanks Tim. It’s your forum. You make the rules. I’m certainly fine with registering.
    As far as yesterday goes, it was encouraging. Saliba seemed back, and he makes a big difference when he’s on. And Timber was great. He wasn’t a bargain, but already looks worth what we paid.
    The keeper thing I’m not sure about. Ramsdale has made a few errors and his distribution hasn’t improved as much as I would have hoped. But I’m not sure we need another top level keeper competing for a large amount of money.
    The Partey/Rice thing yesterday was interesting. I wouldn’t have said Partey was terrible. More inconsistent. He had some good moments carrying the ball. And made some good passes. But he’s higher risk, and not as good a defender as Rice. I wonder if the plan is to play both of them against stronger teams but only one of them when we’re more attacking? Or if Rice will replace him when Rice is more integrated?

    1. Well, just to defend my Partey opinion: he got a yellow card early in the game yesterday, not for the professional foul but for the foolish strop afterwards. That yellow card absolutely led to the goal because he couldn’t foul Foden when he needed to in order to stop that attack which led to their goal. I think that he just might not be very intelligent, like he’s just a dumb guy. I also have seen some analysts who have pointed out that his risky long balls up the pitch are actually quite detrimental to the team and to Arsenal’s buildup play. He doesn’t seem to know when’s the best time to play those passes and just often takes chances that put the defense in trouble. Contrast to the way that Jorginho plays those same passes: Jorginho’s passes are a lot less risky and they tend to be more accurate.

      So, while I get that a lot of folks really like Partey and I can sort of understand why, I honestly think he’s a big liability. I hope that the plan is to play Rice there once Zinchenko or another ball-playing midfielder is available.

  2. Well, my youngest daughter is gay. She is strong and generally happy but hate and stupidity make her cry sometimes. It breaks my heart and I have also lost most of my tolerance for tolerance. I’m quite happy with the idea of a safe place, a happy place, a friendly place.

    1. You will have that here! I really love Ramsdale’s article about his brother and I am taking the same stance. I can’t allow hatred on here and I’m going to stand up against it.

      1. The Ramsdale article was great. Took a fair amount on his part to put some of that out there. Exactly the sort of person I want representing Arsenal. Kind of unfortunate timing with it coming out right at the same time as the public interest in Raya.

  3. I really liked the last 10 mins where Arsenal went all out.
    How do we get Havertz a starting role in the team?
    Is there a way to start both Trossard and Martinelli?
    If Zinchenko is fit then does Timber replace White on the right?
    Is it possible to sell atleast one of Jorginho/ Elneny to raise some cash?
    With the price tag for Havertz being so high, does it not mean that there can only be a downside to buying him and no upside?

    These are some questions I am curious about as the season goes on.

    1. I get the stress over Havertz’ price tag but at 24, I think the plan is to keep him for 6-7 years, which then just means a much smaller amortization.

      All the other questions are great though!

    2. On the Havertz front, I think as Tim said, the plan was for him to be an attacking mid on the left, roughly where Xhaka had been. At present, feels to me like Trossard is a better option to Jesus, unless you really need Havertz height.
      We’re incredibly deep right now in defense. Holding and Elneny could both go without us losing much. Timber can play on left, right, and maybe CDM. Tomi can play across the whole back line. Kiwior for either center back and probably for FB in a pinch. White was very good yesterday and can also play in the middle. Tierney is a better defender than Zinch and can play in the middle in a pinch, but I’m not sure that’s enough to keep him based on all the other depth. Based on yesterday, and if he can improve his passing a little, Timber could replace Zinch as the starter at LB.

  4. Great to see you back Tim, I was checking in daily hoping for a new headline. Two days ago I scrolled down the comments of your last post in hopes of getting a little 7am hit and loved with your put that reprobate in their place. Will be very pleased to bow to your benevolent dictatorship and register, I think it will spur me to engage more. As I’ve said before this is the best place on the internet, if we have a few less twats and wind up merchants it will be very heaven.

  5. Hey Tim. Glad you’re picking up the Ramsdale mantel, we all should and I’ve been trying. I read somewhere a couple of years ago that it’s not good enough to not be racist, but you need to be anti-racist. Made me think and begin to act/respond in a different manner. Not just racism, but homophobia, xenophobia, etc.

    Now on to the Arsenal. I thought Havertz had a fairly good game, but feel like it’s going to take some time for his Chelsea hangover to go away. I find myself having more patience with him than the average transfer in…not that my patience or impatience matters to anyone but me and my dog. Love the look of Timber so far. I wonder if we’ll see some kind of fullback partnership. Ben on the right when Zinch is on the left and Timber on the right when Tierney is on the left so we don’t have both tucking in or bombing too far forward together. Just an unsophisticated viewer’s observation. Love Trossard, I hope he doesn’t get marginalized. He always seems to impact the game when he’s in. Wonder what Holding is thinking these days. He seems like he might just be happy to be at Arsenal.

    Lastly, and this is off topic, can anyone shed light on the best way to get tickets to a match. My wife mentioned going to England at the end of March and there is a home match vs. Luton Town on the schedule. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Traveling from Virginia. Sorry for the assumption that everyone may know I’m an American.

  6. It’s your kingdom, Tim – glad to hear you’re making rules that suit you! Too bad if folks don’t like it.

    Timber pops off the screen to me. Speed and physicality, but incredible skill and presence on the ball. I think his defending is better than Zinny’s. As you say, the tactical flexibility has increased dramatically and I can’t wait to see lots of different 11’s this season, as we game plan for opponents.

    I think the real odd man out is Tierney. He’s a great left back, but a complete fish out of water in Arteta’s system. His lack of technical skill is so apparent when you see Zin or Timber (or even Tomi) play the position. Tierney can clear the ball, defend, beat someone down the line and make a good cross. That is enough for most teams, but not today’s Arsenal. We need more two-footedness, ability to beat players 1v1, drop into half spaces and make progressive passes. I agree Partey has big responsibility for the goal, but Tierney flailing with a leg to clear instead of controlling the ball, then slipping when the player cutback made me cringe. I love the guy. Honestly had him pegged for future Arsenal Captain. Now I hope he goes. More for his sake than ours. He needs/deserves to play, but he’s a terrible fit for our team now.

    I’m on a Trossard crusade. We need to find a way to get that guy on the pitch. He’s a ball of fire, and made an impact immediately vs the best team in Europe. I don’t know where he fits best, but he’s got to play more. I hope he gets a start Saturday or in a situation where we don’t need a ton of hold up play from a false 9. That’s his only weakness in that role.

    Trying to keep a lid on my expectations for the season, but it’s hard. If we stay moderately healthy, we should compete for some big trophies.

    PS – I’m with you about Kane. Would be thrilled to see him re-sign for Spuds for big money this late in his career!

    1. Maybe Trossard could spell Saka from time to time. Vieira has been given that role but I’m still not convinced by him (although his penalty on Sunday was a rocket!)… I’d even put Reiss Nelson in that role before Vieira at this point.

  7. Hi there Tim! More than happy to register, but it seems like it’s still like before where I input an email and type in a name. Maybe once I press “post comment” it will ask me to register and this entire comment is now useless LOL.

    I hope this coming season goes well! I hope that we’re gonna get some bread-related entries at some point too, I really enjoy those!

    Also, yeah, no hate. I sometimes think I can be a little uninformed or don’t fully understand the gravity of the situation, although I think I generally do a pretty good job of being a decent person. If I ever step out of line, or come across as really misinformed, I hope someone can educate me a little bit.

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