These days, Arsenal are often playing catch-up in the Premier League from the word go.
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal had only lost one opening fixture before the start of the current decade.
So what happened? The answer may lie in Arsenal’s pre-season preparations. Since 2011, Arsenal have gone on a tour clocking up air miles and giving fans around the world the opportunity to watch the team play – but potentially hamper their fitness levels as a result.
Previously, Arsenal used to get ready for the season ahead in Austria – an area of high altitude where The Gunners could get an added fitness boost before the start of the new campaign.
Now falling victim to the global appeal and commercialisation of the Premier League (with Arsene Wenger seemingly opposed to the idea), Arsenal have embarked on trips to Singapore, Australia and the United States in recent years.
With a poor opening record since jetting out on long-haul flights in mid-July, there may be something detrimental in tagging along on these pre-season trips.
Returning to the United States this year, Arsenal will get a full workout – playing three games in five days against the likes of Colorado Rapids, Bayern Munich and Fiorentina, before taking on Real Madrid in their final Champions Cup game.
But while glamour ties and spreading the reach of Arsenal’s global appeal are all well and good from a commercial perspective, is it really worth paying the price of being under-par when the big kick-off comes around? It’s not as if Arsenal have a shortage of supporters. Why compromise their preparations for the sake of a showpiece friendly or tournament thousands of miles away?
Of course, now most Premier League clubs embark on long-distance tours, Arsenal aren’t exactly alone – but ignoring any desire to appease those longing to see their team play in their own backyard for a change will surely be more beneficial in the long run. This is a football club, after all – not a touring band or circus show (though some displays at the back may suggest otherwise).
A return to the successful trips to Austria may be required to rekindle the fast starts that turned out to be the launchpad for glorious campaigns in the past – but the club will have to resist bowing down to the current norms for Premier League clubs to treat their overseas fans in order to do so.